Italy's Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring his second goal against Germany during their Euro 2012 semi-final soccer match at the National stadium in Warsaw, June 28, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger)
Ultimately, the game will come down to who scores the goals. Both sides of the Euro Cup 2012 final have world class strikers that have come through in the big moments.
Which side employs the better arsenal of sharp shooters?
Spain presents an interesting case. Coach Vicente Del Bosque has changed his formation game in and game out because of injury to normal starter and superstar David Villa. In the first match against Italy, he went with a "false nine" with Cesc Fabregas as the false striker. The formation did not cause issues even though it scored the game tying goal. Del Bosque took Fabregas out of the match and brought in striker Fernando Torres to spread the Italian defense. The plan worked well despite Torres' inability to put away his two major opportunities.
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That same formation scored four goals against Ireland but was largely ineffective against Croatia. When Del Bosque went back to his "False nine," the formation found a way to win the game. Against France, Del Bosque went with the "false nine" and won the game rather easily. His use of stiker Alvaro Negredo failed tremendously against Portugal and the false striker formation once again proved more effective.
So far, the false striker formation has proven more effective for Spain in the tournament, but there is no doubt that having a striker up top forces Italy's defense to spread and open, something that would ultimately cripple the Italian defense considering Spain's domination of the midfield.
Key Player: Fernando Torres
He gave Italy trouble in the opening match but will need to play the way he did against Ireland to justify his insertion in the lineup. He has the skills and speed to scare the Italians, but lacks the consistency to be effective. He needs to be the Torres that scored the game winner against Germany in the 2008 Euro Cup Final if Spain is going to be effective.
Italy has a healthy arsenal of stikers on which they can rely. Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano, and Antonio Di Natale have played in at least four of the matches for the Italians and have all been effective. Di Natale scored the goal against Spain off a beautiful Andrea Pirlo setup, while Cassano and Balotelli took down Ireland. Balotelli was especially effective in his match against Germany where he scored two goals and created opportunities out of nothing.
Balotelli will likely star with Cassano, putting exhaustive pressure on Spain's defense and forcing their midfield to play more cautiously to minimize risk.
Key Player: Mario Balotelli
Balotelli was hugely effective in the opening match against Spain, but lacked the confidence to finish. That will not be the case as the star striker erupted for two goals against mighty Germany. He will spread Spain's defense and midfield and will likely force Spain's usually active defenders to sit back rather than join the play up top.
He was dangerous against England but could not finish. Spain certainly does not want this version of Balotelli either and will have to put big Sergio Ramos on him for damage control. Of course, an effective Balotelli opens space for Cassano, compounding the dilemma of who pay more attention to for Spain. A sloppy Balotelli alleviates that issue.
Who knows if Spain will even have strikers on the pitch to start the match. Italy certainly will and their strikers have already been more effective during the duration of the tournament. Five goals for Italy of their six have come from the striker positions; only two have come from Spain's forward corp.
Who has the Better Goal Keeper? Find out HERE.
Who has the better Defense? Find out HERE.
Who has the better Midfield? Find out HERE.
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