Where the Euro 2012 Final will be won and lost
Adam Hurrey's crusade to analyse, in excruciating depth, the unique language of football.
With the Euro 2012 Final just hours away, our Euro 2012 correspondent Adam Hurrey tells us where tonight's final between Spain and Italy will be won and lost.
Reigning champions Spain take on Italy in the final in Kiev tonight, in an intriguing clash of styles. We take a look at the key match-ups that will decide the destination of the Henri Delaunay trophy.
Iker Casillas v Gianluigi Buffon
More than just a coin-toss here. The two captains exude confidence and assurance to their respective backlines. With 255 caps between them as their nations’ immaculate custodians, Casillas and Buffon are highly unlikely to be fazed by events in Kiev tonight. Spain’s No.1 ( 5/4 with Betfair to keep a clean sheet in 90 minutes tonight) will face a traditional centre-forward threat in the shape of Mario Balotelli, while Buffon ( 9/4 for a shut-out) must be on his toes to smother the relentless Spanish inquisition in and around his penalty area.
Gerard Pique v Mario Balotelli
Balotelli dallied bizarrely when through on goal against Spain in their group stage encounter but, on the evidence of his semi-final performance, he won’t make the same mistake again. The Mario Balotelli Show has been one of the narratives of the tournament and Pique, alongside Sergio Ramos at the heart of the Spanish defence, will aim to stifle and frustrate him. Balotelli is 15/2 to crown his tournament with the opening goal in Kiev.
Xavi Hernandez v Andrea Pirlo
With the possession-hungry Xavi orchestrating their play, Spain have made 3,417 passes in the tournament so far, with their opponents managing just 1,530. Much of the pre-final talk has been about how Spain will deal with Italian play-maker Andrea Pirlo, but their solution is always the same – press, press, press - and Pirlo will expect to see significantly less of the ball than he did against England and Germany. The same approach may not pay dividends for Italy, with the speed that Spain aim to switch the play.
??? v Andrea Barzagli
Spain coach del Bosque has faced a tournament-long conundrum up front. Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas traded places as the lone front-man before Alvaro Negredo was the surprise choice in the semi-final against Portugal. None passed their audition with flying colours, with Fernando Llorente still waiting in the wings. Fabregas may get the nod this evening, and is 9/2 to score at any time, with Torres once again resigned to an impact role from the bench. Italy will need to be prepared for any attacking permutation.
Vicente del Bosque v Cesare Prandelli
Del Bosque’s tinkering has reflected the wealth of talent at his disposal. Jesus Navas and Pedro Rodriguez have entered the fray in the latter stages of game to great effect, with their darting runs and direct dribbling. If the likes of David Silva are unsuccessful in their attempts to pick the Italian lock, expect to see changes by del Bosque to keep their opponents on their toes.
Prandelli’s positive approach has been matched by his willing flexibility – Daniele de Rossi filled in as sweeper in a three-man defence against Spain and Croatia in the group stages, before Italy reverted to the diamond formation with Pirlo at its heart.
Spain stand on the verge of history as they chase their third successive victory in a major tournament, and they can be backed at 11/1 to kill off the Italians in extra time. With the Spanish defence watertight for nine straight knock-out games, Italy’s hopes may rest on edging the dreaded penalty shoot-out at 10/1.
The epic city of Kiev awaits Euro 2012’s climactic chapter, and both sides have dramatic stories to finish on a high.
Adam will be covering Euro 2012 for the BettingExpert blog with thanks to our friends at Betfair.
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