UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine
Spain vs Italy-  Match Preview



                                           Euro 2012                                             Sixth round of fixtures

Sunday 1st July 2012-                 Spain vs Italy                    KO 7:45pm                    BBC1/HD & ITV1/HD  







Group Stages-  Group C

Game One        Spain 1-1 Italy                         Match report 
                     Fabregas 64    Di Natale 60

Game Two       Spain 4-0 Republic of Ireland       Match report
                     Torres 4, 70
                     Silva 49
                     Fabregas 83

Game Three      Croatia 0-1 Spain                     Match report
                                      Jesus Navas 88



Quarter-Final         Spain 2-0 France                 Match report
                          Alonso 19, 90 (pen)



Semi-Final             Portugal 0-0 Spain               Match report

                        (Spain win 4-2 on penalties)



Group Stages-  Group C

Game One        Spain 1-1 Italy                         Match report 
                     Fabregas 64     Di Natale 60

Game Two        Italy 1-1 Croatia                      Match report
                     Pirlo 39    Mandzukic 72

Game Three      Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland       Match report
                      Cassano 35
                      Balotelli 90


Quarter-Final      England 0-0 Italy                   Match report

                       (Italy win 4-2 on penalties)


Semi-Final       Germany 1-2 Italy                     Match report
Ozil 90+1 (pen)   Balotelli 20, 36    

Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas is wary of the threat posed by Italy's attack as the two countries gear up for the Euro 2012 final on Sunday.

Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano head Italy's attack and Fabregas said: "They have a lot of variety up front. They have strong players like Balotelli, tricky players like Cassano. In midfield they have special players like [Claudio] Marchisio and [Andrea] Pirlo, who's had a great tournament. It will be a tough game."

Fabregas equalised for Spain after Italy took the lead against them when the teams drew 1-1 in their Group C opener at the start of their Euro 2012 campaigns. Antonio Di Natale scored for the Azzurri as Spain conceded the only goal against them in the tournament. The Barcelona midfield man added: "The winners will be deserving champions. I think we've been the two most consistent teams at the tournament."

21-year old Manchester City forward Balotelli scored twice in Italy's semi-final win over Germany to set up a final against Spain. And, while Fabregas knows the danger Italy's strikers possess, he is also aware of the overall strength of Cesare Prandelli's side.

"They have a very competitive team," said Fabregas. "They are very experienced at the back and up front, and they have players who had excellent seasons for teams like AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. Italy's defenders are very experienced, and they know when to attack and when to defend. On top of that they have a goalkeeper [Gianluigi Buffon] who's a natural leader, but we have a great goalkeeper as well in Iker Casillas."

Spain will be trying to make history as they are going for an unprecedented win at a third major tournament on the trot after victories at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. Defender Sergio Ramos said ahead of the game: "We are aware of what we are playing for on Sunday. It is something that as of today no team has ever achieved. It requires many years of work and sacrifice. No matter what happens we have already made history. This hasn't finished though and the icing on the cake would be to return and win the Euros."

Italy manager Cesare Prandelli has conceded that Spain will be the favourites when the two countries meet in Sunday's Euro 2012 final.

The Azzurri beat Germany to set up a showdown with the tournament holders and 2010 World Cup winners but Prandelli said: "I open my eyes but I'm still dreaming. There's great satisfaction here as everyone has put so much work into this. But Spain will go into the game as favourites. They've been working on this for many years and have dominated every single contest. They are a brilliant side."

Italy have been the only team to score against Spain at Euro 2012, with the two teams playing out a 1-1 draw in their opening game of the tournament. The Azzurri have impressed on their subsequent path to Sunday's showpiece and, despite speculation over his future as a result, former Fiorentina boss Prandelli- whose contract currently runs until 2014- insists he is focused on the final.

He added: I've had my phone on and I've not had a call. I've said before, I've got a great relationship with the Italian Football Federation and I love the shirt. I do miss the everyday aspect of club football, of course, but that's as far as it goes."

Mario Balotelli is flourishing at Euro 2012 because he is surrounded by "great champions", according to Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.

The 21-yar old forward goes into Sunday's showdown with reigning champions Spain having scored three goals in as many games for the Azzurri and his boss said: "He's found a set-up where he can talk to great champions, who have won a lot of trophies. There comes a time when you have to be brave enough to accept other people's advice because the result becomes paramount. We have always felt he had great ability."

Balotelli needs one more goal to take the lead in the Golden Boot standings, knowing achieving that would take Italy a long way towards lifting the trophy having scored in the group stages against the Republic of Ireland before scoring twice in the semi-final against Germany.

Sunday's match will be Italy's ninth final at major tournaments, yet they have not won the European Championship since 1968. Their preparations for the final with Spain were not helped by a 3am arrival in Kiev from their Krakow base on Saturday.

But Prandelli insists Italy will be ready for the world champions in the Olympic Stadium and believes the contest in the centre of midfield will be crucial. Italy will field the in-form Andrea Pirlo, as well as the likes of Riccardo Montolivo and Daniel de Rossi, while Spain will call upon accomplished and experienced midfielders such as Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Xabi Alonso.

"I hope we can be positive and take the game to Spain," added Prandelli. "Our first aim will be to shut down space and win the ball. Where we try to win the ball will depend on us and also how good Spain are.  For us, it is important to remain focused on our target - close the space in the central midfield. Our central midfield has a lot of quality, we can cover a lot of ground and press in that area and we have a great player who can raise the level of the game and can get in the right position - and of course that is Andrea Pirlo."

Captain and veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon will be looking to add to the World Cup winners medal he won with the Azzurri in 2006. Buffon was the hero as Italy beat France 5-3 on penalties in Berlin six years ago after an absorbing 1-1 draw. The 34-year old goalkeeper said: "Playing for the Italian national team means a lot to me. I lost two great grandparents in the war, [singing the national anthem] shows what it means to me. Italy have been more of a surprise side in this tournament. Let's hope we can continue to be a surprise right until the end- we all know that Spain will be slight favourites."

Meanwhile, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque says his side will have to play to their maximum if they are to have any chance of making history in the final. "We cannot look back, we cannot think history influences anything," he said. "Italy are four-time world champions. We were in the same group, have similar star players and both had to come through penalties."

Del Bosque, a former Real Madrid player and manager, was in charge of the Spain team that won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, succeeding Luis Aragones, who coached the team to Euro 2008 success. Spain's starting XI on Sunday is likely to include at least five players schooled at Barcelona - Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets.

And Del Bosque added that the national team had learnt to translate their success at club level to the international game.

"Our success is not a coincidence and has its foundations in many things - in the structure of our football, in the academies, and in better coaches," Del Bosque told the Spanish football federation website. "The Spanish clubs are devoting themselves to training youngsters. Before we would travel abroad to look at the academies in France, Russia, Germany. Now many of these countries come to see what we are doing in Spain. We have put a certain complex regarding Europe behind us and right now we are at the same level as any country in our vicinity."

Euro 2012 final video preview- who will win? 

Click here for the pre-match thoughts of Spain's Cesc Fabregas

Click here to watch Spain and Italy's route to the Euro 2012 final

Click here to watch match highlights of group stage meeting: Spain 1-1 Italy

Click here to view the best bits of Spain's meeting with Italy at Euro 2008



As good as Mario Balotelli was for Italy in their semi-final win over Germany with two excellently taken goals, I can still see him doing something stupid or sulking in the final so that could be a risk in playing him for such a massive fixture. In many ways I'd like to see Italy win it because Cesare Prandelli has been tactically astute, he has got his players playing for him and I like the way his team plays. But this is Spain we are talking about who are best at keeping hold of the ball and physically draining their opponents by making them chase the ball for the entire ninety minutes. They will be set up to keep possession as we know they do and I am not sure Italy will see enough of the ball to impose themselves on the game in the way they have done in other games at this tournament such as getting key midfielders De Rossi and Pirlo on the ball in advanced areas of the pitch. I'm going for a Spain win. I tipped Spain before the start of Euro 2012 and will not back away from them now, despite Italy's ominous improvement. Italy's Andrea Pirlo has become one of the most celebrated performers in Poland and Ukraine after delivering back-to-back midfield masterclasses against England and Germany. But Spain are on a mission to confirm their status as one of the greatest national team's in the game's history by retaining the European Championship to stand alongside the World Cup. They have come under criticism for playing no strikers and for playing some "boring" football in their games with Croatia and Portugal, however they beat the Croats and knocked out Portugal in the semi-final so it must be doing some good. La Roja have riches of their own in midfield in the shape of Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta - with Cesc Fabregas an added option for them if he is not picked as an auxiliary centre forward. Pirlo's ability to dictate pace and terms in that crucial area could be decisive but Spain have been here before more recently and have the chance to make history which means they will go all out for this- should nick it in extra-time.

Adam predicts Spain 1-0 Italy (After Extra Time)

Alex predicts Spain 1-1 Italy (Italy to win 5-4 on penalties)






Last meeting:-

Sunday 10th June 2010               Euro 2012 Group C opening match                    Spain (Fabregas 64) 1-1 Italy (Di Natale 60)
Venue-  PGE Arena, Gdansk (Poland)

Reigning world and European champions Spain began the defence of their crown with an absorbing 1-1 draw at Euro 2012 in Group C. Antonio Di Natale drew first blood for the Azzurri on 60 minutes, coming straight off the substitutes bench to put his side ahead, but only four minutes later, Cesc Fabregas ensured their opening day ended with a share of the spoils in Gdansk. The headline news that preceded the match was the inclusion of Cesc Fabregas as the man who would be bestowed with leading the line for the Spaniards in a false number nine role, ahead of recognised strikers Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente. Meanwhile, coach Cesare Prandelli went with a 3-5-2 formation, with Daniele De Rossi lining up in defence. Emanuele Giaccherini was also given his maiden bow for the Azzurri at left wing-back. Predictably, inside the first 10 minutes, Spain set out their stall as Italy were put on the back foot. The Spanish threatened to impose their passing style in the early stages, but la Nazionale's wall at the back refused to be beaten, lead by Daniele De Rossi. Prandelli subsequently hauled the temperamental forward off for Antonio Di Natale, who in a matter of minutes superbly latched onto Pirlo's through pass and curled an emphatic finish past Casillas on the hour mark. However, just four minutes later, Spain took advantage of some uncertain defensive play by the Azzurri, as neat link-up play between Iniesta and Silva saw Fabregas ghost into the box to coolly restore parity. With only 20 minutes remaining yet more opportunities were fluffed. Substitute Fernando Torres capitalised on a failed offside trap, but his one-on-one with Buffon ended with the grateful goalkeeper putting a foot in to win the ball back.Torres then was gifted with another opportunity to prove his critics wrong right at the end, but he hesitated in another one-on-one with Buffon, seeing his chip over the goalkeeper go harmlessly over to keep both sides tied after the first game of the tournament.





Manager-  Vicente Del Bosque  



Available squad:

Goalkeepers-  Casillas (C), Reina, Valdes

Defenders-  Arbeloa, Juanfran, Sergio Ramos, Pique, Javi Martinez, Jordi
                 Alba, Raul Albiol

Midfielders-  Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Silva, Mata, 
                  Pedro, Jesus Navas, Santi Cazorla, Fabregas

Forwards-  Torres, Llorente, Negredo

Likely starting line-up:


Casillas (captain)
Sergio Ramos
Jordi Alba
Xabi Alonso
Sergio Busquets




Manager-  Cesare Prandelli  



Available squad:

Goalkeepers-  Buffon (C), Sirigu, De Sanctis

Defenders-  Bonucci, Chiellini, Maggio, Balzaretti, Balzaghi, Abate,

Midfielders-  De Rossi, Marchisio, Montolivo, Giaccherini, Pirlo, Thiago
                   Motta, Diamanti, Nocerino

Forwards-  Balotelli, Cassano, Di Natale, Giovinco, Borini

Likely starting line-up:


Buffon (captain)
De Rossi






Xabi Alonso (Spain) vs Andrea Pirlo (Italy)

Adam's comment:
  "These two players just love to play football and on the whole have had great tournaments so we are expecting another good performance from them both in the final. As we saw in the days of him being in the Premier League with Liverpool, Xabi Alonso is such a talented player and is great at swinging sixty yard passes across the pitch in the style of Paul Scholes, shooting from miles out and still managing to worry goalkeepers while his speedy passing technique panics the opposition and keeps the ball moving quickly. He does this at such a leisurely pace yet still ensures the tempo of the game is high and he is just as capable of being as influential as Xavi and Iniesta in matches. It was good for him to get two goals against France in his 100th appearance showing he still serves the national side well and he remains an important figure in that midfield for them normally sitting a little deeper like he did at Liverpool and does now so splendidly for Real Madrid. Watch out for him getting under Pirlo and De Rossi's feet, not allowing them to settle on the ball and he can make a lot of timely interceptions, interventions and the odd tackle. On the flip side of the coin, Andrea Pirlo has just lit up the tournament showing that AC Milan were wrong to release him last summer as the age of 34, he is still going strong. Never look at somebody on their age, but their ability as a footballer. Just ask Ryan Giggs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at different ends of the spectrum. He has produced two absolutely world-class performances against two of the best footballing countries in the world at present- England and Germany. His free-kick against Croatia speaks for itself. Against England he was afforded a little more time and space flinging balls all over the place, left, right and centre. He has a great touch, awareness, control and vision to play a ball wherever he likes and his footballing brain tells him whether someone is around him and where he is going to move before he even receives it. Against the Germans, although Khedira and Schweinsteiger were a little tighter in the first half, he still managed to manufacture space and play some delightful balls seeking out Balotelli and his two wide men. He even made a clearance off the line. He may not have a lot of the ball against Spain but watch him penetrate that backline and dictate the rhythm. He will be a key player for the Italians- and Alonso and Busquets will have to be mindful of his presence as if they do what England allowed him to do, he can hurt you."




The Azzurri are unbeaten in 15 competitive games under Cesare Prandelli: winning ten (one by default) and drawing five.

Striker Mario Balotelli has had the most shots on target at Euro 2012 with ten.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has played 24 matches at major tournaments, equalling Dino Zoff's Italian record, but he is still four short of the goalkeepers' record, held by Spain's Iker Casillas who has played 28.

No team has made more blocks, clearances and interceptions than Italy during Euro 2012 with 248. Italy have picked up the most bookings at Euro 2012 with fifteen yellow cards accumulated which is five more than Spain who have had ten players cautioned. Italy have committed 79 fouls during the tournament as opposed to Spain's 66.

This is Italy's ninth final at major tournaments (three at the European Championship, six at the World Cup). They've won 63% (five). Italy are the only side to have never trailed in a game at any point during Euro 2012. Spain have the best defensive record at Euro 2012 with only one goal conceded ironically against Italy in the group stages. In their last two games (a quarter-final vs France and semi-final vs Portugal), the combined opposition managed just one shot on target. They dominated possession in their seven games at World Cup 2010 and five games at Euro 2012. Germany, in the final of Euro 2008, were the last side to enjoy more possession than Spain in a tournament knockout tie.

Five Spanish players (Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos) have completed more passes than Italy's most prolific player in that department, Andrea Pirlo (320 passes). Andres Iniesta has had the most shots on target without scoring in a European Championship fixture since 1980 - eleven shots on target scoring no goals so far.

Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla are the most used substitutes in the history of the European Championships (alongside Netherlands' Aron Winter), having been brought on seven times.

La Roja will become the first team to retain the European Championship trophy if they beat Italy. The Soviet Union got to the 1964 final as holders but lost and West Germany suffered the same fate when they were beaten in the 1976 final. Spain have not conceded a single goal in their last 900 minutes of action in major tournament knockout games, a streak which started in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008.

Italy and Spain are facing each other for the 31st time in their history. The Azzurri have ten wins and Spain have eight, while there have been twelve draws. The Azzurri are unbeaten against Spain at major tournaments (penalty shoot-outs excluded), with three wins and four draws. Nevertheless, Spain advanced in their last knockout encounter in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 (0-0 after 120 mins, 4-2 after penalties).

Cesare Prandelli has faced Spain twice as Italy head coach and has yet to lose. Italy beat them in a friendly in August 2011 (2-1) before drawing in their opening game at Euro 2012 (1-1).

Spain have faced only twelve shots on target at Euro 2012 while six of those were against Italy in their opening game. Italy and Spain have had the most shots at Euro 2012-  99 and 86 respectively.






Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

Pedro Proenca is a financial advisor as well as a FIFA and UEFA referee. The 41-year old, born in Lisbon, has been officiating in the top-flight Portuguese Liga since the beginning of the 1998-1999 season while being promoted to FIFA's elite international list in 2003. Pedro was named Portuguese referee of the season for 2006-07 as voted by his fellow colleagues after a string of excellent performances which was rewarded with the appointment to a Portuguese cup semi-final. Another accolade picked up was best referee of 2010-11 as spotted by the Portuguese Football Federation in which he oversaw five Champions League games during that campaign including Manchester United's semi-final second leg victory over Schalke at Old Trafford. He has taken charge of two Portuguese cup finals and three super cups in his career. Last season, he officiated in 42 games in total brandishing 114 yellow cards while handing out nine red cards. He took charge of five Champions League games during the campaign including three group stage matches: Marseille's 1-0 defeat of Olympiakos in September where he dismissed French defender Rod Fanni, Manchester City's 3-0 victory over La Liga side Villarreal in November and a goalless draw between Lille and Trabzonspor in December. In March, he was the man in black for the last 16 second leg between Inter Milan against Marseille at the San Siro where he awarded the Italian outfit a last-minute penalty whilst sending off Marseille's goalkeeper Steve Mandanda but the French side went through on the away goals. Proenca was presitigiously selected as man in the middle for last season's 2011-12 UEFA Champions League Final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea at the Allianz Arena, awarding the Bundesliga runners-up a penalty in extra-time for Didier Drogba's foul on Franck Ribery which was saved by Petr Cech from Arjen Robben. The Premier League side went on to lift the trophy for the first time in their history after being victorious on penalties. This will be his fourth game of the Euro 2012 tournament after taking charge of Spain's 4-0 win over Republic of Ireland in Group C in Poznan and Sweden's 2-0 victory over France in Group D in Kiev as well as the quarter-final between England and Italy which the Azzuri won 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw- meaning he has already taken charge of each team involved once.


Pedro refereed his first Champions League match in September 2007- overseeing PSV Eindhoven's 2-1 victory over CSKA Moscow in the group stages.

Match Officials:

Referee- Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

Assistant Referees- Ricardo Santos (Portugal) & Bertino Miranda (Portugal)

Fourth Official- Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)

Additional Assistant Referees- Manuel De Sousa (Portugal) & Duarte Gomes (Portugal)

Reserve Assistant Referee- Bahattin Duran (Turkey) 



Olympic Stadium, Kiev (Ukraine)
(picture taken during the warm-up ahead of a Ukrainian league match in December 2011)


Fixture Details:

Sunday 1st July 2012           KO 7:45pm (BST)           Coverage- Live on BBC1/HD & ITV1/HD, BBC Radio 5Live & match highlights on ITV1 at 10:45pm 


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