Spain Euro 2012 Focus – History ready to be made

In a replay of the opening group game, Spain play Italy in the Euro 2012 final, and it is likely to be just as close. Cesare Prandelli’s team are the only side to have scored against La Roja and indeed it is the Italians who looked most impressive going forward in the semi-finals.

Should Spain hold their European crown and become the first team to win three major international tournaments in a row they will rightly become one of the greatest sides ever. They will arguably be less memorable than other great international teams, but they will have certainly done it their way. Recognised for short, sharp pass-and-move football rather than a glorious attack (many times this tournament they have not even started a striker), this final might be the one that Spain will be most remembered for. It could also be the last time some key members of this team are at the heart of it.

Xavi, the heartbeat of La Roja both on and off the pitch, had to be substituted against Portugal in the semi-final, his 32-year-old legs just starting to let him down; understandable as the Barcelona man regularly tops 100 passes a game and has been vital in the success Spain have had in the last four years. He was player of the tournament in 2008 and in 2010 covered 50 miles in Spain’s seven games, as well as completing 599 of 669 passes.

Xavi himself has recognised the importance of this occasion for this set of players. Quoted by the BBC, he said: “We’re in a great generation of players and we have a great opportunity to make history. This is our chance.” It is a chance indeed, but a chance against the toughest opposition they have faced so far, and the only opposition to have really unlocked the defence on which the World Cup was won and which allows tiki-taka the freedom to be patient.

Del Bosque took a more conservative view of the historical significance, choosing instead to focus on the game ahead: “We cannot look back, we cannot think history influences anything,” he said. The coach has had mixed success with his formation choices thus far. He has been largely criticised for starting several games without a striker, but in truth the games in which Fernando Torres or more recently Alvaro Negredo have started – 4-0 against a poor Ireland, 1-0 against Croatia and 0-0 against Portugal – Spain have largely not impressed.

Whether Del Bosque will choose to go with Cesc Fabregas ‘up front’ as he did in the 1-1 draw against Italy in the group stage, the midfielder scoring Spain’s goal is yet to be seen, but the 4-6-0 was effective against France, whose creative qualities are similar to that of Italy and could be a deciding factor.

Whoever plays up front can be sure of service from Xavi at al, with the desire strong to make Spain 2012 go down in history as they deserve.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Spain v Italy

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