Kiev, Jun 30: The Euro 2012 finals will be a battle between the defending champions Spain and former World Champions Italy. But the match can be compared between the teams most influential players, in this case, Andrea Pirlo of Italy against Spain's 'fantastic four' in Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and David Silva.
The 33-year old Azzurri play-maker has single-handedly dominated the midfield area in Euro 2012. But La Roja have been dominating possession since the Euro 2008 final against Germany.
Vicente Del Bosque's men may have to stop Pirlo's inch-perfect passes, long diagonal forward passes and cheeky yet accurate passes and movements in and around the midfield area. But the Italians have a bigger task in holding Xavi, Iniesta and Silva, who are some of the best playmakers in modern day football.
Xavi, who completed 134 passes against Ireland, is the engine of Spain's midfield while Iniesta and Silva tend to wriggle through several defenders and still manage to get through a decent pass inside the opponents penalty area. Alonso, who scored two against France in the quarter-finals, dictates play deep in the Spanish half.
Apart from Alonso, who has the physique and strength to hold off opponents, Barcelona's Xavi-Iniesta duo including Silva do not possess similar qualities. But what makes them the best in the world is their ability provide defence-spliting passes, retain possession and control the flow and tempo of the game.
But Pirlo, who joined Jeventus from AC Milan last season, has found his lost form back helping his club win the Seria A title after nine years. With 13 assists, Pirlo brought glory days back to the Turin based club. But his success did not end there as Cesare Prandelli named the former AC Milan playmaker in the 23-man squad for Ukraine-Poland Euro 2012.
Pirlo has also been tipped to win the Ballon d'Or, surpassing both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Pirlo was too good for the likes England as well as favourites Germany. Against England the 33-year old midfielder completed 117 passes, (including extra-time) the most in the tournament. Pirlo's passing ability will be tested by Spain's midfield especially Xavi. Both players have reached the peak in their careers but are also the most influential players in their respective teams.
The 32-year old Barcelona play-maker, also known as the puppet master, is a free-kick specialist, able to score from long range and has the vision to make split-second decisions in front of goal. Defensively, Spain hardly clear the ball over to the other half but pass inside their own box which indicates their calm nature and confidence.
Xavi's club and country teammate Iniesta, plays in a more attacking role usually on the left-flank. Iniesta, who scored the winner in the 2010 World Cup finals, has the ability to dance around defenders with his quick feet and tricky movements.
Silva, who helped Manchester City win the Premier League, provided the assist to Fabregas in their opening fixture against Italy. Silva's dribbling abilities and that magical left-foot can leave defenders in a dilemma. Coach Vicente Del Bosque also called him Spain's 'Messi' for his ability to cut inside and create easy goal-scoring chances.
Meanwhile, the midfield battle remains key when these outstanding players come together to be crowned the King of Europe. Can Pirlo be Italy's hero or will Xavi and Co. be crowned champions of Europe again.