It’s the final of the UEFA Euro 2012 and as expected it’s going to be a rematch of the Group C opener, Italy vs Spain. Much was expected when the two sides locked horns that time and Italy held the advantage throughout the match even though the result was a draw. That being their first match, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had a lot of selection vows ahead of it. They had lost their last three friendlies, the latest against Russia by a one sided three strikes. Italy changed their style from the usual 4-4-2 (4-3-1-2) to 3-5-2 to intercept the tiki taka of Spain and they tasted great success from the match.
It was a few weeks back and the positive style against the Spanish in the opening game gave the Italians a real boost into the other matches. Though they went back to their usual diamond formation, the team gained more acceptance after every match. Italy faced tough competition in the tournament, leading to the final. They had strong opponents in England and Germany, leaders from their own groups. But Prandelli had a side which was not only longing for victory but also working really had to attain it.
Midnight of July 1 in Kiev is what they had been planning for. Italy must win this to wipe out the match fixing scandals that marred their preparation for the tournament. Tonight, Prandelli has more selection worries, all good for his side! Most of the players have recovered from injuries and would be raring to take the field tonight. I believe Prandelli would not resort to the 3-5-2 formation he adopted in the first match against Spain. He would continue with the same midfield diamond to attack the Spanish goal. Captain Gianluigi Buffon will once again protect the goal line. Ahead of him would be two fort keepers in central defence, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini. If free from injury then Ignazio Abate or else Christian Maggio is expected to take the position of right back. But I would go with Leonardo Bonucci in this position as he has demonstrated great skills in curbing attacks and retaining possession of the ball. The impressive and experienced Federico Balzaretti would be deployed on the left flank. The trailing end of the midfield diamond would be Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, and Claudio Marchisio. Instead of Riccardo Montolivo or Thiago Motta, I would give a starting team place for Aleasandro Diamanti just behind the two strikers. In the strike, the same combination of Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli would continue. I would make only two substitutions for this team- Cassano with Antonio Di Natale and Diamanti with Antonio Nocerino.
Spain got more time to practise and decide on the best team they can play tonight. It would not be easy for Italy, but it would not be easy for Spain as well. Italy are the clear favourites to win this match and the tournament by a one-goal difference, but a lot depends on how the combination of Cassano and Balotelli works upfront. The three pillars for Italy tonight would be Buffon, Pirlo, and Balotelli. Hope we get a thriller of a match tonight and a great result to go with it!