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Spain - Italy Preview: La Roja looking to make history in Euro 2012 finale
European glory beckons at Kiev's Olympic Stadium on Sunday night as the reigning champions go head-to-head with the Azzurri
By Karthick Arvinth
Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Alba
Xavi, Busquets, Alonso
Silva, Fabregas, Iniesta
Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Balzaretti
Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi
Spain boss Vicente del Bosque is expected to have a fully-fit squad for the Euro 2012 final showdown with Italy.
The 61-year-old's biggest selection dilemma is likely to be over whether to field a recognised striker after Alvaro Negredo's anonymous performance in the semi-final win over Portugal.
With Fernando Torres seemingly out of favour, and with Fernando Llorente yet to make an appearance at the tournament, Cesc Fabregas could be restored to a 'false nine' role up front alongside Andres Iniesta and David Silva.
Italy defender Ignazio Abate, who missed the semi-final win over Germany with a muscle injury, is likely to return to fitness in time for the final, while fellow full-back Christian Maggio is also available after serving a one-match ban.
Coach Cesare Prandelli may persist with the same formation that served him well against the Germans rather than revert to the unorthodox 3-5-2 line-up used in the opening match against Spain.
AC Milan-bound Riccardo Montolivo is likely to keep his place in the team ahead of Thiago Motta after an assured performance in the semi-final.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Spain are bidding to become the first team in history to win three successive major tournaments (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012) and the first to retain the Henri Delaunay trophy.
- La Roja are contesting their fourth European Championship final (1964, 1984, 2008 and 2012). They have lost just one (1984).
- Vicente del Bosque's side are 19 competitive games without defeat and have won their last nine knockout matches at major tournaments without conceding a goal.
- However, the Iberian outfit have not registered a competitive win over Italy in nearly a century (with their penalty shoot-out success in the quarter-final of Euro 2008 classed as a draw). Their record in 11 previous meetings is W1, D5, L5, with the sole victory coming in the sides' first ever encounter at the 1920 Olympic games.
- Italy are competing in their third European Championship final (1968, 2000, 2012). They have won just one (1968).
- The Azzurri are facing Spain for the 31st time, with their record in prior encounters reading W10, D12, L8. The sides' most recent meeting was in their opening match in this tournament, which finished as a 1-1 draw.
- Italy have won just two of their last eight matches in regulation time, but are yet to lose a competitive fixture under Cesare Prandelli.
- With his double against Germany, Mario Balotelli (pictured right) became the first Italian to score three goals at a single European Championship.
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Top 3 Predictions
Spain 1-2 Italy
- 22.86 %
Spain 2-1 Italy
- 14.54 %
Spain 0-1 Italy
- 11.12 %
|Euro 2012 (EC)||Jul 1, 2012||Spain 4 - Italy 0|
|Euro 2012 (EC)||Jun 10, 2012||Spain 1 - Italy 1|
|International Friendlies (FR)||Aug 10, 2011||Italy 2 - Spain 1|
|UEFA European Championship (EC)||Jun 22, 2008||Spain 4 - Italy 2|
|International Friendlies (FR)||Mar 26, 2008||Spain 1 - Italy 0|
|Mar 26, 2013||France 0 - Spain 1||WCQ|
|Mar 22, 2013||Spain 1 - Finland 1||WCQ|
|Feb 6, 2013||Spain 3 - Uruguay 1||FR|
|Nov 14, 2012||Panama 1 - Spain 5||FR|
|Oct 16, 2012||Spain 1 - France 1||WCQ|
|Returns:||Spain £22.00||Sign up to Paddy Power for £250 in free bets|
|Returns:||Draw £340.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Italy £610.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|6||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
|23||José Reina Paez||Goalkeeper|
|2||Raúl Albiol Tortajada||Defender|
|22||Jesús Navas González||Midfielder|
|16||Daniele De Rossi||Midfielder|
|12||Morgan De Sanctis||Goalkeeper|
|-||Angelo Obinze Ogbonna|
|-||Antonio Di Natale|
Del Bosque's insistence on packing his side with as many playmakers as possible has rendered Spain slow and predictable in possession, with not enough width to stretch the opposition. The 61-year-old could compensate for this by ordering Fabregas to make runs behind the Italian backline as often as possible to drag defenders out of position, thus creating space for Iniesta and Silva to run into.
Italy's outstanding player in the tournament will look to repeat his majestic performance in the opening group match, where he carved open the Spanish defence on multiple occasions only for the forwards to fluff their lines. When a Spanish attack breaks down, Pirlo will look to release the ball quickly, possibly even over the top, and strike before the Spaniards can regroup.
So tired did Spain look in the semi-final that it is tempting to declare that this is the perfect time to play them. This is a side that is used to obliterating everything in its way, and they have been reduced to grinding out results, almost as if they were, ironically, an old-fashioned Italian team. The Azzurri may have defied the odds to come this far, but they have all the weapons they need to hurt their opponents on the counter.
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed