The reigning champions are 90 minutes away from becoming the first team to defend the Henri Delauny trophy in it’s 52-year history but will have to overcome the Azzurri who they’ve failed to beat in a competitive game since their first-ever meeting in the 1920 Olympic Games.
The Iberian outfit could become the first team to win three international tournaments on the spin should they triumph in the final but Del Bosque believes that the similarities in playing style between his side and the Italians make them an extremely dangerous proposition.
He said in his pre-match press conference: “We’ve worked very hard for many years and we’d like victory to crown that work.
“We cannot look back. Italy have won the World Cup four times; we won EURO four years ago. There’s some history but we have to look to the present.
“We’ve played similar tournaments: we were in the same group and have both won on penalties. Our style of play is also very similar so there’s not a great difference between the teams.”
Italy held Spain to a 1-1 draw exactly 24 days ago in the opening match of Group C and head coach Cesare Prandelli believes their best hopes of leaving Poland and Ukraine as champions is to adopt an attacking approach.
Having dispatched tournament favourites Germany with ease in the semi-final the 54-year-old has warned his players to anticipate a very different contest against World Cup holders and will have to remain patient when they don’t have the ball and strike whilst the iron is hot once when the opportunity arises.
“I really hope we can be positive and take the game to them,” Prandelli told UEFA.com.
“Spain’s strength is not only possession, but also the way they win it back. We’ve got to pick our moments and work a numerical superiority in certain areas.
“We don’t expect to be in charge from the first minute to the last, but we know we can play our own football when the opportunity arises.”
Del Bosque has his full 23-man squad to choose from for the final with Cesc Fabregas being tipped to replace Alvaro Negrado in attack.
Italy have Ignazio Abate back after he missed the semi-final with a hamstring injury whilst Antonio Cassano (twisted knee) and Mario Balotelli (cramp) are expected to start up front. Christian Maggio is back from suspension but is expected to start on the bench.
Two years ago the Barcelona midfielder struck in extra time to clinch his Spain’s first ever World Cup triumph. What will Iniesta conjure up in 2012? In no uncertain terms the 28-year-old has been the best player at the tournament with a series of dazzling displays in the middle of the park. Iniesta will go head-to-head with Andrea Pirlo on Sunday night and will need to display the same unnerving consistency to overcome the Italy playmaker to add another winners medal to his collection.
There is only way to describe Balotelli’s performance against Germany in the semi-final: Devastating. The 21-year-old finally exhibited the attributes that persuaded Manchester City to spend £24 million on him two years ago. His character is prone to rapid fluctuation but there is no doubt he is a captivating presence on the field. Italy’s fate will surely be determined by which Balotelli turns up at the Olympic Stadium.
Score 1-2 (AET)