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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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Filed under Euro 2012, Euro 2012 Final, match predictions, Predictions on winner

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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The Crystal Ball for the upcoming season

This is what I sent to one of my buddies on June 5 as a first look at the CH12 crystal ball:

Ronaldo to Madrid by end of month.
Ibra to Barca.
Ribery stays at Bayern or winds up in EPL at Chelsea or Manchester – either City or United
Eto’o to City or Inter
Indians or Kuwaitis own Liverpool before season starts.

So the first one happened – much to my dismay as a United fan. 

It seems like #2 and #4 are about to happen with a swap between Ibra and Eto’o

#3 is looks like its going to be Ribery staying at Bayern or going to Chelsea as Real won’t have the money once they buy Xabi.

That leaves the last one.  Don’t think that’s going to happen.

4 out of 5 is not bad, but was relatively easy.  The things I didn’t see coming – you couldn’t have made me believe that Terry would even be contemplating joining City; Michael Owen joining United; Juve would have the best transfer season in terms of addressing almost all their squad needs while maintaining the base continuity (more on this in a second); Real buying Benzema on top of Kaka and Ronaldo; Newcastle still not sold; Liverpool potentially losing their midfield core.

Further predictions right now:

Regardless of what United says, I think they will buy one big name player before the transfer season closes.  It will happen once the Ibra, Eto’o and Ribery moves are done.  Don’t quite know who else might be left, but I have to believe they are going to bring in someone like Ashley Young or a striker from the Bundesliga or Brazil.

Can’t see David Villa, David Silva and Mata all staying put at Valencia – I think Silva’s gone.  If I had to put my money on the Liga’s best young players to go after, they are Mata, Negredo, Capel and then Silva.  Love Lopez, the goalie from Villareal, too.

Adebayor will fold and sign for the money at City.  Forlan is going to wind up in the EPL.

Juve will win Serie A.  They have had hands down the best transfer season.  Diego at playmaker, with Melo now joining Momo Sissoko to provide the cover in midfield with the other four from Diego, Amauri, Trez (who will probably be gone), Giovinco, Del Piero, Iaquinta and Camoranesi.  If they get Grosso at left back, they are complete.  Chiellini and Cannavaro (yes, he’s a bit suspect but will probably do better in Italy that at Real as he has Momo and Felipe in front of him as opposed to Lass at Real) with Zambrotta at right back.  And of course, Buffon in goal.  That is as solid a squad as you are going to get.  They are my second favorite to win the Champions League as of today.

Ibra will be better for Barca than Eto’o.  He is big, can hold the ball up better and has a better long range shot than Eto’o.  And he is way craftier.  Watch him blossom on a squad where he isn’t the man.

IF Rooney doesn’t get hurt and IF he doesn’t get frustrated like he used to, he will be the best player in the world next season.  Hands down.

Ronaldo will do well in La Liga.  But not as well as people think.  And Real will not win either the Liga or Champions League.  Count on it.  They are better in the back with Albiol and Pepe, and Xabi is the key to the team being able to create from midfield, but Pellegrini’s teams are built on more grit than this team has.  Frankly, they have no chance if they don’t sign Xabi or a strong central midfielder.  Look at the success of Pellegrini’s teams – Riquelme and Senna/Cazorla were keys.  You have to have that and Sneijder is not it.

More later…

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Filed under Predictions, SOCCER, Transfer Rumors, Transfers