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Italy stand between Spain and place among the greats

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Sun, Jul 01, 2012 06:02 hrs

Spain have not managed an outright win against Euro 2012 final opponents Italy in seven major tournament meetings, suggesting the holders will have their work cut out to join the pantheon of soccer's great teams on Sunday (1845 GMT).

Spain will not care whether a victory comes in extra time or via the first European Championship to be decided on penalties because if they lift the trophy they would become the first team to win three major tournaments in a row.

Since losing to Switzerland in their first match of the 2010 World Cup, Vicente Del Bosque's keep-ball specialists have won 17 out of 19 competitive matches and another scalp would draw them level with Germany's record of three Euro triumphs.

Spain's exciting free-flowing brand of football displayed in their march to the Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup titles has not been of the same high quality during this tournament while challengers Italy have surprisingly been more adventurous.

The four-times world champions, who have only lost two of their last 19 matches outright at Euro finals, have the perfect combination of a rock-solid defence, midfield artistry in Andrea Pirlo and forwards capable of flashes of genius.

Spain midfielder David Silva will be telling Del Bosque all about the unique talents of his Manchester City club mate Mario Balotelli, whose two brilliant goals for Italy in the semi-final subdued a shell-shocked Germany in Warsaw.

Spain will hope 'Super Mario' does not spring into life at the Olympic Stadium for the grand finale, the last match of the 16-team European Championship era before France host an expanded tournament of 24 nations in 2016.

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