Either Spain or Italy will become Champions of Europe on Sunday as Paddy Power free bets are announced on Mario Balotelli, as these two giants of European football go head to head in the final of Euro 2012.
In what will be a fantastic occasion for what has been an enjoyable tournament, the pressure is well and truly on these two teams to deliver the goods. Particularly for Spain who are the favourites going into this one.
It is the story of Italy that fascinates most this summer though. Prior to the tournament, they had lost three games in succession and Italian football was once again trying to shelter under a match-fixing cloud.
Ever since the 1-1 draw with Sunday’s opponents Spain in their opening game though, they have gone from strength to strength. Progressing from the group in typically solid Italian fashion, they then dominated England in the quarter-finals.
They may have needed penalties to defeat Roy Hodgson’s men, but they were the better team throughout. It was just a case of not taking their chances.
This wasn’t a problem against Germany in Thursday’s semi-final though. Two Mario Balotelli goals saw them storm into the lead and they didn’t look back. With Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings once again, Italy fully deserved their progression to the final.
As for Spain, they were of course expected to make it this far, but it doesn’t take anything away from the achievement of doing so. It is their third major tournament final in succession and the term ‘golden era’ doesn’t quite do this team justice.
They may not always be pleasing on the eye – the semi-final clash with Portugal was one to forget for example – but they get the job done. The way they stick to their game plan is admirable and how they retain possession has to be admired.
Manager Vicente del Bosque doesn’t quite know his best team though, certainly in terms of who is going to lead the line. Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres and Álvaro Negredo have all had the job so far.
For Sunday, it seems likely that Fabregas – who has two goals to his name so far in this tournament – will get the nod.
Whoever plays for either team, it should be a competitive final. As mentioned, when these two met earlier in the competition it was extremely tight and this won’t be any different.
An early goal would be great for the neutral when this one gets underway at 7.45pm on Sunday evening.