Euro 2012 Final: Spain vs Italy Preview

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Euro 2012 Final: Spain vs Italy Preview
Kiev, Jun 30: After 20 days of non-stop action at the European championships, it's finally come down to two teams who will battle it out in Kiev's Olympic stadium on Sunday.

Stats and Facts: Spain vs Italy

Defending champions Spain take on Italy in a bid to retain their Euro crown. No team in the history of European championships has managed to win back to back titles. But Spain, having won the FIFA world cup two years ago, are the only team after Germany to have qualified for three major tournament finals.

At the European championship final back in 1976, Germany lost to Czechoslovakia in a penalty shoot-out, failing to retain the title.

Vincent del Bosque's men face a menacing Italian side who are rejuvenated after their 2-1 victory over the Germans in the semi-final clash on Thursday.

But both teams know a thing or two about each others ability and tactics. Having played their Groups opening clash, which ended in a 1-1 draw, both are familiar of one another's strength and weaknesses.

Four years ago, when these two teams met in the quarter-finals of Euro 2004, Spain beat Italy in a penalty shoot-out after a scoreless draw in Vienna.

After finishing second to Spain in Group C, the Azzurri found their best form since the 2010 World Cup. In the quarter-finals against England, Cesare Prandelli's men proved they are one of Europe's best sides. They dominated in all areas with 68 percent possession and completed over 800 passes, three times more than what England could manage.

While in the semi-finals against favourites Germany, the Azzurri came up with their best performance in the tournament. Although Mario Balotelli scored twice in the first half, Italy's back-line and Gigi Buffon denied Joachim Loew's young guns with brilliant save.

Italy, however, will aim to lift the European Championships for the second time having won it back in 1968 in their home soil. But the Azzurri have yet to score a goal in a major tournament final.

On the other hand, Spain beat Portugal in a nerve-racking penalty shoot-out and became the second team to have qualified for two successive Euro finals.

But Del Bosque's team haven't been at their best. Despite conceding only a single goal in the tournament, Spain, apart from their 4-0 victory over Ireland, have scored just four goals against Italy, Croatia and France. Critics back home have described Spanish 'tika-taka' style as boring.

But the Spaniards, who are not willing to change their philosophy and style, have achieved more success than any other side since 2008.

World Cup winner in 2006, Andrea Pirlo will lead the midfield along with Danielle De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio and Riccardo Montolivo while Cassano, top-scorer during the qualifying stage, and Balotelli, joint top-scorer with three goals, are expected fire upfront.

With possession in mind, Prandelli could opt for five in midfield, but the recent win over Germany, were in four defenders had started, could force him to follow the tactics used in the semi-finals.

While Spain are likely to retain the same line-up which helped them reach the finals. A 4-3-3 formation is expected with the usual four in the defensive back-line while Xavi Hernandez Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso will play in the middle. Spain's most impressive attacking midfielder Andres Iniesta, who has been a threat on the left flank along with left-back Jordi Alba, will form the forward attack with Cesc Fabregas and David Silva.

Coach Del Bosque's tactics back-fired when Alvaro Negredo was given the nod against Portugal. The Sevilla striker failed to shine in his first start in the tournament. Manchester City playmaker Silva seems out of form and tired but it was his assist which helped Spain comeback from a goal down against the Italians. The former Valencia man has been substituted with Jesus Navas to inject pace on the right flank.

Probable Line-up:

Spain: Casillas-Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba-Xabi Alonso, Busquets-Silva, Xavi, Iniesta-Torres.

Italy: Buffon-Abate, Chiellini, Bonucci, Balzaretti-Marchisio, Pirlo, Maggio-Montolivo-Balotelli, Cassano

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