By Josh Powell | Sports writer
Preview: Spain v Italy, Sunday 7.45 ITV1/BBC1/RTE2
Spain are bidding to make history on Sunday and become the first team to win a third successive major tournament. They have kept an unbelievable nine successive clean sheets in knockout matches and haven’t lost a competitive game since June 2012 when the mighty Swiss beat them in the World Cup. Despite these incredible stats a lot of people have started to say the Spanish style of football is ‘boring’. To be honest I find it hard to believe that Andre Iniesta and co think keeping hold of the ball, scoring goals, defending well and winning tournaments is boring but whatever.
One man who couldn’t be much further away on the spectrum of boring is Mario Balotelli. His brace against Germany put Italy in this final and the striker will be the biggest danger to Spain. Italy are the underdogs but can take confidence in the fact that Spain have not beaten them over 90 minutes in a game of competitive football since 1920.
These two met in the opening game of Group C and played out an entertaining 1-1 draw.Italy were arguably the better side on that occasion as Spain tried out the old ‘Torres is so bad we’ll just play with no striker’ formation.
Spain are the favourites to lift the trophy at 8/15 with Italy looking slightly better value 6/4. It’s 23/20 with Paddy Power that Spain win in 90 minutes with Italy at 11/4 and the draw at 9/4. Spain have looked a touch lethargic in the tournament so far but there are many who would argue they haven’t needed to get out of second gear. On the other hand Italy have looked better as the tournament has gone on and their performance against the hotly-tipped Germans was fantastic. I like the look of Italy to win with the draw no bet option and Italy to lift the trophy, both at 6/4 with Paddy Power.
Correct Score stab in the dark…
These two have played 12 times in their history and on six occasions it has ended in a draw. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both of these teams being difficult to break down and the 5/1 for it to end 0-0 after 90 minutes looks tasty. 15/2 for Italy to win 1-0 is also appealing with the last two finals ending in that score-line. If you’re hunting out the bigger prices it’s 16/1 for Italy to be leading 1-0 at half-time and 1-0 at full-time or 12/1 for it to be 0-0 at half-time with Italy winning 1-0.
A goalscorer bet to look out for…
Mario Balotteli will be keen to get on the score-sheet as he tries to end the tournament as the leading goalscorer. If he plays anywhere close to how he performed against Germany then he looks a great price at 13/2 to find the net first.
Balotelli will prove a popular choice with punters but Spain will no doubt mark him tightly and try to wind him up. With that in mind Daniele De Rossi looks great value to find the onion bag. The 28-year-old Roma midfielder has impressed this tournament and is 25/1 to score first or 11/1 to net anytime.
At the risk of sounding utterly boring and miserable under 2.5 goals in 90 minutes would appear to be an attractive bet. There hasn’t been over 2.5 goals in the European Championship final since 1980, and 75% of games between these two sides since 1934 have had two goals or less. It’s a slim price at 2/5 but if you’re going on the trends you’d be inclined to take it.