by ‘Ifreke Inyang
Later this evening, the European Championships – which has not quite been a quick fix for sworn Premier League fans like us – comes to a close. It will be a fascinating encounter between Italy and holders, Spain. The match will not only bring together the respective brilliance of Andrea Pirlo and Xavi Hernandez, Daniele De Rossi, Andres Iniesta, Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas will have a say in where the trophy will head.
If Spain were to face another team, a lot of pundits and fans would have been drumming it into every listening ear, how they will pass the opposing team to submission. But with Andrea Pirlo, there has been measured restraint. The Italian midfielder has done what all great players do – find the right time to hit peak form. It has been rather surprising that the 30-year-old who moved to Juventus last summer, after being denied a two-year contract, has been instrumental to the Italians’ march into the final. Armed with prescient passing and intelligent movement, the former AC Milan maestro has left several teams bedazzled by his sheer ability. Former Manchester United goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel described his performance against the Germans, in the semi-finals, as ‘art’.
Another of his team mate has also come into his own during this tournament. Mario Balotelli, who had already scored an overhead winner against Ireland, was the star of the show when they faced Germany in the semi-finals. A man of unstable character, Balotelli is undeniable a huge talent, capable of ripping any team in the world to shreds. And he showed us exactly that with two stunning goals against Germany.
On the other hand, Spain have in their sights a remarkable piece of history. No European team has ever won three major tournaments in a row. And they have the players to deliver. It is a team built on the brilliance of Barcelona players, the quality of Real Madrid men and genius from Manchester City. It is a team that is irrepressible in attack and formidable in defence – they have only conceded one goal and it was against Italy in the group stages.
Whether or not they achieve another major feat, boils down to how they contain Pirlo. And of course, it depends on the Balotelli that turns up.