After weeks of competition, intense debate over the best way to approach the challenge and a few unsavoury events the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine is nearly over. You’d not say it was an unqualified success, but the one point worth making is that the mistakes were made by UEFA, and not any of the teams here. Once the dust has settled and the level of incompetence is properly understood it needs a ‘vote of no confidence’ in the rulers of European football, but I think I’m being unrealistic there.
On a purely footballing level I think this has been an excellent tournament, and I’m really glad we have two superb technical sides in the final to give it the send-off the football has deserved. Germany, Holland and a few others were vanquished, mainly due to the coaching if we’re honest and I really feel Prandelli and Del Bosque represent the best two managers left as well. Tactically they have been thoughtful and progressive, and they also understood the way rotation works, unlike Joachim Loew or a few others.
In that respect, it is expected that Spain will continue with the 4-6-0 formation that has served them so well, with Fabregas operating in the fabled ‘false 9’ position that Messi plays for Barcelona, to the probable and continued chagrin of Fernando Torres. As ever, the key men with be Xavi and Iniesta in the centre of the park, but the Italian system also relies on wing-backs making the wide areas their own, and if Jordi Alba and Arbeloa on the other side can play well they could negate that side of the Italian attack.
Italy will look to get Andrea Pirlo and Ricardo Montolivo on the ball as much as possibly, as the pair were at the heart of everything good in the game against Germany and must be allowed their space to play. Equally, if Spain do maintain possession well then the creative Italians will have a job on trying to contain the play, and this may well have an adverse effect on some already pretty tired legs.
Italy’s Ignazio Abate, Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi have all overcome slight knocks to play, which is not surprising given the magnitude of the match, and this may even be the first time Prandelli has had a fully-fit squad. For Spain there are no major injury worries, with the main decisions to be taken over system rather than fitness. Spain are 6/5 to the Italian 10/3 for the win, and WilliamHill have Andreas Iniesta at 12/1 as first goalscorer. The diminutive genius has a habit of scoring big goals, and this is as big as it gets.