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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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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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World Cup 2010: Pre-Cup prediction on who will win

No time to really sort this out.  There are less than 8 hours to go to kickoff.  And the crystal ball is looking murky.  So, lets do the whys and why nots for the favorites IMO.  I will update this after the first round, but let me not shy away from it right now.

Brazil:  They win because they are solid in the defensive half of the field and have depth.  Julio Cesar, 2 great right backs (they should play Dani Alves at left back just to get him on the field as he will be behind Maicon at right back),  Lucio, Juan and Luisao to play the middle, Melo at holding and Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano up front.  Also, they are the only ones who have won outside of their continent (apart from Argentina in Mexico which sort of doesn’t count as a really different continent) – in fact, they have won in North America (1994), Europe (1958) and Asia (2002).  Seems to make sense that they should win in Africa.  They won’t win because there is magic missing up front.  Efficiency is great, but you need some magic.  Kaka has not been fit all season.  Hard to get there at the World Cup.  Plus, its a hard road through Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea to start the tournament.  They should win the group but that’s a work out unlike for Spain and England.

Spain:  They win because they have the most talented passers and total football team.  Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Xabi – what a foursome of passers in midfield.  Then you have Silva, Pedro and Jesus Navas (the biggest key for Spain after Torres IMO because the Achilles heel for Spain is a lack of real speed) on the wings (though Iniesta could play down the left as well).  Finally, Iker in goal and Torres and Villa up front.  That’s a squad.  Why they don’t win – I don’t think their defense is good enough.  I know I identified it as an issue in the Euros and they made me eat my words (though I did pick them to win pre tournament), but I just don’t get comfort in Capdevilla at left back and Ramos goes AWOL every so often at right back.  Also, Cesc, Iniesta and Torres are coming off injuries that caused them to miss the end of the season and Xavi is carrying a calf injury according to Pep Guardiola.  Also, the USA showed how you beat Spain.  Send them to the wings and overpower the strikers when they are forced to cross the ball – press Xavi at the same time.  Navas’ speed on the wing helps and Torres seems to be coming along.  They also have a relatively easy group to work Cesc, Torres and Iniesta back into playing shape before the knockout round.  However, I am still uneasy.  A big miss is going to be Marcos Senna at holding mid.  So, I want to say Spain but I just hesitate.

Argentina:  They win because they probably have one of the best forward pools in the history of the World Cup.  Messi and Higuain led La Liga in scoring, Tevez was near the top in the EPL as was Milito.  And then there is Aguero and Di Maria.  Did I mention Messi?!  Decent first round group to warm up with.  Mascherano at holding is solid.  And I’ve always liked Veron’s touch though he is a bit slow.  Wish Diego had brought Zanetti and Cambiasso.  That’s a big mistake.  They don’t win because their defense is too slow and old.  Heinze, DiMichelis and Samuel are just not up to snuff.  And Brazil and Inter showed you how to stop Messi.  And then you have the craziness of Maradona.

Holland: The win because Robben and Sneijder are two of the five most in form players in the world (I’d put Messi, Ronaldo and Milito in that bracket as well) at the end of the club season.  Then there’s Robin van Persie who is fresh after missing most of the season.  Rafael vdv is in decent form as well.  Kuyt provides work rate and balance up front.  They don’t win because their defense and keeping is not up to snuff.  And they tend to run out of steam as tournaments progress.

England: They win because they are the second best team from top to bottom in terms of depth (after Brazil).  They have Rooney and great veterans in the spine of the team – James, Terry (too bad Rio’s out, but King and Upson are good), Gerrard, Lampard.  They have speed on the wings (Fabio should have included Walcott instead of SWP).  Great coach.  They haven’t lost a World Cup game in a while if you exclude penalty kick knockouts.  They don’t win because too much depends on Rooney, Glen Johnson is a terrible defensive right back and the holding midfielder position isn’t settled.  Also, the weight of expectations will become very heavy the further we get in the tournament.

These are the only real favorites in my opinion.  A dark horse is Portugal, but with Nani out, their chances dropped significantly.  Never count out Germany (but Ballack is a big miss and they seem a big young) or Italy (this is one of the worst teams they have fielded though) or one of the African countries.  I would have put Ivory Coast as the top African team, but even if Drogba plays (as it seems to indicate in the latest news), its hard to have a brand new coach and expect to win the World Cup.

Two big factors and then I’ll make my pre Cup prediction.

The ball: with the movement in the ball, free kicks and corners are going to be very important.  That makes Ronaldo, Dani Alves, Sneijder, Lampard and Xavi very dangerous.  It could be the difference between winning and losing the Cup.

History: No European team has won the World Cup outside of Europe.  Argentina and Brazil have won outside of their  continent.  Yes, it is winter in South Africa so the heat is not going to be as big a factor as it has been for tournaments outside of Europe in the past.

My pick: Brazil if they win their group.  Holland if Brazil doesn’t win their group.

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Euro 2008 Final: Spain v Germany – pre game

Some further musings with 18.5 hours to go…

Injuries seem to be have made Aragones a lucky man. It looks like Cesc is going to start. He has been forced to make the right decision and start Cesc Fabregas only due to the injury to Villa. Bad as it is to say it, Villa’s injury was a blessing in disguise for Spain who were able to win the game due to the strength in midfield that Cesc brings. Not only that, it looks like Ballack might miss the final due to a calf injury. As it usually is, sometimes its better to be lucky than good…

If Ballack’s injury keeps him out of the final, he will have never played in a major final for Germany. He missed the 2002 World Cup due to suspension, got knocked out of the 2006 World Cup Final in their semifinal overtime loss to Italy and now potentially Euro 2008 as well. May be just as well, because if he suffered through a repeat of 2002, it would be just too cruel. In 2002, when he played for Bayer Leverkusen, he lost the German Bundesliga in the last week and lost the Champions League Final to Real Madrid with a brilliant Zidane volley leaving him trophyless. That was followed by the defeat in Korea to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup Final. Fast forward to 2008 and the same thing could happen – Chelsea lose the Premier League title to Manchester United in the last week and then the Champions League Final by the width of a post. Ironically, the tournament Germany most deserved to win – when they were playing their best football – was the 2006 World Cup when Grosso and Del Piero’s last minute goals in overtime knocked them out of appearing in the final on home soil. I don’t foresee the Ballack curse changing tomorrow…

If Ballack is out, it might turn out alright for Germany. It might force Loew to have a three man defensive cordon to jam up the Spaniards. Frings, Hitzlsperger and Borowski or Rolfs to hold behind Schweinsteiger, Podolski and Klose. I personally think that Loew should use this setback to become more aggressive. Have Kuranyi join Klose up front and have Schweinsteiger, Frings and Hitzelsberger play behind the front three. Challenge the middle of the Spanish defense and it will cause Ramos to stay home more which will help slow down the Spanish attack. Keeping three in defensive midfield is going to result in death by a thousand cuts against the superior passing Spanish midfield…

The other side of Ballack being out – the height advantage is gone. Podolski, Hitzlsperger, Frings, Lahm, Klose (he can jump though) and Schweinsteiger aren’t that tall. So in midfield and at the offensive end, Germany is going to have to win the battle on the ground during regular play. That’s why dead ball situations are going to be even more critical…

Should Loew try another tactic and use Lahm at left wing and move Podolski up front to partner Klose? Lahm didn’t really played that well defensively against the quicker moving Turks – Sabri undressed him a couple of times. If you move Lahm up front and have the quartet of Podolski, Lahm, Klose and Schweinsteiger free to interchange and attack, it will give Spain problems. Have Frings and Hitzlsperger hold and bring in Jansen or Fritz at left back. Lahm can drop back and help defensively but will provide more drive down the left if he plays at left wing. Podolski and Klose should be playing up front together where their movement will cause issues for Puyol and Marchena thereby giving Klose more room for the high balls. Just a thought, Joachim…

Very glad to see that Domenech is supposedly going to be fired and replaced by the man I had picked as my choice – Didier Deschamps. Domenech is Aragones’ more arrogant twin – except he doesn’t have the luck to balance out his lack of ability…

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Who will win Euro 2008 – pre final

I picked Spain early and, while this is not an easy match up for them, I still think they will win against Germany.

Initial take on the potential formation and the impact of Villa’s injury

Villa not playing is a big loss but it may actually work in their favor if it forces Aragones to play the extra man in midfield – hopefully it’s Cesc Fabregas. That is going to cause the Germans to play five in midfield as well and I think that plays into the Spanish hands as they are better at moving the ball and will allow their defenders a better chance to handle the aerial abilities of Klose since he will usually be outnumbered in the Spanish half.

The match ups

This game is going to be won or lost based on who creates the most chances from midfield. I think Germany has really flattered to deceive. The Poland game was fool’s gold as they played too openly and made the Germans look better than they were. Croatia carved them up and they didn’t really impress against Austria. Against Portugal – good result but two of the three goals were defensive mistakes on free kicks. Ballack hasn’t played a great game yet. Schweinsteiger and Podolski are the ones doing all the damage for Germany. That advantage is going to be smaller against Spain. If Cesc starts, it will make it hard for Germany to focus on shutting down Xavi as the playmaker. Spain is too mobile and will give Mertesacker and Metzelder a hard time on the ground. So Spain wins the midfield battle and generate chances. It is us to Torres and Silva to get the goals. This is the game for Torres to deliver. I keep saying that, but with Villa out, it’s his time and I think he will come through. Cesc will help him out. Silva’s scoring in the semi should also give him the confidence to be aggressive in the final.

The German left wing is going to be a big battle. Podolski and Lahm on Ramos is going to be a very good matchup. Look out Sergio. Don’t forget about getting back. Lahm, with Frings backing him up and Podolski in front of him, is going to break down the left wing often. Concentrate on the tackle. Cesc is going to have to help him out as Iniesta is not the answer. Spain obviously needs to limit dead ball opportunities for the Germans where their height advantage will cause the Spanish defense problems. Free kicks are more dangerous than the corners where Casillas can be more effective. Puyol and Marchena are going to have to concentrate on Klose for the full 90 minutes.

Other

Lehmann is looking shaky while Casillas has been playing well. Spain seems to have a deeper bench, especially since Gomez has played poorly and Kuranyi not at all. I’d take Loew over Aragones. Germany has the mental edge since they have played in so many of these finals. Never count the Germans out. Big question – we know the Germans can rally from being down a goal, but can Spain (the Greece game doesn’t count)??

Pre-game prediction: Spain 3 Germany 2

Torres, Ramos to score for Spain with Podolski and Ballack scoring for Germany. Top performers will be Podolski, Cesc and Casillas.

I want to hear from all of you out there. More to come prior to the game on Sunday…

Prior blogs with my predictions on the winner are below:

Prior to semi finals

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/25/who-will-win-euro-2008-pre-semi-finals/

Day 0 of the tournament

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/07/who-will-euro-2008-day-0/

Pre-tournament (actually about the most accurate overall call CH12 has made this tournament)

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/who-will-win-euro-2008/

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2nd semi final: Spain v Russia – pre game prediction

While this is a toss up, I pick Spain to beat Russia. Pundits have commented on how Spain seems to have slowed down while Russia has picked up their speed and look like world beaters. Yes, Spain slowed down, but a lot of it was down to playing against the Italians and their catenaccio system of play. In fact, I would suggest that Spain needs to play at a slower tempo so as not to give Russia gaps to exploit in the Spanish half and to negate Russia’s late game fitness edge.

Forget about the first game. As I said then, Russia was in that game and if they had put away one of their early chances, it would have been a very different game at 1-1. The final scoreline is irrelevant and the Russians didn’t have Arshavin or a firing Pavlyuchenko. I believe this game will be decided by three factors. The absence of Kolodin is a big loss and one that is going to hamper the Russians’ ability to keep Villa and Torres in check. Torres is due. Another key battle is how well Ramos and Capdevilla deal with Arshavin. I think they are faster than the Dutch defenders and so should be better capable – they have also been forewarned that Arshavin is a real player. Ramos also needs to concentrate on staying home as Arshavin will be backed up by an overlapping Zhirkov on the left wing. Finally, Spain needs to put Cesc in from the start. They need his drive and two way play. If he starts instead of Iniesta, Spain have a better chance of winning the midfield battle and it will give Xavi more room.

Arragones, please listen to me. Start Cesc for Iniesta. Silva did well, so I am okay with him starting, but you need Cesc to help Senna and Xavi out.

Hiddink, I have nothing to tell you. You are the best at the international game right now. Good luck.

Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Russia 1

Wouldn’t be surprised if this went to extra time though I doubt it will go to penalties. I just can’t believe that Spain will crash out again to a Hiddink team after the heartbreak in Korea in 2002…

Here are the links to the blogs from the first Spain v Russia matchup in group play

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/group-d-pre-game-predictions-spain-vs-russia-greece-vs-sweden/

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/spain-vs-russia-half-time/

https://centerhalf12.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/spain-vs-russia-post-match/

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Germany v Turkey – post game

I am just exhausted. You know what the Turkish team reminds me of – the trick birthday candle that you just can’t blow out. So you finally get a big bucket of water and douse it. That’s what Germany had to do. I still don’t believe the Turks lost since the last two minutes of injury time were black screened due to technical difficulties. I had absolutely no doubt that Turkey would come back and score during that time. However, it was not to be. It is amazing that everyone who saw this run will talk of this Turkey team’s performance long after anyone remembers who won the tournament. Hats off to you. You played with possibly four starters and almost made it to the final.

However, the Dwarf (that’s not my nickname for him – it’s what they call him in Germany) made Turkey pay. First he crossed for Klose to leap and nod in in typical Miroslav fashion, then he got turned inside out by Sabri who crossed for Semih to score with the touch of the tournament and finally he cut in on the left wing, dished off, kept running and finished off by wrong footing Rustu with a high blast at the near post. It was a brilliant finish. And it didn’t give the Turks enough time to get another goal back.

Turkey started the game very well and had the Germans looking very ordinary. Ballack really had a sub par game and Lehmann was up to his usual walkabout tricks. Kazim Kazim blasted one off the crossbar before mishitting another one off the other side of the crossbar. Lehmann was totally lost on the rebound, Friedrich was ball watching and Ugur Boral put it in between a confused Lehmann’s legs. This after Lehmann almost let a cross by Altintop leave him stranded too far out of the six yard box. So, Germany was lucky it was only 1-0. They were also lucky that the Turks didn’t immediately shut up shop for the half and instead allowed Podolski space on the wing to cross for Schweinsteiger to make a brilliant touch finish to the far post.

Pre-game prediction: Germany 3 Turkey 1

Result: Germany 3 Turkey 2

Scorers: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose, Philip Lahm (Germany) Ugur Boral, Semih Senturk (Turkey)

I didn’t see enough from Germany in this game to change my prediction that the winner of Russia v Spain wins this tournament. The German backs are going to have a hard time dealing with the movement, passing and trickery of Villa/Torres/Silva or Arshavin/Pavlyuchenko/Zhirkov. I hope the Russia v Spain semi final delivers what it’s capable of – the best game of the tournament…

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