Jaymes Monte previews the final encounter of the 2012 European Championships between Spain v Italy and gives us his tips on where the value lies in this riveting clash in Kiev.
Euro 2012 Final – My top tip:
Italy to win Euro 2012 @ 6/4
Spain go into Sunday’s final looking to become the first team in history to win three consecutive major tournaments. This team’s place in football folklore is already secure, but a win over Italy this weekend would confirm their position as the greatest team in history and weave their names into the fabric of the game. Whether you are one of the growing band of onlookers who find their style of play boring, or revel in their sheer dominance in terms of possession and marvel at their ability to pick teams apart, their knack of winning football matches is indisputably remarkable.
Italy, on the other hand, can be admired for their ability to perform in the face of adversity. In 2006 when the original Calciocaos scandal rocked the very foundations of the domestic game the national team came together to win the World Cup. Fast forward six years and, under a similar cloud of scandal, one that had manager Cesare Prandelli confessing that he would have no qualms about his side withdrawing from Euro 2012 if it were deemed for “the good of football”, and the Azzurri are on the brink of another major tournament success.
The two teams should be relatively familiar with one another by now. At Euro 2008 they met at the quarter-finals stage with Spain emerging victorious in a penalty shootout after a goalless 120 minutes, then, of course, they met in the group stages of this tournament three long weeks ago when they were once again inseparable in regular play as Cesc Fabregas cancelled out Antonio di Natale’s opener. And in between those two knockout matches Italy emerged as 2-1 winners in a friendly match at the Stadio San Nicola.
So, although Spain’s record in recent years makes them deserved favourites at odds of 11/10. Italy’s recent record against La Roja means that there is a good argument to be made for backing them to win at 3/1, or at least force extra time at 9/4.
In order for Italy to win the match in normal time they would need to become the first side to score against Spain in over nine matches of knockout football. Zinedine Zidane, at the 2006 World Cup, was the last player to breach the Spanish defence in knockout competition at a major tournament. Italy themselves have also been solid defensively in this competition, the 1-1 draw between the teams in the group stages producing the only goal that either side have conceded in Poland and Ukraine this summer.
Goals, therefore, are expected to be at a premium and therefore the Under 2.5 goals at odds of 4/9 is understandably short. Under 1.5 goals is also worth a punt at 6/4, and don’t rule out the goalless draw, which is an appealing 6/1.
If anyone is to break the deadlock then Mario Balotelli looks the obvious choice for Prandelli’s side. The Manchester City forward was in sparkling form against the Germans and is a good bet at odds of 5/2 to score anytime.
As I mentioned in a previous preview of Spain, Del Bosque’s decision to play without a recognised striker opens up the goalscoring options to cover the whole team. The Spanish have had five different goalscorers this summer and so the bigger odds of 7/2 on Andres Iniesta and David Silva appeal.