It happens every 8 years, as it seems, that two teams that have already met in the Group Stage meet again in the final for the Euro. Spain, without really impressing anyone on their way to the final (for a second straight time) and Italy, with a very impressive knockout stage performance so far, are meeting again in the Euro 2012 final.
For Italy, it’ll be the third time in the final. They won the tournament back in 1968, when it took only three matches to do it. The Euros aren’t usually Italy’s thing, as it took them 32 years to reach the final again, and see their hopes and dream shattered by France with a golden goal. Two years after their abysmal World Cup, Italy, despite all the problems at home and the criticism earlier in the tournament, are worthy participants in the final.
Spain are not everyone’s favorite baby anymore. It’ll be their fourth visit to the Euro finals, having won the tournament in 1964 and 2008, also reaching the final in 1984, also losing to France, this time the Michel Platini edition of Les Bleus. But this isn’t the 2008 version that everyone enjoyed watching play.
This is a pragmatic side that’s highly defensive in the way they move the ball as a form of defense, without the intent of trying to score every time they enjoy possession. Tactics and styles change and evolve, and the ‘neutrals’ don’t like what Spain have evolved into. Add to that an arrogance of a head coach trying to prove he can win an entire tournament without using striker, or sparingly giving them some playing time, and you can guess why many aren’t impressed.
Italy suddenly seem like the attacking side, or at least they did in the match against Germany. No Cattenaccio, no parking the bus. Simply excellent pressure in the midfield, just like Portugal did to Spain in their semifinal, and having intent every time they enjoyed possession. For a nice stretch in the first half, it paid off for Italy with two Mario Balotelli goals. Against Spain it’s a little different; A team that has an endless supply of playmakers instead of just the one most teams rely on. They can be slowed down and disturbed, but completely stopped? Hard to imagine.
Prediction – We’ve bet against Italy in both knockout stage matches, and they’ve come through with flying colors, especially in their fantastic 2-0 win over Germany. Now it’s Spain, a team they struggled to attack and gain possession against in the group stage, but they’re the only team that scored against them in this tournament. Still, Spain might be far from exciting, but there’s an attitude to them that says that they know they’re better than the rest of the playing field. They’ll win this one, making it a trio of major titles, the first ever to accomplish that.