Sunday 01 July 2012
Later today the thirty first and last game of Euro 2012 takes place at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, when Spain play Italy. At the beginning of the tournament many would have tipped Spain to make it through to the Final, although the same could not be said of the Italians who arrived on the back of another match fixing scandal back home.
How have the Finalists made it through? These two teams began the competition together in Group C and in the opening round of matches drew 1-1. Italy then also drew their second game 1-1 against Croatia before securing runners-up spot in the Group with a 2-0 win over the Republic of Ireland. Spain easily defeated the Irish in their second fixture, before claiming top spot with a 1-0 win over Croatia. In the Quarter-Finals, Italy out-played England, but had to rely on penalties (4-2) to progress to the Semi-Finals. Spain comfortably beat France 2-0 to set up a meeting with Iberian neighbours Portugal in the last four. Italy secured their place in the Final after an upset in beating Germany 2-1, whilst Spain went through 4-2 on penalties against Portugal.
These two have met on three other occasions in the European Championship Finals. At Euro 1980 Spain met Italy in the opening Group B game at the San Siro in Milan, which ended 0-0. Eight years later at Euro 1988 in a Group A game at the Waldstadion in Frankfurt, a second-half goal from Gianluca Vialli was enough to give Italy a 1-0 win over the Spanish. In the 2008 tournament, they met at the Quarter-Final stage at the Ernst-Happel Stadion in Vienna. There were no goals at the end of extra-time, and Spain progressed courtesy of penalties 4-2. Their meetings at these Championships tell us that the games are tight and it would seem that we are set for another close encounter tonight. I’ll go for an upset tonight with Italy nicking it 1-0, so denying Spain a second consecutive European crown.