By KS Leong
On Sunday in Kiev, the two best national teams in Europe will go face to face in search of continental supremacy as defending champions Spain take on Italy in the final of Euro 2012.
Germany, Portugal, France and England have all been swept aside while the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Franck Ribery and Robin van Persie pushed to the backdrop.
Two teams are left standing and 22 men will commence battle on the pitch in a bid to lead their side to ultimate glory.
Before the showdown begins, Goal.com analyses Spain and Italy's ratings index, where only players who have featured in at least 40 per cent of their team's matches in the tournament so far have been taken into consideration.
|SPAIN v ITALY
Spain and Italy have demonstrated en route to the final of Euro 2012 that a fine balance between creative ingenuity and defensive steel is needed to succeed in any major tournament, with both teams seeing a mix of their most flamboyant players and their toughest hardmen dominating the top of their respective ratings charts.
The performance index highlights a key tussle in midfield. Andres Iniesta (3.30), who had been the top player for much of the tournament before a quiet performance against Portugal, has been overtaken by Andrea Pirlo (3.50), who starred for Italy against Germany. Backing up the elegant pair with a little more muscle are Xabi Alonso (3.30) for La Roja and Daniele De Rossi (3.40) for the Azzurri.
Two of the finest goalkeepers in the tournament, and two of the most dominant in recent history, will lead their teams out on Sunday. Iker Casillas (3.00) slightly edges out Gianluigi Buffon (2.80), but both are sure to have a big say on the outcome.
While the two finalists look evenly matched across the pitch, up front things could not be more different. Vicente del Bosque's reluctance to field a conventional striker sees Pedro and Fernando Torres well down the standings, leaving 'false nine' Cesc Fabregas (3.20) as the only forward player to feature in the top half.
On the other hand, Italy's three main attackers. Antonio Cassano (3.00), Mario Balotelli (2.90) and Antonio Di Natale (2.75), are in the top six of their ratings index, with the latter the only player to have scored against Spain so far at Euro 2012.
In what has become a reverse in stereotype, the Spaniards have built their success on a solid core of defensive-minded players, while attacking inspirations have led the Italians to Sunday's showpiece.