Euro 2012 Final Bets: Back Balotelli and Italy over Spain
Spain v Italy (7.45pm, Live on BBC1 and ITV1)
They put in an encouraging performance against the world champions in the opening game in the Group stages when drawing 1-1, and since then have improved with every game.
Cesare Prandelli’s side has defended strongly in every match but unlike previous Italian sides have also shown plenty of attacking flair.
They easily brushed aside Ireland, outclassed England and fully deserved their 2-1 semi-final win over Germany when playing some outstanding football.
The Azzurri are the form team of the tournament, and the stats are also good as far as they are concerned.
Spain have met Italy seven times before in major tournaments and never managed an outright win. Their only success was in a penalty shootout at Euro 2008 in the quarter-finals following a 0-0 draw.
Italy have also lost only two of their last 19 matches outright at Euro finals and I think they have been underestimated by the old enemy.
They also have a midfield maestro in Andrea Pirlo who has been outstanding and dictated the tempo in every game he has played so far.
The Juventus player has scored a goal, provided 2 assists and has a remarkable 87% pass success rate.
The Manchester City man missed a hatful of chances against England, but made no mistake when bagging two against Germany in a match which saw him raise his game to another level.
I think he can lead his team to victory in 90 minutes, as I have failed to be impressed by the Spaniards to this point.
OK, the world and European champions have continued their amazing run in competitive matches since losing to Switzerland in their opening game of the 2010 World Cup and are now unbeaten in 19 (won 17).
But both the draws have come at this tournament – 1-1 against Italy in the group stage and 0-0 against Portugal in the semi-finals (won on penalties) – and they have not looked at their best.
Their demolition of lowly Ireland and a troubled French side proved very little, and they failed to sparkle until extra-time in their semi-final against Portugal.
Coach Vicente del Bosque is also likely to retain the 4-6-0 formation employed then in this, and that is a tactic that didn’t work particularly well against Italians in the group game.
If the same Italian side that we saw in the semis turns up again then I think they are more than capable of beating the Spaniards, and if they do get their noses in front they have the defensive qualities to hang on.
Italy to win 2-0 or 2-1 is my idea of the outcome, and those scorelines can be backed at 18 and 16 respectively with Betfred.