Mario Balotelli scored two goals in the semi-final win over Germany. Picture: AFP/fifa.com
Spain will be bidding for their third straight win in a major tournament when they face Italy in the Euro 2012 Final on Monday morning (AEST). With their penalty shootout win over Portugal in the semi-final, Spain extended their winning streak in knockout fixtures to nine and they haven’t conceded a goal in the process. That result also meant that the World and European champions have gone nineteen competitive matches without defeat.
Italy, traditionally considered one of Europe’s football heavyweights, hasn’t won the continental championship since 1968 when they defeated Yugoslavia 2-0 in the final as hosts. After opening their campaign with two draws , the Azzuri only secured a place in the knockout phase courtesy of a 2-0 win over Ireland in their final group game. They then got past England on penalties before disposing of Germany 2-1 in the semi-finals, with Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli scoring both goals.
Alvaro Negredo started his first match of the tournament in Spain’s 0-0 draw with Portugal and may be given another chance to lead the line but it is more likely that Fernando Torres will be given a berth in the starting XI after sitting on the bench in that match. Cesare Prandelli is likely to name the same side for Italy after defender Giorgio Chiellini returned from injury to take his place against Germany.
In order to become the first team to retain the Henri Delaunay trophy, Vicente del Bosque’s side must break a hoodoo stretching back to 1920. Spain hasn’t beaten Italy in 90 minutes of competitive football since then. When these sides met in the opening fixture of the group stage, the match ended 1-1 .
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