Euro 2012 final: Spain v Italy preview
Italy might need yet another special performance from Mario Balotelli, if they are to dethrone Spain.

The winners of the 2012 European Championships will be crowned at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, on Sunday night and the title will be decided by defending champions Spain and the 2006 World Cup winners Italy. After 30 games and 72 goals... it all comes to down this one game.


Spain are not only looking to become the first country ever to successfully defend a European title but also the first country to win three successive major tournaments - they've already claimed the 2008 European Championship and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Incidentally, they have two European titles; the first was back in 1964 and if they win their third on Sunday, they will join Germany as the all-time top European nation. Cesare Prandelli's Italy is all that stands between Vicente del Bosque, Spain and history.

However, Spain must contend with the fact that they have not beaten Italy in a competitive game in nearly a century! They beat the Azzurri in Euro 2008 quarter final, yes, but that was on penalties and the record books class that as a draw. In fact, in the 11 times these two sides have played a competitive game, the Spanish have only won once - the 1920 Olympics - meaning they have never beaten Italy in a major football tournament. In addition, Italy remains the only team that has managed to score against the European champions in this tournament and also the only side that has denied them victory so far.

Spain had the chance to eliminate Cesare Prandelli's side by drawing 2-2 with Croatia in the last game of the group phase.

Could they be made to pay for not taking it?

Team News and Tactics:

Spain: Former Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque has a full squad available for the showdown against the Azzurri. The 61 year old has kept his faith in his first team regulars and the same 10 players have played in every game so far, meaning he has only made the one change in his starting eleven. He is unlikely to make any drastic changes, therefore, for this game. His primary dilemma, as it has always been so far, is whether to start with a recognised striker or deploy Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas in the now traditional "false nine" role. The latter could be the way the wind blows, given Chelsea striker Fernando Torres is woefully short of form and favour and Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo was unimpressive in the semi final against Portugal. The highly rated Fernando Llorente of Athletic Bilbao has yet to make an appearance but it is unlikely the Basque will be called upon for so important a match.

Italy: Italy coach Prandelli faces a different kind of dilemma. In his opening game of the tournament, ironically against Spain, Italy looked impressive playing three at the back. A switch to a more traditional four man backline, in the semi final against Germany, showed a more stable Italy though, meaning he will need to decide on either past performance against a particular opponent or opt for more general stability. It is likely he will continue with the latter (four man defence) particularly since the team was superb against both England and Germany, in the knock-out stages.

Right back Christian Maggio is available after missing the semi final against Germany through suspension, while fellow wing-back Ignazio Abate will also come back into contention following his recovery from a muscle injury. Playmaker Riccardo Montolivo is likely to keep his place, at the expense of Thiago Motta, after impressing in the semi final.

Key Battle:

Xavi Hernandez v Andrea Pirlo

The Catalan and the Italian are the two most supreme passers of the ball in the modern game. The orchestrators of attacks at both Barcelona and Juventus, respectively, both will be key to how well their countries play. Xavi and Pirlo can each control and dictate the tempo of the game in favour of their teams.

Xavi, an all-time great, has not been at his best so far at the Euros and will be desperate to contribute on Sunday. Meanwhile, Pirlo has been fantastic for the Azzurri and has one hand on the Player of the Tournament award ahead of the final.


  • Spain are on a run of 19 competitive games without defeat and have won their last nine knockout matches at major tournaments without conceding a goal
  • Italy have won just two of their last eight matches in regulation time but are yet to lose a competitive game under Prandelli
  • With his brace against Germany, Mario Balotelli became the first Italian to score three goals at a single European championship. The Manchester City striker is the joint-top scorer of Euro 2012 and is likely to claim the Golden Boot outright, if he finds the net on Sunday
  • The sides' most recent meeting was in each other's opening match in this tournament in Gdansk on 10 June, which finished as a 1-1 draw. Antonio Di Natale stepped off the bench to give Italy the lead just after the hour mark, only for Fabregas to grab a leveller soon after

Possible starting line-up:

Spain (4-3-3): Casillas; Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Alonso, Busquets, Xavi; Silva, Fabregas, Iniesta

Italy (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Balzaretti; Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi; Montolivo; Balotelli, Cassano

Where to watch live:

You can follow the game live from 7:45 pm BST on BBC One and iTV 1, as well as on BBC Radio 5 live and the official UEFA Web site.