The Euro 2012 final between international football powerhouses Spain and Italy on Sunday is sure to come down to the wire like so many other recent battles at this summer's tournament.
When: Sunday, July 1, 2:45 p.m. ET
Where: Kiev Olympic Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine
Live Streaming: ESPN3.com
The Italians will have the edge on Sunday in Kiev, Ukraine after they disposed of tournament favorite Germany in Thursday's semifinal with ease. Super Mario Balotelli netted two first-half goals to put the Germans in a hole from which they would never recover.
Meanwhile, defending champion Spain needed penalty kicks to surpass Portugal in their semifinal matchup. Spain failed to score a single goal through regulation and extra time, despite creating several quality chances.
The difference on Sunday will be Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon—who has 18 saves for the tournament and saved six shots against Germany—and the Azzurri back line, which has played heroic football as of late, letting in just three goals all tournament, one of which was a penalty by Germany's Mesut Ozil in injury time of Thursday's semifinal.
In addition to Italy's stingy defense, they boast phenomenal two-way players in midfield, none better than the 33-year-old Andrea Pirlo, who demonstrated why he is arguably the most clutch player in the tournament last weekend in the quarterfinals against England, scoring a cheeky chip-shot penalty that would help the Azzurri advance to the semis.
Pirlo has scored once and assisted twice so far at Euro 2012, playing in all five matches for the Italian side.
One statistic that will be particularly difficult to overcome for Spain on Sunday will be the fact that no team has ever repeated as European Champions in the history of the tournament. Not to mention the Spanish have won the last two major international tournaments if you include the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Italy boasts a scorching striker in Balotelli, a confident and composed bunch of midfielders and, of course, the game-changer Buffon in front of net.
The Italians have made a name for themselves this summer, winning by any means necessary, regardless of how pretty it looks. Expect that trend to continue in Ukraine on Sunday.
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