Spain vs. Italy: Why Fans Should Expect a Repeat of Group Stage Clash

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2012

GDANSK, POLAND - JUNE 10: Jesus Navas (C) of Spain cuts between Sebastian Giovinco (L) and Thiago Motta (R) of Italy during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C match between Spain and Italy at The Municipal Stadium on June 10, 2012 in Gdansk, Poland.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

If you think you'll see more than a goal apiece when Italy and Spain meet again in the European Championship title game, think again.

This one will be an even more tightly contested than the first game.

For one, championship games always tend to play out more cautiously, neither side wanting to be the first to concede a goal. When you have a team like Spain that likes to dominate possession and pass the ball 25 times before advancing forward, that's only compounded.

It will be interesting to see if Italy reverts to the 3-5-2 that effectively clogged up the midfield and frustrated the Spaniards. Italy has played very well running a 4-4-2 with a diamond in the midfield (4-1-2-1-2 if you prefer), but they might want to hedge their bets with a slightly more defensive look.

One thing I think you'll see less of for Italy is easy chances on the counterattack or defensive breakdowns by the Spanish back line, the sort that plagued Germany against Italy.

For all of the talk praising Spanish midfielders like Xavi and Iniesta, the Spanish defense is as good as you'll find in the world.

For that reason, Balotelli will once again be a huge factor. His size and athleticism could give Spain more problems than any other weapon the Italians have.

For Spain, the question once again will be who plays as the central striker.

For my tastes, the most consistent performer has been Cesc Fabregas, and he would be my choice. While he isn't the pure finisher Fernando Torres can be when he's own his game, Fabregas is far better at finding gaps with his cutting runs behind defenders and is much better on the able, able to quickly transition into a playmaking role rather than automatically looking for his shot.

Ultimately, I would expect this one to be a spirited clash in the midfield, with Italy look to create its chances in space quickly once it retains possession, and Spain creating opportunities in its usual tika-taka way.

In the end, I see penalty kicks and another major championship for Spain. But I picked Portugal and Germany to win the last matches, so you can take my prediction with a grain of salt.


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