Zeenews Sports Bureau
Both the teams started their campaign playing each other in the tournament. The result was a draw then. On Sunday same teams play their final game of the tournament, each eyeing a win and history in the final of the Euro 2012 on Sunday.
Read our Preview » of the match
Also Read: Italy - Road to the final»
Also Read: Spain - Road to the final»
Also Read: 5 reasons Spain are in the final»
After 23 days, the stage is set for the grand finale of the European Championships. Pre-tournament favourites Spain will fight it out with the surprise finalists Italy in the final on Sunday. Have a look at the key battles that will decide the winner.
Xavi Hernandez vs Andrea Pirlo
Even though he has the best pass completion rate at the tournament, Xavi Hernandez is yet to make the kind of impact he did four years ago for Spain. Blame it on the long club season where he was sometimes sidelined by a nagging calf injury. He was replaced in the semifinal penalty shootout victory over Portugal due to fatigue. Spain is yet to beat Italy in the tournament, and for them to do so they desperately need Xavi to hit top form.
On the other side, Andrea Pirlo was at the centre of most of Azzurri’s goal attempts in the on-going tournament. The Italian playmaker dictated the tempo of the game from deep with short, sideways passes. Not to forget his role as a dead ball expert. Pirlo is key to Italy’s chances of adding another Euro title.
Andres Iniesta vs Daniele De Rossi
The creative midfielder spearheaded most of the Spain’s attacks in this edition and would do the same against Italy on Sunday. Andres Iniesta is yet to find the back of the net so far in the tournament but has the reputation of scoring in the finals. Considering his fitness level and his current form, Italians would struggle hard to stop those killer passes from the midfielder that would split open the best of defenses.
Daniele De Rossi is part of the midfield three and has the job of being a box-to-box midfielder. Although he was equally proficient in passing the ball around and has a great shot in him, what De Rossi is known for is hard tackling and breaking up play, which he has done brilliantly so far. Against Spain he was deployed as a central defender and was Italy`s standout performer, and if Prandelli does decide to revert to a 3-5-2, De Rossi will be back to doing what he does best, take his opponents out of the game. And if Iniesta is nullified, half the job is already done for the Azzurri.
Sergio Ramos vs Mario Balotelli
Sergio Ramos will be the man assigned to stop Mario Balotelli in the final match. He did it quite well in their opening fixture when Ramos came from behind to successfully tackle the Italian striker, when he was one-on-one with Casillas.
On the other side, unpredictable Mario Balotelli proved against Germany how destructive he can get on his day. He has scored three goals in the tournament so far, all in spectacular fashion. However, he had some terrible misses in the tournament as well, which makes him the most unpredictable at times. One could see an excellent contest between the two come Sunday.
Iker Casillas vs Gianluigi Buffon
Two goalkeepers - Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon - will lead their respective sides for the final on Sunday. Having won the 2006 World Cup title, Buffon can add another title should Italy beat Spain. At 34, Buffon pulled off some blinders against Germany in the semi-finals and denied them more than once.
Spain’s custodian Iker Casillas has conceded only a solitary goal so far in the tournament. He proved his worth against Croatia when he pulled out a stunning reflex save off Ivan Rakitic`s header. In the penalty shootout against Portugal he pulled off a save from Joao Moutinho to take the Spanish team to the finals. Often untested for large periods of the match, Casillas is always alert and comes up with the goods when called for.