England entered the Euros with expectations unusually low making their exit from the tournament, amid the now traditional penalty shoot failure, not unexpected and not quite so deflating.
Hopefully this will allow us all to enjoy the competition’s final without the lingering heartache of yet more disappointment, particularly as the game is shaping up to be such an interesting affair.
Prior to the Tournament Italy were all but written off as serious contenders for the trophy in comparison to Spain, Germany and The Netherlands but the genius of Pirlo and the somewhat maverick talent of Balotelli has seen the Italians take a much deserved place in the final.
Andre Pirlo has glided through the Knockout phase of the competition, effortlessly controlling the pace of the game from the twenty yards in the centre of the pitch he so rarely vacates. The question is whether the collective passing power of Spain will be able to ensure the cultured Italian is unable to obtain the ball with such ease.
The likelihood is that Sergio Busquets will be charged with man marking the 33 year old, but that was a task even the might of the German midfield was unable to complete. Spain’s best chance of stopping Pirlo is to keep the ball themselves, and if any team in the history of world football are up to that job its this “boring” Spanish side.
Del Bosque’s determination to stick to the Spanish footballing philiosophy may well see his team once again take to the field without a recognised striker, particularly after Negrado’s rather disappointing display against Portugal, making large periods of Spanish midfield possession a near inevitably. For all Pirlo’s majesty on the ball he is only man in comparison to Insesta, Xavi, Alsono and Fabregas should he be selected. One hope for the Italians though is that Xavi is not looking his unplayable best proven by him receiving the old-fashioned hook during Spain’s semi-final success.
One man who we have seen the best of recently is the mercurial talent of Balotelli. Cesare Prandelli has managed to get Balotelli living up to Super Mario nickname after a start to the tournament which saw him angrily substituted after his “matrix moment” in front of goal during Italy’s first game. Balotelli seemed to physical intimidate the German defenders and Sergio Ramos will have to continue the good form he has shown throughout the tournament to prevent the Man City forward offering a repeat performance.
Balotelli and his strike partner Cassano may perhaps prove the key to Italy’s dreams of glory, as Pirlo is unlikely to dominate the game in such a dramatic fashion as the country’s previous two games chances are likely to be at a premium. Prandelli will be hoping that the decision to play two strikers will ensure his side have more cutting edge when it comes to converting what chances are available in comparison to a Spain side that may start without a recognised front man.
Personally I can see Spain snatching a winner late on when the game becomes more frantic after some tight opening exchanges. Jordi Alba bombing forward or some skill from Pedro could see Spain in behind the Italian defence as the game becomes stretched, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Torres come off the bench to repeat his winning goal of the previous final.
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