Saturday, June 30, 2012

Euro 2012 Final: Italy vs. Spain Predictions

By Alex Miles & Adam Maher

Miles: It’s a tough final to call, because so much depends on how the teams set out to play the game. The Italians will most likely maintain the same starting XI now that Cassano has been ruled fit, but their approach to the game will be interesting: neutralize Spain, or take the game to them?

Spain on the other hand, has been a tactical wild card throughout the tournament. From their 4-6-0 formation with Fàbregas playing a “false 9,” to Del Bosque’s curious selection of Álvaro Negredo, Spain’s tactics have been difficult to predict.

All this being said, I like the Italians in this final for the following reasons:

1) History: In 2006, the Serie A was rocked by the Calciopoli scandal, as reports of arrests and investigations of rampant match fixing broke on the eve of the World Cup, which as we all remember, Italy won. Lo and behold, six years later, on the eve of the European Championship, news of another Serie A match fixing investigation and subsequent arrests grabbed headlines. History repeating itself? Entirely possible, never discount the power of the siege mentality.

Italy's national team head coach at the time, Marcello Lippi, seen here in Germany puffing the sweet smoke of World Cup victory in 2006. He was named National Coach of the Year shortly threafter. He now coaches in China.

2) It’s swansong time: This may well be the final act in the glittering careers of Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon. At 33 and 34, respectively, another major international tournament looks a tough task for the two Italian legends. Pirlo has been the player of the tournament, on imperious form, and Buffon looks like the Buffon of 2006. What better way to end their already stellar careers than with a European Championship?

3) Balotelli: My admiration for Mario Balotelli has been no secret on this blog. Natural talent and athleticism, plus his awesome personality on/off the field make him one of the few interesting characters remaining in a world of sterilized athletes. His two goals against Germany were excellently taken, he’s peaking in form at the right moment, and he scored against Spain in the group stages – all of this must have Spain wary of his talent. Sergio Ramos is not a center back, and he is prone to the spectacular error in judgment. He and Piqué should have their hands full all ninety minutes.

Adam: Riding East on I-278 into Newark with John Woods to attend the 2012 NBA Draft Thursday night, I finally remembered the one person to whom I revealed my Eurocup 2012 "Who do you think is going to win" prediction. 

"It was you!

A simple, "Yes, it was," from the CRV's shotgun was all I needed to realize my blissful confirmation.

Though I always knew in my heart my prediction, I had been trying to remember all tournament who I had told my prediction to. And now that Italy was heading into the finals, it was only fate that I was hanging out with my sole attester for the first time since before the tournament started, mere hours after Balotelli completed the strike of the tournament.

My logic was really quite simple for picking Italy: they had the best experienced talent mixed with youth talent of any team going into the tournament - that gap made even further once Puyol and David Villa were confirmed "no-goes" for Spain due to injuries (Villa was Euro 2008's leading scorer and we all know what Puyol means to Spain). On top of having the world's top talent at all ages, we all know Italy for being workhorses from their World Cup triumph in 2006 -- coincidentally, Italy also beat Germany in the semi-finals at that tournament which bodes well historically and of course, superstitiously -- so I couldn't go wrong thinking those two elements would make for some Kanye West, Jay-Z-esque collaborations. 

Pirlo, whose face actually looks older than his 33 years might suggest, has had an incredible tournament, and has ramped up his classic style full force over the last two quasi-important games. His Castrol Edge Index score of 9.42 ranks higher than any other Italian player over the last two elimination games, which speaks volumes of his ability to pace himself over the course of the tournament as he dealt with much younger opposing midfielders the likes of Ozil (23) and Schweinsteiger (27) in the 2-1 semi-finals win over Germany on Thursday.

The youth side of my logic became fully developed when Chris Krukowski sent over this post: The Young Gunz of Euro 2012. It's always tough to publicly call out which youth stars will shine throughout tournaments, but CK was once again spot on in putting Balotelli as his most important Young Gun to look out for. On a side note, had England used Oxlade-Chamberlain more, they might've not left another Eurocup with their heads between their knickers.

I quote: "Yes, I'm for real. Super Mario could be the superstar of the tournament. He could be the superstar of the world. If you have ever seen him play (coming from a United fan) you can tell that this dude has got skill. The only problem is that he is a head case. He psychs himself out. He thinks too much about everything else. He is literally a wild card. If Balotelli can focus and get down to business then Italy could win some serious games. Everyone has been looking for a moment that he could mature, now could be that time."

Well-versed, CK. Balotelli has matured over this Eurocup. And though there is still 90 minutes left for Mario to freak the hell out and completely lose it, I don't think that will be the case. 

Spain cut it too close against Portugal, winning by mere inches on a Cesc Fabregas PK. That won't cut it against the Italians, who Spain hasn't defeated in international competition dating all the way back to 1934 (the only reason I can't go back further is because '34 marks the end of the official Euro 2012 Finals Press Kit's head-to-head match up history). 

Spain will score twice, but Italy will score thrice. Balotelli will reign, and Pirlo and Buffon will leave international soccer to be enshrined among the greatest players of all time. You heard it here.


  1. Pirlo should also win the coveted David Ginola "Flow of the Tournament" Award for his hair.

  2. He does boast a fine flow bucket.