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Euro 2012 Soccer

Spain vs. Italy

Championship

6/29/12

The UEFA Euro 2012 soccer tournament will finally draw to a close on Sunday when Spain takes on Italy for the title in a rematch of their Group C opening match.  The two teams battled to a 1-1 draw in the earlier meeting on June 10 with Spain later winning Group C with seven points compared to five for Italy.  The final will take place at Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine and be televised live starting at 2:45 p.m. (ET) on ESPN.
 
Italy pulled off an upset on Thursday in the semifinals against Germany, jumping out to a 2-0 lead and holding on for a 2-1 victory.  Mario Balotelli accounted for all of the scoring for the Azzurri with two of his three goals in the tourney.  The 21-year-old helped extend his country's unbeaten streak against the Germans to eight in major tournaments and will try to accomplish a similar feat against Spain, who has not beaten Italy in a 90-minute game at this level since 1920.
 
However, Spain is the reigning World Cup winner and also won this tourney in 2008, so experience would seem to be on their side.  They advanced to the final by beating Portugal on penalties after the game was 0-0 through regulation and extra-time.  Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo did not even get an opportunity to kick because he was fifth in line, and two of his teammates before him failed to score.
 
Neither team has lost in Euro 2012 as Italy finished Group C play with one more draw than Spain.  Both of them blanked Ireland and had to win a game on penalties in the knockout stage.  Italy won 4-2 on penalties against England in the quarterfinals while Spain beat France 2-0 in the same round. Italy has not won this tournament since 1968 and finished as the runner-up in 2000.
 
Spain won their first tourney title in 44 years in 2008 after finishing as the runner-up for the UEFA European Championship in 1984 and never finished better than fourth in the World Cup until winning it in 2010.  They opened as the +105 favorite to win the final with Italy a +275 underdog and were 9/4 to win the tournament before it started.  Italy was a 12/1 shot to win the title prior to the first match and captured the World Cup in 2006, so this will be a matchup between the past two winners of that event.

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