History In The Making or A Blue Dawn?
Posted on July 1, 2012 by Chris Lowe
Euro 2012 reaches its spectacular crescendo on Sunday night with pre-tournament favourites Spain widely expected to become the first team ever to win three major championships in a row and the first to retain their Euro title when they face Italy in Kiev.
Vicente Del Bosque’s men are certainly the favourites with the bookies but have been far from their scintillating best so far. Okay they are unbeaten and they have only conceded one goal, but their free flowing, expansive brand of football has looked slightly lacking in penetration. People will point to Villa’s absence and Torres’ continued exclusion as probable reasons but I think it’s more than that; Spain seem a little scared, a little negative, like the weight of expectation is weighing heavy on their shoulders.
Italy on the other hand came into the tournament with no expectations. Domestically they are in the midst of another match fixing scandal and the national side finished bottom of their group at the 2010 WC in South Africa. Yet this time around they’ve probably played some of the best football and if they weren’t facing “brand Spain” and it was another team who’d played as well as Spain thus far, I think they’d be the favourites.
Every team that plays Spain feels the need to change their tactics, they’ll try to press or they’ll sit and let Spain have to ball, no one has quite worked out the best way to beat them yet, but perhaps Spain will have to change this time. Andrea “Peerless” Pirlo has undoubtedly been the player of the tournament and he’s been devastating when given any kind of space. Del Bosque may elect to change in order to restrict the pass master; maybe Fabregas starts as the “false 9” again and drops deeper with Pedro providing the penetration from out wide as he does for Barcelona.
Those amongst us with memories will recall these two met in the opening game of Group C, the match will be largely remembered for Spain’s lack of strikers (a continuing trend) and Italy’s lack of defenders (no longer a trend). In case you’ve forgotten the match ended 1-1 but, as I eluded to, a lot has changed since then; Cesare Prandelli has scraped his experimental 3-5-2 in favour of a more conventional 4-4-2 diamond and while Spain have stagnated, Italy’s improvement is staggering. They really could cause an upset.