Euro 2012 finals: Spain vs. Italy
It’s an unexpected but terrific final for Euro 2012 on Sunday in Kiev when Spain looks to become the first country to ever repeat as European champions when La Roja faces Italy. The Spaniards, who could also become the first team to pull a “treble” (Euro title, World Cup title and then Euro title again) are +105 favorites with Italy at +280.
Spain was supposed to be here but needed a shootout to beat Portugal after a scoreless draw. Cesc Fabregas, who came on as a substitute in the second half, scored the deciding penalty after Bruno Alves hit the crossbar for Portugal moments earlier.
Cristiano Ronaldo had several chances for Portugal, but he sent three shots well over the crossbar as his team held its own for the entire match. The Real Madrid star, who came alive with three goals in his last two matches at the tournament, did not take a penalty in the shootout. He had been slated to take the fifth one, but it never got that far.
Italy stunned tournament favorite Germany 2-1 behind two goals from Mario Balotelli. In the 20th minute, Balotelli had no trouble getting past Holger Badstuber to head in a pinpoint cross from Antonio Cassano. Then in the 36th, Balotelli received the ball behind the defense and blasted a long shot into the top right corner. With three goals, Balotelli is tied for the tournament lead.
Germany’s winless streak against Italy in major tournaments reached eight matches. The Germans entered the game on a world-record 15-match winning streak in competitive matches.
Can Italy score on Sunday? Spain has recorded eight consecutive clean sheets in the knockout stages of tournaments. The last time its goal was breached in a knockout game was in the round of 16 loss to France at the 2006 World Cup.
Spain hasn’t beaten Italy in 90 minutes of competitive football since 1920. Spain has never beaten Italy at a competitive tournament. Italy has landed three wins; four other games ended in a draw. The teams played in the group stage of Euro 2012, with it ending as a 1-1 draw. Spain eliminated Italy in Euro 2008 in the quarters on penalties.
Spain has gone 14 competitive games without defeat, since their 1-0 loss to Switzerland on 16/06/2010 at the FIFA World Cup. They have lost four of their 14 friendlies in that time, however. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli goes into his first major final tournament unbeaten in competitive internationals, recording eight wins and two draws to date.