LONDON - What a final we have in the Ukraine capital of Kiev on Sunday evening. Two very gifted sides will face each other. We have Spain, who almost send the opposition to sleep with their ability to retain such wonderful possession of the ball, against an Italian side that has surprised everybody. They have turned their backs on their normal defensive excellence and counter-attacking game to a far more aggressive attacking one.
Before we talk about the many talented players on show, let us have a look at the two coaches. In the Spanish corner we have Vincente del Bosque, a rather quiet unassuming type of guy who has on most occasions packed his side with midfield players and omitted his talented forwards, Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente and Fernando Torres. It is here where he has to change his mindset.
[Martin Rogers: Breaking down the Euro final]
The Italians will love it if the game is played in front of them. It was only in the latter stages of their first meeting when Del Bosque introduced Torres, who had two or three good opportunities with his ability to run in behind the Italian defence. In the Italian corner we have Cesere Prandelli; for me, he’s been the outstanding coach of the tournament. Prandelli has successfully used three different formations. In the first game versus Spain he went with a 3-5-3 (I believe he will use this in the final), then a 4-4-2 and a four diamond two. No other nation has been so bold.
[Dirty Tackle: Prandelli celebrated victory over Germany with a beer]
In their semifinal versus Germany I felt Joachim Loew played into their hands by selecting the more static Mario Gomez in place of Miroslav Klose who has great movement and mobility. We will have so many talented players on show and over the last 30 days they would have become household names. Two of the world’s top goalkeepers, Gigi Buffon and Iker Casillas, have been brilliant for the Italians and Spaniards respectively, but it is in the midfield where this game could be won or lost. Spain have the wonderful combination of Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The Italians have Claudio Machisio, Daniele De Rossi and Thiago Motta. They also boast the brilliant conductor of this Italian orchestra, Andrea Pirlo. He has been wonderful with his ability to give his teammates a sense of serenity in their play and at the tender age of 33 he will play his sixth game, a testimony to his fitness levels.
In attack it's difficult to talk about the Spanish because they have relied in the main on their midfielders to create and score. Italy of course are totally different. In every system Prandelli has used, there has been one constant, two forwards - Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli. The latter has been very good, his two goals against Germany being of the fantastic variety.
I for one cannot wait for this final. So many times in the past, finals have been played in a far too cautious manner but I’m guessing this one will be different. It is in the selections of the two teams that intrigues me. If Spain go without a forward I feel it will give Italy the upper hand. Italy will most likely go with the same 3-5-2 formation with which they opened the tournament in that 1-1 draw with the Spaniards.
So, I am going to stick my neck out and go against the tournament favourites. It's Italy for me!
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