Spain are my favourites for the Euro 2012 final. Throughout their years of success, they have tried to keep the same philosophy, which is based around wanting to have the ball.
Although they have struggled to score goals, they are the masters of possession, they are the best in the world technically and I have big respect for what they have done. To show such consistency at that level is absolutely unbelievable - three finals in a row.
These guys are more than outstanding footballers; they are really intelligent and they are winners. I want to give them credit for that. However, they have betrayed their philosophy and turned it into something more negative. Originally they wanted possession in order to attack and win the game; now it seems to be first and foremost a way not to lose.
They have become more conservative, and they don't want to give the ball up because they don't want to give you a chance to score. That's the impression you get from Euro 2012. Yes, it can be hard to break down defensive opponents, but this is a challenge that confronts every successful team. They are still absolutely outstanding, but they have less penetration than before.
Fabregas as a 'false nine'
When Spain play with Cesc Fabregas, they play 4-6-0, which means four defenders and six attacking players because they can all go forward. I'm not sure what their best option is. Vicente del Bosque has tried all the formulas, but he doesn't look happy with any of them, so that is a problem he must sort out.
What should he do? I would be inclined to think that because he tried Alvaro Negredo up front in the last game, and it didn't work, he will start with Fabregas as a 'false nine'. But I really don't know.
As I said, I would make Spain slight favourites for the final. I expect them to be a bit fresher physically. Although Italy did not have extra-time in the semi-finals, the third game inside a week can be difficult, and that's where you pay the price. Against Germany, they were still on a high from their penalty shoot-out victory against England. Maybe the energy of being in a final will carry them through, but I think they could struggle.
No matter what happens, I am happy because I have seen a fantastic Italian team that showed a very positive attitude in every game. We all wish them well, but Spain can become immortal if they win the final, so they will be difficult to stop. They have been there before, which is very important in a final. Sometimes the event is so big that players struggle to play to their full capacity.
- Sports & Recreation