By Nate Jacobson
The Italians will be the team celebrating after Sunday night’s final in Kiev. This prediction doesn’t mean I am rooting for Italy, but I think they are in a great position to win Euro 2012.
The current Italy squad is a classical Italian team because they have started the tournament slow, but have improved and moved on through the knockout phase. However, the style of this Italian team is different. They look like a more attacking team with players like Mario Balotelli. It was the 21 year-old Balotelli that scored two goals in the semifinal against Germany.
When Italy takes the field against Spain, the one clear advantage for the Italians is at striker. Spain has tried out natural forwards Fernando Torres and Alvaro Negredo to lead the Spanish attack, but the two haven’t impressed. Cesc Fabregas can play out of position in this role, like he did three weeks ago against Italy, but then Spain lacks a dangerous scoring threat. Italy plays with two strikers as Balotelli creates a duo with Antonio Cassano.
Another reason why it’s hard to pick against the Italians is because of veterans Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo. Buffon is having an amazing tournament at 34 years old. It will be hard for Spain to score against Buffon and an underrated Italy defense. Pirlo have been the dynamic midfielder who has played as well as Spanish star Andreas Iniesta.
Italy is also not just playing for themselves as individuals, but for pride in their country. It was just one month ago when Italy threatened to pull out of Euro 2012 because of another match fixing scandal in their domestic soccer league. A similar event happened six years ago and Italy went on to win the World Cup. This brought a lot of joy to a country and eased the pain of the fraud. Italy has a chance to win again even with a scandal that could damage the reputation of some key soccer figures.
Italy has come together well through the leadership of Buffon and Pirlo, and I think Balotelli will give Spain’s defense a great challenge.
Prediction: Italy 1, Spain 0
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