Spain vs. Italy: What Italians Must Do to Steal European Title from Spanish

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Spain vs. Italy: What Italians Must Do to Steal European Title from Spanish
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The Spanish have are reigning World Cup champs and potentially European Cup winners in 2012, but the Italians have the exact weapons to stop them in their tracks.

Winner of eight of its last 13 matches, Spain is a team is undoubtedly deserving of its No. 1 rank in the world. However, there's no question Portugal proved that this team is beatable. The fact that they are the best team in the business at the international level is simply undeniable, but Italy might well be able to crush their hopes of taking the title.

In spite of winning the majority of their 13 matches this season, Spain also boasts two losses and three draws as well. More importantly, one loss and one draw came from none other than, you guessed it, Italy.

The lone victory for the Azzurri came in an international friendly at Italy match last year. Riccardo Montolivo put them up 1-0 and Alberto Aguilani finished the deal in the 87th minute for the 2-1 victory. Spain outdid Italy in possession as they usually do, but it was not enough to stop the powerful attack of Italy.

Although they got the "W" in the other meeting, the important game was the draw. It was a 1-1 finish that opened up this European Championship in group stage, as the match that proved little had changed since the August 2011 Italian victory. Spain held the 60-40 edge in possession, yet Italy again made more opportunities at the net, a game in which they forced goalie Iker Casillas into making five saves.

What the Italians have to do is live with the Spanish style of play and keep their composure. The Spanish side, led by Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique in the back and Xabi Alonso in the midfield, are especially precise passers. They will work the ball constantly and are unlikely to ever be beaten in time of possession.

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Italy must control the game in a different way, pushing the pace and putting pressure on the Spanish to make bad passes. World-class sensation Andrea Pirlo will have to continue to orchestrate the attack as he has all tournament long, utilizing the long ball through the defense when the opportune moment strikes. His decision making will undoubtedly be key for this team in the final.

Regardless of being forced into a penalty shootout against England in the quarterfinals, Italy created chances from the opening whistle. Pirlo was finding Mario Balotelli on several through balls and really leaving his teammates in good hands up front.

It will take this composure, ball pressure and tough long balls in order to dismantle a team as sound and disciplined as Spain is. Germany easily boasted the best attack in the world coming into their match with the team, and even still Italy found a way to get on top early with some beautiful balls to Balotelli.

If Italy can do just that against the Spanish, there is no question the Azzurri will have the outright advantage in this one.

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