Tag Archives: Daniele De Rossi

Manchester City’s Potential Summer 2012 Transfer Targets

What a season it was for Manchester City!! On a dramatic final day of the season, the Blues went on to win the Premier League for the first time in 44 years but were very disappointing in Europea – both the Champions League and the Europa League.

This summer, Roberto Mancini has not signed any player yet but is expected to sign a couple of big players before the start of the season to strengthen the squad. With the Citizens having won the Premier League in the previous season, their aim for the upcoming season will not only be to defend their title but also put in a good performance in Europe ie atleast reach the the quarter-finals or the semi-finals of the Champions League. Here are Manchester City’s potential summer transfer targets..

JACK BUTLAND – BIRMINGHAM CITY (GOALKEEPER)

The 19-year-old English keeper was the part of the England squad for the UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland/Ukraine. The Birmingham City stopper – who spent the previous season on loan at Cheltenham Town – has impressed the England coaching staff and Joe Hart has urged City to try to sign him. However, the young keeper who is in the Great Britain squad for the upcoming Olympics, wants to sign for a club where he will be assured regular first team football so that he can progress and reach his potential. That looks highly impossible at City, but they could sign him and loan him away immediately to another Premier League or Championship club.

FABRICO COLOCCINI – NEWCASTLE UNITED (DEFENDER)

Roberto Mancini is reportedly trying to sign players that will strengthen his backline and the Argentine defender from St. James Park is said to be on his shopping list. Coloccini was at his best last season as he helped Newcastle finish fifth in the league, above Chelsea, and qualify for the Europa League. Coloccini will be a great good addition to the squad and will also add the necessary competition for places at the back. The 30-year-old has recently signed a new deal at Newcastle but the lure of Champions League football and winning titles will be very hard to reject.

STEFAN RADU – LAZIO (DEFENDER)

Stefan Radu is another name mentioned around the Etihad Stadium for the past couple of months. The 25-year-old Romanian has been in impressive form for Lazio since arriving in Rome, in 2008. His performances has attracted interest from many clubs across Europe. The 6ft centre-back, who can also play as a left-back, will be a great addition to the City squad and will also strengthen their defence which looked very vulnerable in the absence of Vincent Kompany. City will tough face some competition for his signature as Arsenal and Tottenham are also said to be interested in him.

MARTIN SKRTEL – LIVERPOOL (DEFENDER)

Stefan Savic looked vulnerable as a cover and with Joleon Lescott ageing, another centre-back is a need for City after their league winning season. According to the reports, Martin Skrtel is one of the transfer targets of the club. The 27-year-old was Liverpool best man last season, having featured in every league game. The arrival of the Slovakian, who is rated around £20m, will be a great addition to the squad and will no doubt strengthen the defence. The transfer might also see Lescott leave the club and head in the opposite direction.

THIAGO SILVA – AC MILAN (DEFENDER)

Manchester City being interested in Thiago Silva is no news as its been going on since the start of the summer. Reports in various UK papers claimed that Mancini met the Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri in May to discuss a possible deal for the £42m rated Brazilian defender but nothing as ever materialized. Some reports in the past month suggested that the 27-year-old could snub interested from City and join Paris Saint-Germain but he also squashed all those rumours by signing a new deal at the San Siro.

DANIELE DE ROSSI – AS ROMA (MIDFIELDER)

Its a well known fact that Roberto Mancini is a huge fan of Daniele De Rossi and with Nigel De Jong linked with a move away from the Etihad Stadium, the Italian, who starred for the UEFA EURO 2012 finalists in Poland/Ukraine this summer, may well join his compatriot in Manchester. The 28-year-old, who recently signed a new five year deal with the Serie A side, has said he is ready to try his hand in different league having played in the Serie A for more than 11 years. De Rossi would be a huge addition to City midfield, who are set to lose Yaya Toure in January due to the African Cup of Nations.

JAVI MARTINEZ – ATHLETIC BILBAO (MIDFIELDER)

With Nigel De Jong’s future doubtful and Yaya Toure’s international commitments during the mid-season, City reportedly are preparing a £25m offer for Athletic Bilbao’s Spanish international. Javi Martinez, who can also play as a holding midfielder or as a centre-back, has been attracting a lot of interest from many European clubs like Barcelona and Bayern Munich after an excellent season with the Europa League finalists. Martinez will be real coup for the champions but they are set to face some tough competition from Barcelona, who are said to be the favourites to land him.

GASTON RAMIREZ – BOLOGNA (MIDFIELDER)

Ramirez, 21, is an attacking central midfielder with an eye for goal and was impressive for his Serie A side during last season. Ramirez is rated around £16m by his Italian club and has attracted interest from many European clubs in the past one year with Manchester City, Liverpool and Juventus being one of them. The midfielder who scored eight times last season would be a great signing for future and at the same time would provide good cover for David Silva and Samir Nasri.

WESLEY SNEIJDER – INTER MILAN (MIDFIELDER)

Sneijder has been linked with a move to the Red side of Manchester for the past couple of seasons but now City are the favourites to land him. Mancini has been looking at various different attacking midfield options since Hazard snubbed the Citizens to join Chelsea and signing Sneijder would be like putting salt on the wounds of Manchester United, who have spent more than 2 season in trying to sign him. The Dutch international would no doubt strengthen the team but he would cost more than £30m and his form since the World Cup has been very disappointing.

ROBIN VAN PERSIE – ARSENAL (STRIKER)

Along with Juventus, Manchester City are the favourites to sign the Arsenal skipper, Robin van Persie, who has said that he won’t be signing a new deal at the Emirates Stadium. Van Persie was in some outstanding goal scoring form last season and ended the league season as the Premier League’s top goal scorer with 30 goals. With Roque Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor and Edin Dzeko set to leave during the summer, there is place for Van Persie in the squad. With just one year left on the 28-year-old’s contract, the Gunners are expected to cash in on the forward this summer and an offer around £16m-£20m may well be accepted.

GONZALO HIGUAIN – REAL MADRID (STRIKER)

The Argentine is one of the most hottest property available in European football this season. Higuain has scored 22 La Liga in just 18 starts last season and yet he is second choice at Madrid behind Karim Benzema. The 24-year-old was linked with a move to Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the summer but nothing at all developed. Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has stated his intend to keep Higuain at the Bernabeu for many more seasons but a chance to play in the Premier League and alongside his Argentina teammates Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Pablo Zabaleta may be too hard to reject.

EDINSON CAVANI – NAPOLI (STRIKER)

Along with Robin van Persie and Gonzalo Higuain, Manchester City are also keeping tabs on the inform Napoli striker Edinson Cavani. If the 25-year-old Uruguayan was unknown to English football then he made himself known by scoring against both Chelsea and Manchester City in the Champions League last season. Cavani has been tremendous goal scoring form since joining Napoli in 2010, having scored 66 times in 94 league matches. The strong forward would be a marquee signing for the club but the Premier League champions face competition for his signature from Serie A champions Juventus, who are also interested in him.

IntoTheTopCorner’s UEFA EURO 2012 Awards

Spain created history on Sunday night in Kiev by winning their third successive major tournament, with a dominating 4-0 win over Italy in the UEFA EURO 2012 final at the Olympic Stadium in Ukraine.

UEFA EURO 2012 has been an exciting and very competitive tournament with some tight, action-packed and mouth-watering matches.  Looking back to last 23 days’ of action, IntoTheTopCorner brings you it’s own UEFA EURO 2012 awards.

TEAM AWARDS

BEST TEAM – SPAIN

Many have criticised La Roja for being boring at times during the tournament, but when it mattered the most they turned on the style and silenced all the critics with emphatic 4-0 win in the final over Italy. Although Vicente Del Bosque’s men have not been at their best throughout the competition, they have done what is needed to win the trophy and ended the campaign with an outstanding performance in the final.

WORST TEAM – REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Some fans expected Ireland to cause some upsets or shocks in Group C, but it never happened. The team had a good blend of players but completely failed to perform when needed. They were completely out of depth and ideas. Giovanni Trapattoni’s men lost all of their three group games, conceding nine goals and scoring just one.

OVERACHIEVERS – GREECE

Most didn’t expect Greece to make it through to knockout stages from Group A, but in the end they were eliminated from the competition along with the likes of England and France. Coming into the tournament as huge outsiders to make it to the last eight, the 2004 winners stunned Russia in the last group game and then scored twice – without their inspiration skipper – against Germany in the quarter-finals.

UNDERACHIEVERS – NETHERLANDS

Group B or the “Group of Death’ was always going to be tough but everyone expected Netherlands to reach atleast the last four if not the finals. The 2010 World Cup finalists came into the Championships with virtually the same squad that was present in South Africa but yet they failed to deliver. The team showed no unity at all with every player playing for himself rather than the team. In the end, the Dutch ended at the bottom of the group with no points on the board.

WORST CHOKERS – RUSSIA

Russia came into the tournament as the favourites in Group A, and they made the best possible start with a win (4-1) and a draw (1-1) in their first two matches. With a point needed from their final group game against Greece, they were surely going through to the last eight. But they choked badly and lost 1-0 to the 2004 champions, which saw them drop down to third – from the top spot – in the group table and that meant they were going back home.

BEST MATCH – GERMANY 1-2 ITALY

Although this tournament has thrown up many great games to watch, the semi-final clash between Germany and Italy was a great game for the neutrals. Germany were the favourites to defeat Italy and progress to the finals, Mario Balotelli struck twice to give Italy a shock two goal lead in the first half. The second half had more end-to-end action and the game could have gone either way but Cesare Prandelli’s men held on to a 2-1 victory and made the final.

WORST MATCH – CROATIA 0-1 SPAIN

UEFA EURO 2012 has had very few matches which were boring or not entertaining, and the Croatia-Spain game was one of them. The final Group C game had a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs but Spain -who started the game without a striker – made it an one side affair by keeping possession with no real threat or penetration. Croatia had a couple of chances in the second half but Spain tired their opponents by keeping the ball and went on to score a late winner.

SHOCK OF THE TOURNAMENT – NETHERLANDS 0-1 DENMARK

There have been quite a few upsets throughout the tournament but this one was perhaps the biggest of them all. Everyone expected the Dutch to perform well in Poland/Ukraine but they were shocked in the first game itself. Netherlands completely dominated the possession and create a lot of chances but just failed to convert one of those chances. While on the other hand, the Danes had a very few chances but were very clinical and scored the only goal of the game in first half, which was enough in the end.

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

BEST PLAYER – ANDRES INIESTA (SPAIN)

In the team loaded full of superstars, Andres Iniesta is one of the most underrated player. His control of the ball, accurate passing and deft touches lifts him way ahead of his teammates.   The Barcelona midfielder was the spark that carried his team forward. He was a constant attacking threat for the opposition and with Spain playing without a true centre-forward his penetration and positioning in the last third was very important. Completely deserves the Golden Ball award.

WORST PLAYER – ARJEN ROBBEN (NETHERLANDS)

After coming from a poor season with Bayern Munich, everyone expected Arjen Robben to show his true colors for his country in Poland/Ukraine but it didn’t happen so. The former Real Madrid and Chelsea winger was a complete failure and at times was very selfish. His behavior was no good and his worst moment came when he was substituted off against Germany. Rather than cross the pitch and complete the substitution normally, he merely stepped over the nearest touchline, ripped his shirt off and walked angrily around the side of the pitch.

BEST MANAGER – CESARE PRANDELLI (ITALY)

This one was a tough choice but the former Fiorentina boss deserves credit for his work with Italy. He dragged a team made up of players past-their-peaks and misfits all the way to the final. He did this with a combination of tactical innovation and expert man-management. Reinvented Italy as an attractive, attacking team, and showed himself to be a thorougly decent man on and off the field.

BEST YOUNG PLAYER – MARIO BALOTELLI (ITALY)

Mario Balotelli was already hyped for his on-and-off field antics prior to the tournament, but he showed his real talent and class on the field with his performances in Poland/Ukraine. The Manchester City man was not so impressive in the first two games but scored a classic volley against Ireland in the last group game and then put in a solid performance against England in the quarter-finals. His real moment came against Germany in the semi-finals, when he displayed his true talent, potential and class and also scored both the goals that helped his side reach the final.

BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE – CRISTIANO RONALDO (PORTUGAL 2-1 NETHERLANDS)

After being heavily criticsed for his below-par performances in the first two games of the tournament against Germany and Denmark, the Real Madrid man came to life when it mattered the most. In the final group game against the Netherlands, Portugal needed a win to make it through and the former Manchester United star put in a man-of-the-match performance and scored twice which ensured his side won 2-1 after the Dutch had taken an early lead.

BEST GOAL – ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (SWEDEN 2-0 FRANCE)

With Sweden already out of the tournament with defeats to Ukraine and England in their first two games, the Scandinavians were playing for pride in their final Group D game against France. The AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic was one of the stars of the tournament and he ended his tournament in style with an acrobatic volley past keeper Hugo Lloris from the edge of the area, which helped his side to a shocking 2-0 win.

BEST PENALTY – ANDREA PIRLO (ENGLAND 0-0 (2-4P) ITALY)

With Ricardo Montolivo already having missed one of Italy’s penalty during the quarter-final penalty shoot-out against England, the Juventus playmaker Andrea Prilo stepped up to the mark. With Joe Hart jumping around and making faces to put his opponent off, the former AC Milan midfielder causally chipped his spot-kick down the middle and completely fooled the Manchester City keeper who dived to his right.

BEST SAVE – IKER CASILLAS (CROATIA 0-1 SPAIN)

May not be the best save of the tournament, but surely was the most important one. Just after the interval, Luka Modric put in a cross from the outside of his right foot, which was perfectly met by the head of Ivan Rakitic from 6 yards, but the Real Madrid and Spain skipper produced a great reflex save to deny the Sevilla man from scoring the goal which could have knocked out the defending champions in the group stages itself.

BEST GOAL CELEBRATION – MARIO BALOTELLI (GERMANY 1-2 ITALY)

Having already scored the opener against Germany in the semi-finals, Mario Balotelli rifled the second past Manuel Neuer – which turned out to be the winner in the end – before running away towards the edge of the area, taking his jersey off and showing his upper body in Hulk style.

WORST MISS – CRISTIANO RONALDO (DENMARK 2-3 PORTUGAL)

With the Denmark-Portugal game finely balanced, the Portuguese skipper Cristiano Ronaldo had a glorious chance to gives his side 3-1 lead when he was one-on-one with the Danish goalkeeper Stephen Andersen.However, very unlike Cristiano Ronaldo, he placed his effort well wide of the right-hand post.

OTHER AWARDS

HIGHLIGHT OF THE TOURNAMENT – ENTERTAINING FINAL

Everyone expected the Spain-Italy final to be a cagey affair with both teams trying to keep the possession a lot and defend, but the it was anything but that. The game was an open, end-to-end affair with Spain – as expected – dominating the game with a lot of possession, but at the same time playing some attacking football and creating a lot of goal scoring chances. Italy, on the other hand, also had chances to score but they failed to do so. In the end, as the scoreline shows the final was an entertaining affair and the defending champions completely outclassed their opponents.

LOWLIGHT OF THE TOURNAMENT – RACISM AND UEFA FINES

Despite it being a good tournament played in the right manner generally, ugly incidents of racism reared their ugly heads at times. No place for this in society or the beautiful game. Another low point of the tournament was the ridiculous fines by UEFA. Most of the racist fans of various countries were fined way less than Nicklas Bendtner for showing the sponsors on his underpants.

BEST FANS – REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Republic of Ireland didn’t give their fans much to cheer about in terms of performance or goals, but the travelling Irish fans created quite the noise at their side’s Group C games and at the same time were not involved in any trouble in and out of the stadium.

BEST TATTOO – DANIELE DE ROSSI

While most of the footballers opt to ink their wives’ or children’s names, tribal symbols or pair of angel wings on their skins, Daniele de Rossi’s road-sign design tattoo to leave his opponents in no doubt as to what is in store was by far the best tattoo and a true innovation up to which the rest of the football world show now be aiming to live.

WORST HAIRSTYLE – RAUL MIERELES

The Portugal and Chelsea midfielder’s pathetically scruffy skull-fuzz, stuck halfway between a total shave and a Mohican with the style points of neither, combine with his off-putting wall of tattoos on his whole body put him only one step away from the ‘Derelicte’ range of homeless fashion as invented by Will Ferrell’s Mugatu in ‘Zoolander’.

BIGGEST GAFFE – RUSSIA DAY CELEBRATED IN WARSAW

Biggest blunded was by the person who allowed 20,000 Russia fans to march through Warsaw to celebrate ‘Russia Day’. That’s 20,000 Russians marching through the Polish capital. What could possibly go wrong? It resulted in 183 arrests in the biggest incidence of hooliganism for decades.

UEFA EURO 2012 Final Preview – Spain v Italy

European glory is up for grabs on Sunday night at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium when the defending champions Spain go head-to-head against the 2006 World Cup winners Italy.

Neither side have lost a match in the tournament so far but it will be the Italians who enter the showpiece in better form. Cesare Prandelli’s side were excellent in their quarter-final win over England – which was only decided on penalties because of their poor finishing – and they backed it up with a superb 2-1 victory against an in-form Germany. And although Spain will enter the final as favourites, Prandelli is confident his side can cause problems for their opponents. “We only have one day to prepare for this game but we will try to find Spain’s weaknesses,” Prandelli said. “They are the world and European champions and they are an example to everyone. But we have grown and we should not fear them. We have to have the strength to face them with ideas and quality.”

Reigning European champions Spain had the opportunity to eliminate Italy during the group stage, with both sides slugging it out in Group C. A 2-2 draw against Croatia in their final group game would have been enough to see Spain and the Croats progress at Italy’s expense. Del Bosque’s side play to win, though, and a late effort from Jesus Navas, coupled with a 2-0 victory for the Azzurri over the Republic of Ireland, kept things fair. Del Bosque has no regrets at having passed up the chance to send a rival packing and is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with a side that posed Spain plenty of problems during a 1-1 draw in the opening round of fixtures.  “Never have we regretted not drawing with Croatia to eliminate Italy. This wasn’t good for sport,” Del Bosque said. “Italy and ourselves have lived parallel lives and now we have to be at the level that a final demands. In the game in the group stages they were possibly superior in the first half. They were the team that gave us most problems.”

TEAM NEWS

Spain

Spain boss Vicente del Bosque is expected to have a fully-fit squad for the Euro 2012 final showdown with Italy. The 61-year-old’s biggest selection dilemma is likely to be over whether to field a recognised striker after Alvaro Negredo’s anonymous performance in the semi-final win over Portugal. With Fernando Torres seemingly out of favour, and with Fernando Llorente yet to make an appearance at the tournament, Cesc Fabregas could be restored to a ‘false nine’ role up front alongside Andres Iniesta and David Silva.

Italy

Italy defender Ignazio Abate, who missed the semi-final win over Germany with a muscle injury, is likely to return to fitness in time for the final, while fellow full-back Christian Maggio is also available after serving a one-match ban. Coach Cesare Prandelli may persist with the same formation that served him well against the Germans rather than revert to the unorthodox 3-5-2 line-up used in the opening match against Spain. AC Milan-bound Riccardo Montolivo is likely to keep his place in the team ahead of Thiago Motta after an assured performance in the semi-final.

ROAD TO THE FINAL

Spain

10 Jun – Group C – Spain 1-1 Italy (Fabregas)
14 Jun – Group C – Spain 4-0 Ireland (Torres(2), David Silva, Fabregas)
18 Jun – Group C – Croatia 0-1 Spain (Jesus Navas)
23 Jun – Quarter-Finals – Spain 2-0 France (Xabi Alonso(2))
27 Jun – Semi-Finals – Portugal 0-0 (2-4P) Spain

Italy

10 Jun – Group C – Spain 1-1 Italy (Fabregas)
14 Jun – Group C – Italy 1-1 Croatia (Pirlo)
18 Jun – Group C – Italy 2-0 Ireland (Cassano, Balotelli)
24 Jun – Quarter-Finals – England 0-0 (2-4P) Italy
28 Jun – Semi-Finals – Germany 1-2 Italy (Balotelli(2))

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 30
Spain Wins – 8
Draws – 12
Italy Wins – 10

FORM GUIDE

Spain – DWWWD
27-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Portugal 0-0 Spain
23-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 2-0 France
18-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Croatia 0-1 Spain
14-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 4-0 Ireland
10-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 1-1 Italy

Italy – WDWDD
28-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-2 Italy
22-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – England 0-0 Italy
18-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 2-0 Ireland
14-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 1-1 Crotia
10-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 1-1 Italy

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Iker Casillas (Spain)
The Real Madrid and Spain captain is often unsung, but he steers the game out of the back, organizes the defense and restarts the attack. In Spain’s best games, he often has little to do which makes his concentration all the more remarkable: he is the rare keeper who can make the important save after sitting idle for 89 minutes. That’s a more valuable asset than most fans realize.

Andres Iniesta (Spain)
Against Portugal, the Barcelona playmaker was shackled and kept quiet. It showed in Spain’s insipid play. Iniesta has to have the ball and he has to have room to create. When he has both, Spain are the most vicious team on the planet, slicing apart defenses with abandon. But when he is off – and he rarely is – they are reduced to a passing team that must play keep-away and is very boring to watch.

Cesc Fabregas (Spain)
Del Bosque’s insistence on packing his side with as many playmakers as possible has rendered Spain slow and predictable in possession, with not enough width to stretch the opposition. The 61-year-old could compensate for this by ordering Fabregas to make runs behind the Italian backline as often as possible to drag defenders out of position, thus creating space for Iniesta and Silva to run into.

Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
Pirlo may control the game, but Buffon is the man who saves it. He was brilliant against Germany, swatting away shot after shot and showing control of his area that most keepers can only dream of. A consummate competitor, he also stalked off the field after their win, clearly unhappy. Why? Italy had wasted too many chances at the other end. That kind of fire drives teams, and Italy’s captain has fire in spades.

Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
Even though Balotelli was praised by the football fraternity for his two goals against Germany, it was Pirlo’s brilliance on the field that won him his third Man of the Match award for the tournament. Pirlo has been able to topple all the opponents with his accurate passes and wise decisions creating opportunities for his team-mates to score goals every now and then. Along with Balotelli, Italy will need Pirlo to use his experience for a formidable show.

Mario Balotelli (Italy)
Even though many disagree on the striker’s maturity level, none would doubt Mario Ballotelli’s ability on the pitch as a footballer. He proved his worth against Germany in the last four as he was key to Italy’s place in the final. After being inconsistent throughout the tournament, Balotelli was the catalyst against Germany which rung the bells for the defending champions. The fans would expect an encore from Balotelli and with a formidable show; he can also bag the much coveted golden boot.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Spain (4-3-3): Iker Casillas (C); Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba; Sergi Busquets, Xavi, Xabi Alonso; David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta.

The Spaniards are expected to field the same side that featured against the Italians in the first game in Group C. Cesc Fabregas, who scored the winning penalty against Portugal, will come in place for Alvaro Negredo, who was quite annonymous during the semi-finals. The rest of the starting XI will be the same. But at the same time, Del Bosque is not shy of throwing in some surprises and might actually play Pedro or Jesus Navas or Fernando Torres in place of David Silva or in the central striker role. Pedro and Jesus Navas were very impressive against the Portuguese after coming on as substitutes and caused Cristiano Ronaldo and co some problems.

Italy (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon (C); Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Federico Balzaretti; Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi; Ricardo Montolivo; Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano.

It hardly seems that boss Cesare Prandelli will change his winning team that defeated Germany in the semi-finals. However, a solitary change is a possibility with the AC Milan right back Ignazio Abate coming back in the side for Leanardo Bonucci with Federico Balzaretti going back to his normal left back position. Rest of the side will remain the same with Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marschiso and Daniele De Rossi playing in center midfield just behind Ricardo Montolivo. Up front, the attacking duo of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano are set to start yet again after an very impressive display against the Germans.

KEY BATTLES

Sergio Ramos v Mario Balotelli
With Carles Puyol ruled out for the entire tournament by injury, Sergio Ramos has cemented his place as Gerard Pique’s partner at the heart of Spain’s defence. His replica of Andre Pirlo’s penalty in the semi-final penalty shoot-out win over Portugal demonstrated his confidence. Mario Balotelli appears to be maturing before our very eyes at UEFA EURO 2012. His form and attitude were questioned in Italy’s first two games but he has been almost unplayable since scoring the stunning goal as a substitute against Ireland.

Xavi v Andrea Pirlo
A mouthwatering showdown between two of the best passers ever to grace the game. Xavi’s status as an all-time great has already been assured but he has yet to hit the heights in Poland/Ukraine and will be desperate to do so on Sunday. Andrea Pirlo has been peerless for Italy and almost has the Player of the Tournament award wrapped up ahead of the final.

Andres Iniesta v Ignazio Abate/Federico Balzaretti 
If Spain decide not to play a striker, their midfield will have to fill the void and no-one is more capable of doing so than Andres Iniesta, whose goal settled the 2010 World Cup. The 28-year-old also likes to drift out wide, where he will doubtless come up against Ignazio Abate or Federico Balzaretti. The AC Milan right-back and the Juventus defender both have been very impressive going forward during the tournament.

THE STADIUM

Name: Olympic Stadium, Kiev
UEFA Capacity: 
64,640
Record attendance: 
102,000 (2-0 FC Dynamo Kyiv v FC Bayern München on 16/03/1977)
Tenants: 
Ukrainian national team
Opened: 
1923 (reopened October 2011)

• Located at the foot of city’s central Cherepanov Hill in Pechersk, the venue started life as the Red Stadium of Lev Trotsky and has enjoyed numerous face-lifts (minor and major) since.

• The latest stadium reconstruction, from December 2008 to October 2011, saw the demolition and rebuilding of the lower tier, a new West Stand with a two-level press box or VIP seats between the two tiers and the addition of a new transparent roof.

• Andriy Yarmolenko scored the first goal at the renovated Olympic Stadium on 11 November 2011, a crowd of 70,000 in attendance as Ukraine led 2-0 and 3-1 before drawing 3-3 with Germany.

• It has had several monikers, too. It became simply the Red Stadium before being renamed the Republican Stadium in 1936 and, barring a 17-year stint as the Central Stadium (1962 to 1979), kept the title until 1996. Then it adopted its current Olympic name, a nod to the 1980 Moscow Olympics when it hosted seven games.

• The stadium is the traditional stage for Dynamo Kiev’s European games, replacing the 16,973-capacity Valeriy Lobanovskiy Stadium.

• Because there were no seats the venue often exceeded its official 100,062 capacity. Newspapers used to just report attendance as being ‘chock-full’.

(source: uefa.com)

THE MATCH BALL

The adidas Tango 12 Finale features a modern interpretation of classic Tango design, used during FIFA World Cups and UEFA European Championships during the early 1980s, including bespoke graphics designed to represent the two host countries and the key characteristics of football – unity, rivalry and passion.

Developed over a two-year period, it has been constructed in the same way as the ball which will be used during the rest of the tournament. That ball was presented in December 2011 at the EURO draw and distributed to the participating teams.

The final ball underwent two rigorous types of testing – qualitative player testing, which was conducted across eight different countries, using players, federations and clubs from both elite and grassroots football, and quantitative lab testing, which concluded that the adidas Tango 12 Finale meets and exceeds all FIFA standards for an official match ball, making it the most tested ball adidas has ever produced.

(source: uefa.com)

THE TROPHY

Spain’s Iker Casillas had the pleasure of becoming the first captain to lift the updated version of the Henri Delaunay Cup in June 2008, with the new trophy a fitting replacement for the prize that has been synonymous with the UEFA European Championship.

The second version of the trophy is based on the original designed by Arthus-Bertrand in 1960 and named after Henri Delaunay, the former president of the French Football Federation and UEFA’s first general secretary, from the body’s founding on 15 June 1954 to 9 November 1955.

It is 18cm higher and 2kg heavier than the original, made of sterling silver, and has retained its historical name. The trophy was reincarnated to reflect the scale and size of Europe’s most prestigious international tournament.

The responsibility for creating the original went to Pierre Delaunay, son of Henri, the visionary behind the competition. Henri Delaunay died in 1955 before seeing his idea come to fruition, but the updated prize is testament to his enduring legacy, maintaining its classic style.

Minor differences between the original and updated version include the silver base being enlarged to make it stable. In addition, the names of the winning countries that had appeared on the plinth have been engraved on the back of the trophy, which weighs 8kg and is 60cm tall.

Unlike the original, which was the work of the Chobillon goldsmith and was later bought by Arthus-Bertrand in Paris, the making of the modern equivalent was entrusted to Asprey London.

Asprey, renowned silversmiths, jewellers and goldsmiths, have a long history of trophy-making stretching back to the America’s Cup, which their sister company Garrard produced in 1848. UEFA wanted to improve on the quality but also the scale of the trophy, and have a focal point for the event – it was felt that the original trophy was too small to do this.

(source: uefa.com)

THE REFEREE

Pedro Proenca of Portugal has been selected to referee the UEFA EURO 2012 final between Italy and Spain at the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv on Sunday. The appointment completes a memorable end to the season for the financial director from Pinhal Novo, who oversaw last month’s UEFA Champions League showpiece in Munich, where Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich on penalties.

Sunday’s fixture will be the 41-year-old’s fourth of the tournament, having taken charge of two group stage matches – Spain’s 4-0 victory against the Republic of Ireland on 14 June and Sweden’s 2-0 defeat of France five days later – as well as the England-Italy quarter-final in the Ukrainian capital.

Proenca will be assisted by countrymen Bertino Cunha Miranda and Ricardo Jorge Ferreira Santos, with Manuel Jorge Neves Moreira De Sousa and Duarte Nuno Pereira Gomes acting as additional assistant referees. The fourth official will be Cüneyt Cakır and the reserve assistant referee Bahattin Duran, both from Turkey.

Proenca has been on the rise in European refereeing circles since handling the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final in 2004. Promoted to UEFA’s Elite category at the start of 2009/10, he was in the middle for four games in that season’s UEFA Champions League, five in the 2010/11 edition and six this term, culminating in the Fußball Arena Munchen decider on 19 May.

(source: uefa.com)

THE  CLOSING CEREMONY

Kiev’s Olympic Stadium will host the UEFA EURO 2012 closing ceremony on Sunday, an unforgettable curtain-raiser to the final between Spain and Italy.

Inspired by football, the 16 participating teams and the tournament’s values, the 12-minute show will be presented shortly before kick-off, and will feature more than 600 volunteer performers. The concept has been created to celebrate the end of a historical event – the first UEFA European Championship staged in central and eastern Europe. It will also promote the participating nations together with key competition values: unity, rivalry and passion.

Both the opening and closing ceremonies were devised by Marco Balich, the president of Filmmaster Events, along with artistic director Lida Castelli and show director Bryn Walters. Balich has designed many international events, including the 2002 Olympic flag handover in Salt Lake City, the 2006 Olympic ceremonies in Turin and the Carnival of Venice.

The official tournament song, Endless Summer, will be performed live by German singer Oceana. The UEFA EURO 2012 hit is the first single from Oceana’s outstanding new studio album, recorded in London, New York and Berlin with producers including Rob Davis (Kylie Minogue) and Blair McKichan (Lily Allen). The national anthems of both finalists will be presented by Tamara Khodakova and Mykhailo Humenniy – soloists from the Kyiv Municipal Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, under the leadership of Anzhela Maslennikova.

A total of 150 million viewers are expected to watch the UEFA EURO 2012 final live.

(source: uefa.com)

BETTING ODDS

Match Result
Spain – 6/5
Draw – 11/5
Italy – 5/2

To Lift The Trophy
Spain – 8/15
Italy – 6/4

Method Of Victory
Spain in extra time – 10/1
Italy in extra time – 14/1
Spain on penalties – 9/1
Italy on penalties – 9/1

Correct Score
Spain 1-0 – 5/1
Draw 0-0 – 11/2
Italy 1-0 – 15/2
Spain 2-0 – 17/2
Draw 1-1 – 11/2
Italy 2-0 – 18/1
Spain 2-1 – 9/1
Draw 2-2 – 22/1
Italy 2-1 – 14/1
Spain 3-0 – 25/1
Draw 3-3 – 125/1
Italy 3-0 – 66/1
Spain 3-1 – 22/1
Draw 4-4 – 250/1
Italy 3-1 – 50/1

Half-Time/Full-Time
Spain / Spain – 11/4
Draw / Spain – 4/1
Italy / Spain – 28/1
Spain / Draw – 16/1
Draw / Draw – 7/2
Italy / Draw – 16/1
Spain / Italy – 33/1
Draw / Italy – 15/2
Italy / Italy – 13/2

Under/Over 2.5 Goals
Under 2.5 Goals – 4/9
Over 2.5 Goals – 13/8

Both Teams to Score
Yes – 5/4
No – 4/7

Goalscorer
No Italy Goalscorer – 6/5
No Spain Goalscorer – 15/8
Mario Balotelli – 12/5
Fernando Torres – 5/2
Cesc Fabregas – 5/2
Antonio Di Natale – 7/2
Pedro – 7/2
Antonio Cassano – 7/2
David Silva – 7/2
Fernando Llorente – 11/4
Alvaro Negredo – 11/4
Fabio Borini – 11/4
Sebastian Giovinco – 11/2
Alessandro Diamanti – 11/2
Andres Iniesta – 4/1
Andrea Pirlo – 6/1

Winning Margin
Spain by Exactly 1 Goal – 5/2
Italy by Exactly 1 Goal – 7/2
Spain by Exactly 2 Goals – 6/1
Italy by Exactly 2 Goals – 12/1
Spain by 3 or more Goals – 14/1
Italy by 3 or more Goals – 33/1

(source: skybet.com)

PREDICTION

Spain are the favourites to go and defend their European crown, but no team in the history has ever done that and so it would be a huge achievement. Spain came to Poland/Ukraine as the pre-tournament favourites, but they have not looked any where near their best. This is the best possible time to play Spain as they have grinded out results in almost all their games – except the ones against Ireland and France – and looked too tired against Portugal in the semi-finals. On the other hand, Italy have defined the odds to come so far and have beaten the likes of England and Germany on the way. The Azzurri are finding the right form at the right time in the tournament and they have all the weapons they need to hurt their opponents on the counter.

Predicted Score – Spain 0-1 Italy

Germany v Italy Preview

Joachim Low’s Germany will have to defy history if they are to beat Italy today at the National Stadium in Warsaw and set up a repeat of the 2008 final against Spain on Sunday.

Germany boss Joachim Low knows his side must disturb Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who was allowed to dictate play in Italy’s quarter-final victory over England. Low said: “He’s the Italian player who directs the game. “We have to disturb him, stop him playing, get in his way, and think of a way how we can do better than Italy in midfield.” But Low has also called for focus from his own side, believing they must play to the strengths which has seen them win all their games so far. “It’s a confidence thing. We have to be cheeky, strong and brave,” he said. “We have to concentrate and work very hard. I don’t think we have to worry too much about our opponents. We have to impose our own ideas.”

Despite never having lost a competitive match against Germany, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli knows it will be tough to beat their opponents. “The Germans, alongside Spain, are the favourites to win the European Championship,” he said. “I’m not the first to discover how good they are, they are playing very well.”

TEAM NEWS

Germany

Low has received a boost with the news influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteigerwill be fit after shrugging off a sore ankle following the 4-2 win over Greece. But he has decisions to make after surprisingly leaving Arsenal new-boy Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller and tournament top scorer Mario Gomez out of his starting line-up against Greece. He is expected to restore the trio to his side, despite Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle adding pace to the German attack in their place, while Miroslav Klose scored against the Greeks.

Italy

For Italy, the team’s medical staff are doing their bets’ to get injured Daniele De Rossi, Ignazio Abate and Giorgio Chiellini back to fitness for the game, with the trio undergoing intensive physiotherapy. Midfielder De Rossi and right-back Abate were substituted with muscle injuries in Sunday’s quarter-final penalty victory over England, while Chiellini missed the game with a thigh problem. Chiellini has since returned to training and will probably come in for Leonardo Bonucci if he is fit, while Antonio Nocerino will likely replace De Rossi should he miss out. Coach Prandelli has a big decision to make if Abate fails to recover as fellow right-back Christian Maggio is suspended.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 30
Germany Wins – 7
Draws – 9
Italy Wins – 14

FORM GUIDE

Germany – WWWWW
22-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 4-2 Greece
17-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Denmark 1-2 Germany
13-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Netherlands 1-2 Germany
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
31-May-12 – Friendly – Germany 2-0 Israel

Italy – DWDDL
22-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – England 0-0 Italy
18-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 2-0 Ireland
14-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 1-1 Crotia
10-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 1-1 Italy
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Italy 0-3 Russia

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
The 27-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder has been struggling with an ankle injury and looked uncharacteristically wasteful in possession against Greece in the quarter-finals. With the Italian midfield packed with skillful passers of the ball, the German star will be under pressure to cover plenty of ground and set the rhythm and tempo of the team in the middle of the park.

Mesut Ozil (Germany)
The Real Madrid playmaker has had a quiet tournament until the quarterf-inal game against Greece where he showed his true best setting up two goals. The former Werder Bremen midfielder is the main creator of chances in this German lineup. His smart passes and brilliant through balls would be the key to unlocling the solid Italian defence. If he is kept quiet then the Italian would have a real chance.

Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
The former AC Milan player has been Italy’s best player in the tournament so far and he singled handedly dominated the previous game against England. He has been an inspirational and the guiding force behind the Italian success till now. He has been dictating the game from his defensive midfield posituon and has shown his quality time and time again. Another classy performance today and his side will have a huge chance of upsetting the favourites.

Mario Balotelli (Italy)
The Manchester City forward was one of the star performers for Italy during their penalty shoot-out win over England. The former Inter Milan striker has shown he has got the talent and potential to be the best in the world but has failed to perform on a consistent basis. His pace, his ability to get in the right position at the right time and to shoot from distance, can trouble the opposition but he needs to work more on his finishing and convert the chances he gets.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm (C); Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski; Mario Gomez.

The Germans are set to bring back their three big guns Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski after handing them rests in the quarter-finals against Greece. Joachim Low is set to stay with his 4-2-3-1 formation that has worked like a dream till now. However, the only worry is a nagging injury to the experienced Bastian Schweinsteiger, however, the German campaign has declared that the midfielder will play through the pain and is expected to take the field against Italy today.

Italy (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon (C); Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Balzaretti; Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi; Thiago Motta; Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano.

The Italians will start with the same 4-3-1-2 formation that started against England in the previous game. However they might have to make a couple of chances with Ignazio Abate and Daniele De Rossi struggling with injuries. If Abate fails to recover in time then Prandelli will have to change back to the 3-man defence with second-choice right Christian Maggio suspended. Antonio Nocerino may come in for De Rossi, if he fails to pass the fitness test. Thiago Motta will be another chance in the side and will replace Ricardo Montolivo in the lineup.

MATCH ODDS

Germany 5/6 Draw 12/5 Italy 18/5

PREDICTION

If last night’s drama was anything then this match is going to be a cracker of a game. Germany have been the team of the tournament, while Italy have been the best defensive side. The fact that Germany had 48 hours more than Italy to prepare and rest for this match is a huge advantage. The Italians were too good against an average England side, but beating the pre-tournament favourites – who have won all their matches so far – is a huge task. The history is on Italy’s side and if they are able to get past Germany today then it will surely be an upset.

Predicted Score – Germany 2-1 Italy

England v Italy Preview

England and Italy both arrived in Poland/Ukraine to take part in UEFA EURO 2012 without much expectations, but today they meet each other in the quarter-finals in Kiev believing this could be their year. 

England topped Group D to reach this stage, preserving Roy Hodgson’s unbeaten record as national coach in the process -with four wins and a draw taken from five fixtures to date. Hodgson’s early success has been based on making his side as difficult to beat as possible, with greater emphasis placed on the need to be solid at the back and defend as a collective unit. Italy’s footballing philosophy is much the same as their opponents. It has been suggested that the two sides will cancel each other out, with the fear of losing set to outweigh the desire to attack and take the game by the scruff of the neck.

Past meetings between the two countries suggest it will be a tight affair, with all but one of the last nine encounters having ended all square or been settled by the odd goal. Unfortunately for England, they have emerged victorious in just one of those outings. The Three Lions’ record in quarter-final clashes is also not the best, having lost seven out of 10, and they are looking to grace a major semi-final for the first time in 16 years. Italy will be hoping to pile more misery on their success-starved opponents this weekend, and in Cesare Prandelli they boast a coach who is yet to taste defeat in 13 competitive matches in charge of the Azzurri.

TEAM NEWS

England

England have all 23 members of their squad fit and are in contention for a starting berth, but it is likely that the same XI which started the Three Lions’ final group game against Ukraine will take to the field in Kiev. That means James Milner’s abilities going backwards will once again be favoured over Theo Walcott’s going forward, and Danny Welbeck will get the nod ahead of Andy Carroll in the battle to partner Wayne Rooney up front. Skipper Steven Gerrard is among those one caution away from missing a possible semi-final date through suspension, with Ashley Cole, Ashley Young, Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also walking a disciplinary tightrope.

Italy

Italy have nine players cautioned and one yellow card away from missing the semi-finals, with enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli, captain Gianluigi Buffon and combative midfielder Daniele De Rossi aware that they must tread carefully. It remains to be seen whether Balotelli will be offered the opportunity to line up against a number of his Manchester City colleagues from the start, with Prandelli announcing that he will not name his team until an hour before kick-off. It is expected that Thiago Motta will be in contention for a starting role, with the midfielder having overcome a hamstring injury. Giorgio Chiellini is ruled out with a thigh problem, though, and his place is expected to go to Juventus team-mate Leonardo Bonucci.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 22
England Wins – 7
Draws – 6
Italy Wins – 9

FORM GUIDE

England – WWDWW
19-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – England 1-0 Ukraine
15-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Sweden 2-3 England
11-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – France 1-1 England
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – England 1-0 Belgium
26-May-12 – Friendly – Norway 0-1 England

Italy – WDDLL
18-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 2-0 Ireland
14-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Italy 1-1 Crotia
10-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 1-1 Italy
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Italy 0-3 Russia
29-Feb-12 – Friendly – Italy 0-1 United States

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Steven Gerrard (England)
The Liverpool icon may be getting older day by day, but he has certainly enjoyed wearing the captain’s armband. In centre midfield, Gerrard’s passing, effort, and most notably his crossing and set-pieces has seen him be a driving force and set up three goals at UEFA EURO 2012. Up against pressure from Claudio Marchisio and Co, he’ll need to ensure his side make the best use of the ball when in possession, as he has done all tournament.

Wayne Rooney (England)
The talismanic striker announced his return with the winning goal in against Ukraine in the last group game. Having watched the first two games from the stands, the striker is desperate to make use of whatever opportunity he would get and made an impact in his first match itself. The Manchester United star forward has the skill to cause Italian defence some trouble and would surely be the man to watch out for in Kiev.

Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
The former AC Milan and current Juventus playmaker has been Italy’s best player in the Euros so far. His accurate passing and ability to create chances from the midfield has caused the likes of Spain, Croatia and Ireland a lot of problems in the group stages. If Pirlo – who has two assists and one goal to his name in the competition – is given a lot of space and time with the ball then he will surely create many opportunities for his teammates which will cause a lot of problems to the English defence.

Antonio Cassano (Italy)
Antonio Cassano has shown flashes of brilliance since returning from minor heart surgery that threatened to rule him out of the tournament, but was something close to his best before running out of gas in the 2-0 win over Ireland. Prandelli will look for more of the same from the Milan forward, hoping he can cause confusion in the organised English defence by dropping deep and playing some of his trademark passes into the area for his teammates to run on to.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

England (4-4-2): Joe Hart; Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole; James Milner, Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard (C), Ashley Young; Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck.

Roy Hodgson is expected to field the same side that defeated the co-hosts Ukraine as in the final group game as he would be keen on keeping the stability. Although Milner and Young have failed to impress, youngsters Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain look set to remain on the bench as Hodgson is set to use them as substitutes who can make a difference later in the game. The John Terry and Joleon Lescott partnership has done just enough to keep them top, but has been caught out on many occasions. Up top, the Manchester United pairing of Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck would be looking to cause trouble to the three-man Italian defence.

Italy (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon (C); Federico Balzaretti, Daniele De Rossi, Leonardo Bonucci; Ignazio Abate, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Thiago Motta, Andrea Barzagli; Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano.

The Italians are expected to stick with their 3-5-2 formation, with Manchester City star Mario Balotelli starting alongside Antonio Cassano at the top. Leonardo Bonucci is expected to replace the injured Giorgio Chiellini in the back three, who would try and stop the opponents from running at in-form goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Andrea Pirlo would be the key man in midfield once again, and the veteran would look to continue to dictate play like he has done throughout the tournament.

MATCH ODDS

England 9/5 Draw 2/1 Italy 9/5

PREDICTION

This is a game between two teams who play very similar kind of football. Both teams would make sure they stay strong at the back and won’t let their opponents create a lot of chances. The battle between Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo in the heart of the midfield seems to be a mouth-watering prospect. The game is expect to be a very tight and a cagey affair and maybe a moment or two of magic may be the difference between the two sides. Both the sides will be looking towards their explosive strikers – Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli for some individual class. Set-pieces or a counter attack will be important in this game between two teams who have been disappointing in recent international tournaments. The game has a huge prospect of being decided in extra time or on penalties. However, with some luck, England might just win this one and book themselves a place in the semi-finals.

Predicted Score – England 2-1 Italy (A.E.T)