Euro 2012 Championship Game: Spain vs Italy

2012 UEFA European Soccer Championship Game
Spain vs Italy
Olympic Stadium – Kyiv, Ukraine
Sunday, July 1, 2012, 2:45 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
All odds courtesy of Bookmaker
Point Line: Spain – 1/2 +110 / Italy + 1/2 -130
: Over 2 +115 / Under 2 -135
Three-way Line: Spain +110 / Italy +260 / Draw +220
Odds to win match: Spain -210 / Italy +170
Point Spread, Total, and Three Way include regulation and stoppage time only. Win includes extra time and/ or shootout as well.

Spain is trying to win a third straight major title as the take on Italy in the Euro 2012 Championship game Sunday in Kyiv

No country has ever won three straight major tournaments or won two straight European titles. Spain can do both if they beat Italy in Sunday’s Euro 2012 Championship in Kyiv, Ukraine. Spain won Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010. Spain is trying to win their third European Champioship, as they also won it in 1964. Italy’s only European Championship came in 1968. Both teams have already qualified for next year’s FIFA Confederation’s Cup, regardless of who wins this match.

Spain and Italy are meeting for the 31st time, but only 7 of the meetings have been in competitions. The rest have been friendlies. Italy holds a narrow 10-12-8 advantage against Spain. Both teams were placed in group C of Euro 2012. They opened group play against each other three weeks ago. Italy scored 61 minutes in on a goal from Antonio Di Natale. Cesc Fabregas scored the equalizer 3 minutes later for Spain. Neither team scored again, but Fernando Torres missed two golden chances late in the game for Spain. Spain outshot Italy 18-10 and held a 60-40 possession edge. Italy jammed the midfield with 6 defenders, and it seemed to frustrate Spain.

Italy is managed by Cesare Prandelli. A match fixing scandal just before Euro 2012 left doubt whether the Italians would even compete in the tournament. However, the Italian soccer federation decided to let the team compete. Italy also had a 1-1 draw against Croatia and needed to beat Ireland in the last match in Group C in order to advance. The Italians won 2-0 and clinched second in the group when Spain beat Croatia 1-0.

Italy played England in the quarterfinals and the game was scoreless after regulation and 30 minutes of added time. It went into penalty kicks and Italy won 4-2.  The Italians dominated possession for the entire game, outshooting England 35-9 and holding a 64-36 possession percentage edge.

The win against England set up a showdown with Germany in the semifinals. Italy scored two first half goals from brilliant but temperamental striker Mario Ballotelli. The Italians held off a furious German rally in the second half. Germany finally scored on a penalty kick from Mesut Ozil late in stoppage time to make the final 2-1. Germany outshot Italy 15-10 and held a narrow 54-46 possession edge. Germany had 14 corners and Italy didn’t attempt one.

Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon has given up only 3 goals in 5 games so far at Euro 2012. He kept clean sheets against Ireland, England, and made some fantastic saves against Germany that protected the lead.

Italy has a ton of talent, but a lot of divas as well. Talented striker Balotelli can fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. Against Ireland he came off the bench and scored a beautiful goal on a bicycle kick. Teammates had to cover his mouth so he wouldn’t yell at the manager for not starting him. Look for Prandelli to use the same 3-6-1 formation he did against Spain in the first match-up between the teams.  Midfielder Andrea Pirlo, and forwards Antonio Di Natale, and Antonio Cassano can all score at any time.

Spain, coached by Vicente Del Bosque, won Group C. After the draw against Italy, Spain crushed Ireland 4-0 and then beat Croatia 1-0 to win the group. Since Spain lost to Switzerland in group play at the 2010 World Cup, the Spanish haven’t suffered a loss in 19 competitive games. They have lost 4 friendlies in the last 14.

Spain played France in the quarterfinals. Although most of the game was played in the midfield, there was no question Spain was the better team. Xabi Alonso scored 2 goals for Spain, including one on a penalty kick in stoppage time at the end of the second half. Spain won 2-0 against a French side that didn’t appear interested in attacking. Spain outshot France 9-4 in the rout. Spain hasn’t allowed a goal in 9 straight knockout round games dating back to Euro 2008.

In the semifinals Spain was matched up against Iberian neighbor  and rival Portugal. The game was evenly matched with Spain outshooting Portugal 11-10 and holding a 57-43 possession advantage. Neither team could score in regulation or extra time and it went into penalty kicks. Both teams missed their first kicks. Spain ended up winning the shootout 4-2. Fabregas scored the clinching goal. Fantastic Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t even get a chance to kick as he was slated to go fifth for Portugal.

Spanish goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas has only allowed 1 goal in five games. He hasn’t faced a lot of chances though, as Spain usually dominates possession.

Spain employs a 4-5-1 attack that many criticize for being boring because the midfielders dominate possession. You can’t argue with the results though, as Spain is the best team in the world right now according to many experts. Fernando Torres looked great against Ireland but missed some chances against Italy. He disappeared against Croatia. There is some question whether Del Bosque will keep Torres as the striker or move midfielder Cesc Fabregas to that spot. Dynamic playmaker Xavi will look to create the offense. Although the most important player might be fullback Alvaro Arbeloa , who is tasked with slowing down Balotelli, easier said than done.

The scary thing is Spain hasn’t played their best game yet in this tournament. They have looked sluggish at times but still have made it to the championship game. You could say the same for Italy, but it doesn’t matter how you get here, just that you did. I think this game will be close, and could be decided in extra time or a shootout. The Reign of Spain continues 2-1.

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