Tag Archives: Andrea Pirlo

Euro 2012 Final: Spain vs Italy pre match prediction

Game 5 of Euro 2012 pitted Spain against Italy in one of the premier first round matchups.  Spain was heavily favored and not much was expected of Italy as the Azzurri into the tournament on the back of a a match fixing scandal, a 3-0 loss to Russia in a lead up friendly to the tournament and their left back sent home for potential complicity in match fixing.  Meanwhile, Spain had a few questions – mainly where would goals come from with Villa out injured and Torres in the worst slump of his career and how would the central pairing of Pique and Ramos fare without veteran Puyol to steady the ship.  I predicted a narrow Spain victory.  Instead, it was a dynamic, unafraid Italy that gave Spain all it could handle and the match ended up a 1-1 draw.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and you have an Italian team that seems like more the team of destiny than a Spanish squad that is trying to pull off an unprecedented back-to-back title winning effort of Euro 2008-World Cup 2010-Euro 2012.  Only Germany and France have ever done a back to back.  Can this team be the greatest European team of all time?

This is a close call.  If Germany had made it, I would have predicted a German victory with relative confidence.  However, tomorrow will be very tight.  Here’s a stone cold lock of a prediction – a goalkeeper will be lifting the European Cup tomorrow!  Let’s consider the relevant factors.

Momentum:  Italy has reason to feel that this is their time.  No one counted them amongst even the top 6 teams coming into the tournament, yet they have not been overmatched in any of their five matches at Euro 2012 and have all the confidence following their startling dismantling of Germany in the semi finals.  They seem like the team of destiny. Meanwhile, Spain has not played their best and has been criticized for not being totally convincing in their march to the final.  Edge: Italy

Fatigue: Everyone assumed that Italy would be dead on their legs against Germany after having played extra time against England and having two less days of rest.  Instead they dominated Germany.  Spain have one extra day of rest.  However, they did play extra time and won on an emotionally draining penalty kick shootout.  Edge: Even

History:  Italy hasn’t lost to Spain in a major tournament.  However, Spain did beat Italy in penalties at the last Euro (shootouts don’t count as “victories” as they are officially listed as draws).  Edge: Even

Coaching:  Prandelli has done a masterful job of changing lineups to adjust for injuries and opponents.  He instituted a 3-5-2 in the first match to make up for Criscito’s pre-tournament suspension, with De Rossi playing in central defense.  He then switched back to 4-4-2 to dominate possession against England.  Meanwhile, Vicente del Bosque has struggled to find his best lineup and gone back and forth between utilizing no strikers and then putting in Torres and then Negredo with no real success.  Edge: Italy

Spain Defense vs Italy Offense:  Spain haven’t given up a goal since di Natale scored in their initial match up.  It’s a Euro record.  Pique and Ramo have been solid together and Jordi Alba’s pace and work rate have made him the revelation of Euro 2012 at left back.  Casillas hasn’t been at this best, but you can’t argue with the shutout streak.  Xabi and Busquets have done their usual job of protecting the back four.  Spain is solid.  That said, Cassano and Balotelli have given teams fits with Cassano in particular proving very hard to pick up and using his creativity to good effect.  While Montelivo has become stronger as the tournament has progressed, Italy’s lack of good wide play should help Spain cover for Arbeloa’s lack of pace.  Edge: Spain

Midfield:  I presume Spain will start one striker or use Navas or Pedro instead of Silva or Cesc.  If Spain starts six in midfield, they will dominate possession.  I keep waiting for Pirlo’s lack of mobility to be exposed by a high tempo opposing midfield but it hasn’t happened yet.  I think Spain can do that tomorrow.  Xavi has had a poor tournament and that is the reason Spain is struggling to impose itself.  If he doesn’t have a good game tomorrow, Spain will not be able to win this game.  I expect Spain to finally put a good game together.  Edge: Spain

Spain offense vs Italy defense:  It’s hard to imagine anyone scoring 2 goals against Buffon.  So, assuming Italy scores one as they have done all tournament long (except against England), the best Spain can hope for is the penalty kick shootout.  Spain’s strikers have fared poorly, except for Torres’ double against Ireland.  Meanwhile, Chiellini is back for Italy and Balzaretti has been impressive.  Edge: Italy

Pre-game prediction:  Spain 1 Italy 0

Fatigue finally catches up with Italy.  They will not be able to replicate Portugal’s aggressive press or be able to attack at speed on the wing.  Xavi finally awakes and Spain repeats as defending European champions.  Espana Euro 2012 winners.

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Euro 2012 Match 5: Spain vs Italy pre-game predictions

If Germany vs Portugal was supposed to be THE match everyone wanted to see, Spain vs Italy is the third most anticipated match after France vs England.  Everyone is intrigued to see if Spain can overcome the loss of Villa and Puyol and use their experience at winning the last two major international tournaments to overcome their complacency at having done so.  The other part of the intrigue – which Italy will show up?  Will the match fixing scandal in Italy distract or incentivize this squad?  We just want the real Slim Shady to please stand up.

Why Italy will win

  1. Buffon and catenaccio wil shut down Spain’s one touch, quick passing, possession based game.
  2. Pirlo is still the master at controlling the game from his deep midfield position and De Rossi’s versatility will provide steel either in central defense or further up the midfield.
  3. Mario Balotelli and Sebastian Giovinco complement the more mature striking skills of Di Natale and Cassano.  They are all competent and skilled enough to take advantage of the uncertainty in the center of the Spanish defense to get a goal and leave it up to the defense to hold Spain at bay.
  4. Spain hasn’t quite figured out whether they can trust Torres or Llorente to get the key goals that Villa used to get.  Additionally, Xavi and Iniesta are a bit off form relative to their past club seasons.

Why Spain will win

  1. Italy has had a terrible pre-tournament spell with the scandal and a thumping 3-0 loss to Russia the lowlights.  The manner in which they gave up the goals to Russia highlights the fact that this is an unsettled Italian defense that cannot be counted on.
  2. Other than Puyol, Villa and Capdevila, the rest of the 2010 World Cup winning squad is here.
  3. The midfield which powers their tiki taka style goes eight deep, is the best in the world and has regained Cazorla who missed the 2010 World Cup due to injury.
  4. Spain knows they can’t start slow – they have learned their lesson from losing to Switzerland in the last World Cup.
  5. Fernando Llorente had a great season and Torres’ confidence level is rising following a horrendous season at Chelsea.  The two of them along with Negredo, Pedro and Navas can replace Villa’s goals.

Pre-match prediction: Spain 1 Italy 0

Spain will score a goal in the second half and hold Italy off.  Look for one of the midfielders to score – my money is on Xavi or Iniesta.

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All Star Team – 3rd round of Group Play

Goalkeeper: Gregory Coupet

Defense: Christian Panucci, Philip Lahm, Aleksandr Aniukov

Midfield: Andrea Pirlo, Andrei Arshavin, Yuri Zhirkov, Arda Turan

Strikers: Nihat Kahveci, Hakan Yakin, Tuncay Sanli

Coach: Fatih Terim

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Group C post game – France v Italy, Holland v Romania

Form held and Holland and Italy are through. As I suspected, Buffon was tough to beat and his save off Benzema’s curler was world class. Coupet played great too with a couple of amazing fingertip saves – one off Grosso’s freekick that he put onto the post and another one off Toni that the ref didn’t catch. But Italy played the cards they were dealt with very well and did enough to see France off.

Now for the rant. Yes, losing Ribery was very unlucky. And yes, it is a harsh rule that sees the last man off along with the granting of a penalty. Yes, it was an unlucky deflection of Henry’s foot on De Rossi’s wayward looking free kick. However, France lacked inspiration and I blame that on Domenech. You are the worst at picking a team that I have ever seen. Abidal in the center of defense? With Toni to deal with and Gallas not the tallest man either. Are you kidding me? Then you start Gouvou instead of Nasri. Then you bring on Nasri for Ribery and take him off when you are trailing 1-0. Are you crazy? There went the bit of creativity and drive you had in the middle of the park. You want to play with two holding midfielders still? OK. Take off Gouvou for Boumsong then. Now, for Boumsong. Is there a reason you chose him ahead of Mexes to play in central defense? Better you had Distin in the squad then that stiff.

One more pet peeve. I don’t like the last man rule when there is a penalty as well. It seems to me that that is doubly harsh. I think it’s absolutely right to send the last man off when he takes down an attacker outside the box. But the double whammy of going a man down and giving up a penalty is a bit much.

The Dutch and the Spanish have got to be nervous with the Italians now in the quarters. Having said that, I don’t know how the Italians are going to fare without Pirlo. The Dutch also look so good that I don’t think they should be overly concerned if they have to face the Italians. One thing we have to keep in mind is that this Italian team is a bit old and games every three days are going to take a toll by the time the semis roll around. Should be fun.

Players of the game – De Rossi (though Pirlo and Grosso were very good) for Italy and Henry for France.

Romania – nice try but you paid for missing the penalty against Italy and not scoring when you had good chances against Holland in the first half. Holland looks very good and it’s always good when Van Persie keeps scoring. He needs the confidence since he’s missed most of the regular season – and a fresh, confident Robin Van Persie is deadly.

Pre-game prediction: Italy 2 France 1

Result: Italy 2 France 0

Scorers: Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi (Italy)

Pre-game prediction: Romania 1 Holland 1

Result: Romania 0 Holland 2

Scorers: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Robin Van Persie (Holland)

Sweden v Russia. I can’t wait. This is going to one where I am cheering for Russia as that would set up an amazing game against Holland. Hiddink v Van Basten. Total football all around…

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