Italy vs. Spain: Why Italians Will Overcome Underdog Role and Stun Giant Spain

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJuly 1, 2012

KIEV, UKRAINE - JUNE 30:  Mario Balotelli (R) of Italy runs with his teammates during a training session ahead of the UEFA EURO 2012 final match against Spain on June 30, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Italy have proven the European soccer world wrong multiple times in Euro 2012, and they'll do the same Sunday by knocking off international giant Spain.

The Italians needed many things to go their way that were very unlikely—the biggest of which was the play of Mario Balotelli, who has made headlines for many of the wrong reasons with past attitude problems and erratic play.

However, Balotelli has finally played up to his enormous potential and has proven his worth as the best finisher in Europe. It's safe to say now that Manchester City won't continue to undervalue him.

The midfield play of Italy has been the perfect compliment to Balotelli's finishing touch. Antonio Cassano and Andrea Pirlo have led an attacking line that has stretched the field and exposed even the best defenses.

Italy's defense has been the cog of every success they've had in recent years, and this tournament is no exception. They dazzled against England by keeping them off the scoreline, and only allowed one penalty due to an errant handball against a team that couldn't be stopped in Germany.

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 28:  Andrea Pirlo of Italy during the UEFA EURO 2012 semi final match between Germany and Italy at National Stadium on June 28, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

After seeing the way the Germans strolled through Euro 2012 before facing Italy, it was nothing less of a shocker that the Italians were able to dominate them defensively. Germany's best chances were hardly chances, and they were squandered.

Their biggest test will come Sunday when they face the winners of the last two major international championships (Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup).

But after Italy took down Germany in the semifinal, there's no telling what they're capable of.

The one thing we can tell is that Spain hasn't been too easy on the eyes this tournament and are obviously a step or two off their usual play. They opened the tournament with a lackluster performance against Italy in a 1-1 draw, and this match should see the same result after 90 minutes.

However, Spain doesn't have the attacking execution to come through in the clutch like they did in 2010.

Italy undoubtedly has the edge in that department with Balotelli and Cassano (among others), which is why they will pull through in extra time.