Spain's David Silva runs with the ball during their Euro 2012 semi-final soccer match against Portugal at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, June 27, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Juan Medina)
22 players will be on the pitch when Italy and Spain face off in the Final of the 2012 Euro Cup on Sunday.
However, two players will most directly affect the outcome of the match. Here are the two players who can change the tide on each side.
Spain: David Silva
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David Silva has enjoyed an inconsistent tournament thus far. He was brilliant against Italy in creating the goal that tied the match at one. He was just as good against a terrible Irish side and had a goal and assists in that match. However, he was dreadful in games against Croatia and Portugal.
Against Croatia he looked particularly over matched and seemed to be trying to do too much with the little space allotted to him. Against Portugal he looked equally antagonized by the rival defense's size and strength. Xavi Hernandez is the motor of Spain's tiki taka play, but Spain relies on Silva's creative flair and explosiveness to make things happen up front. When at his best, he is easily one of the top players on the pitch; when at his worst, he is the most frustrating and easy to defend. Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and Xabi Alonso are consistently strong game in and out. Silva is the X-factor of Spain's midfield.
If Silva plays to his optimal best, then Italy's defense will be forced to spread out, creating more space for the Spanish offense.
Italy: Mario Balotelli
Like Silva, Balotelli has been inconsistent in the tournament. However, he has trended in the opposite direction from Silva; while Silva has become increasingly ineffective, Balotelli has done the complete opposite. He was the catalyst for Italy's stunner over Germany with his two goals and relentless breaking down of Germany's usually sturdy defense. With his tremendous play of late, it is easy to overlook the frustration on Balotelli's face when he flubbed a breakaway opportunity in the opening match of the tournament against this very same Spanish squad. His speed and aggression forces Spain's defenders to sit back rather than join the midfield on the offensive, a change that minimizes Spain's attack.
Balotelli can make the team better if he is playing at his best. If he starts striking fear into Spain's defense then it is likely that Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque places more defensive attention on him, creating more space for Italy's other striker Antonio Cassano.
Which squad has the better Goalkeeper? Find out HERE.
Which squad has the better Defense? Find out HERE.
Which squad has the better Midfield? Find out HERE.
Which squad has the better Stikers? Find out HERE.
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