Italy and Spain do battle in the culmination of Euro 2012, with the final being played in Kiev on Sunday night. The holders are the favourites, whilst the Azzurri have steadily improved throughout the campaign to take their place in the decider.

Spain and Italy ironically met in the first game of Group C, playing out a 1-1 draw with Cesc Fabregas cancelling out Antonio Di Natale’s opener. Since then Vicente del Bosque’s men have slipped into winning mode, beating Republic of Ireland 4-0, Croatia 1-0, France 2-0 and Portugal on penalties to make this stage. The world champions are looking for a record third consecutive international trophy and have scored eight goals and only conceded one.

Despite this, the Spanish press have been hard on La Roja due to the side not living up the standards that saw them triumph in 2008 and 2010. A lack of chances and with David Villa absent the lack of a recognised striker has had the team under scrutiny. However, Del Bosque has promised that his side will attack in the final, with suggestions that Fernando Torres or Alvaro Negredo will start up front in place of false nine Cesc Fabregas.

Italy have improved as the tournament has progressed, with opening 1-1 draws with Spain and Croatia followed by a 2-0 win over Republic of Ireland to ensure a runners-up place in the pool. Despite dominating the quarter-final against England the Azzurri failed to score in a 0-0 draw, but prevailed on penalties with Alessandro Diamanti converting the decisive spot-kick.

Cesare Prandelli’s tactics were spot-on in the semi-final, as Italy pressed highly-fancied Germany, hit them on the counter-attack and beat them 2-1 with Mario Balotelli scoring both goals. The side’s midfield, in particular Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo were imperious in that game, and will need to be at their best against the Spaniards to get a similar result.

This game will have world-class players doing battle all over the pitch, with the individual duals having a telling impact on the eventual score-line. For Spain the history books are ready to be changed with the confirmation of a period of dominance should they win, whilst Italy want to win their first European Championships since 1968. Prandelli and Del Bosque’s team selections will be interesting and crucial in the outcome, but both teams should be determined and combative. Expect Spain to have the bulk of possession, but with Balotelli in the mood Italy could spring another upset.

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Euro 2012 Italy Spain