Spain though have the added pressure of chasing history and trying to win three major tournaments in a row. They are not as good as they were in 2010, but will still be tough to beat. Italy are playing to prove they are better than the pre-tournament forecasts when they were written off completely. They are very similar to their 1982 team who were written off even after the group stage to turn in a run to the final that saw them dispose of Brazil, Argentina, Poland, and West Germany on their way to victory.
There will be three factors in deciding the outcome of the final. 1) How will the first group game and its outcome impact both teams? 2) How much of a factor will fatigue play? 3) How much will the strength in depth of Spain be able to overcome the lack of depth on the Azzurri bench?
Spain may go with the same line up from the first game and once again play without a recognized forward. However, I would expect Vicente Del Bosque to spring a surprise and play a forward or two. He may need to change the approach to be more like that of Barcelona to ensure he gets the best out of Xavi and Iniesta. The two have not looked at their fluid best in a crowded midfield and need space to play and run into. It will mean Del Bosque sacrificing another midfield player. On the day he may go with the Barcelona duo and their teammate Sergio Busquets.
I predicted before the tournament began that the teams’ heavy in Champions League semi-final participants would not do well and none would win the tournament. So far England, Germany and Portugal have been eliminated with all three teams having looked tired late in their games. Only Spain with their contingent of Barca and Real Madrid players combined with their Europa Cup semi-finalists have advanced. They could yet prove me wrong.
While Italy have the psychological edge of having played well against Spain in the first game and have less of an issue with fatigue, there is no doubt that Spain have the greater strength in depth. Italy can ill afford to suffer any injuries during the game while Spain can change things up from the bench if needed.
Like all major finals the first goal will be of immense importance. If Italy score first they will be hard to beat. If Spain score first the Italians will keep it tight until the last 15 minutes then have to open up to get the equalizer. At that point Spain can pick them off on the break and add a second or third that they might not deserve. Italy to win 1-0 or on penalties if they score first. Spain to win by more than one goal if they score first.