A deep lying midfielder and a goalkeeper coming off the end of a successful Serie A season where they could not be beaten in any league game. Both and a few more of their team mates are on the verge of adding the European Championship to their honours list. A mad man (as many would like to call him) and the cause of consternation amongst fans, dividing opinions between that and that of a genius. His brilliance got them to today’s game, but will the genius preside today or will the mad man come out?
On the opposite end of the field is a mixture of two of the world’s best club side. A recently crowned La Liga champions who forgets his orbital penalty as well as his long flowing hair, is part of a defence that will come up against the only team that scored against them. A midfield collection of pass masters who had to see their favourite club coach leave at the end of last season, who will not be having a single concern over the association of boring with their game. They will surely play the way they know how.
This sets up a wonderfully poised European Championship 2012 final between Italy and Spain. Both come out from the same group and both served up a classic match in their group encounter. The idea that tonight’s game could be a notch better than that first game, whets appetite. Then again, with what is at stake tonight, the worry is that the thinking changes to let’s not lose this tonight rather than let’s win this tonight. The plan might be more centred around being defensively sound and tactically discipline to look for that one moment to kill off the opponent. A game of chess, if you like.
Even if that’s the case, it won’t make the match any less interesting than it is. There will many captivating small battles all over the pitch that will hopefully win one side the trophy. Given that Vicente Del Bosque might go back to the no striker formation after Alvaro Negredo failed to get into the game against Portugal, Gianluigi Buffon will have to be more alert to one on ones. Spain are likely to have David Silva, Cesc Fabregas or Andreas Iniesta trying to run between the lines looking to be on the end of a through pass. Italy’s defence needs to be less static like they were when Fabregas went through to score in that group game opener.
Then there’s that Mario Balotelli effect on the opposite side of the field. He relished going up against Badstuber and Hummels because neither fancy playing against a robust, strong centre forward. The same could also be said of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos. They cannot allow Balotelli the chance to be one-on-one against them, chances are Balotelli will easily out-muscle them. This is where the role of Sergio Busquests becomes vital. He needs to drop back to support the centreback and try to crowd out Balotelli.
But all the action is expected to centre around the midfield. The peerless Pirlo on one side hoping to have space to dictate the game. Spain will do well to have someone pressing quickly on the Juventus man every time he’s on the ball. Perhaps one of the further forward midfielders. A Fabregas or Silva. While De Rossi, Marchisio and Motta will be hoping that they can ruffle some feathers in the well-oiled machine that is the Spanish midfield. If Italy sit off them and let them move the ball around, even though space/shape isn’t conceded, it would not be good for them.
So, sit back and enjoy the show tonight. Will history be made by successive wins from the Spanish armada? Or has Cesare Prandelli’s morning long hike to the monastery earned him an opportunity to lift the trophy. Rather looking forward to this one.
After this, it’s back to club football.