Jul 1, 2012, 1:48 PM EDT
Defending European and World Cup champions Spain seek to win their third major trophy in a row today when they face Italy in the finals of Euro 2012 (2:45PM/ESPN). It’s no surprise that Spain has progressed to the final, although they have certainly lacked a bit of bite in the run up to today’s match. This was never more clear than in their semifinal win over Portugal in penalties.
Italy, who entering the tournament was faced with yet another scandal, this time a match-fixing one, has done what Italy does and has simply found ways to win games. They defeated a well-rested and favored German team 2-1 in the semifinals to take their place in today’s final.
There will be an embarrassment of passing riches on the field as the game will feature three of best string-pullers in the world. The Barcelona duo of Xavi and Iniesta control nearly every movement by La Roja. The ageless Andrea Pirlo, for whom I have an unabashed man-crush on, runs the show for the Azzurri. It never ceases to amaze how these three diminutive playmakers completely control a game.
Not to be overlooked, this game will also showcase two of best goalkeepers in the world in Iker Casillas and Gigi Buffon.
Recently there’s been a backlash to the style in which Spain plays. They’ve gone from being celebrated for their tiki-taka style to admonished for retaining possession with their lateral play. Say what you will about their style, but you cannot question the results.
However, Italy is always adept at absorbing pressure. They also have the horses up front in Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano to punish Spain on the counter. It remains to be seen whether Italy can get enough bodies behind the ball defensively and not completely cede control to the Spanish.
The match kicks off at 2:45. Who do you like? Forza Azzurri or La Furia Roja?
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