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EURO 2012 LIVE: Spain 1 Italy 0
KIEV, UKRAINE (AP) - It’s the final day of Euro 2012, with Italy and Spain going head to head for the cup. Follow the best of the action, photos and pre-match buildup here. Want to have your say? Contact (at)phillipsian and (at)simonhaydon via Twitter. All times are Ukrainian.
2123: Spain’s intricate passing game is being loudly booed _ either by anxious Italian fans or Ukrainians who don’t appreciate the subtlety. But the Spanish are gradually dominating possession as they have in previous games. But don’t forget it takes just one goal to change everything. 35 mins gone.
2214: The midfield is packed with bodies but both teams are managing to break away with piercing attacks. Spain having the better chances but Casillas just gets fingertips to a cross to prevent Balotelli from adding another to his tally.
2210: Giorgio Chiellini is coming off for Italy. Looks as though it’s a hamstring injury. Balzaretti comes on. That’s going to seriously affect Italy. Chiellini is Pirlo’s favorite target as an attacking wing back. Not so sure how ambitious Balzaretti will be.
2205: Italy straight onto the attack after Spain’s opening goal. A Pirlo corner is flicked on but Sergio Ramos gets a head to it to clear for a second corner, which is punched clear by Casillas. The game is opening up nicely.
2203: It’s a lovely flowing move from Spain after they’d threatened for a few minutes. Iniesta releases Fabregas with an inch-perfect pass down the right. Fabregas, squeezed by a defender, still manages a perfect pass back to Silva, who heads in from 10 yards into the roof of the net. Fourteen minutes gone here. Let’s hope the Spanish continue this attacking display.
2152: Ramos has his eye on Balotelli here _ and an arm. A cross comes over and the Spanish defender annoys Balotelli during a physical aerial challenge. A good open start to the final, with both teams attacking. If they play without the handbrake on, this could be a great game.
2142: Buffon’s a great goalkeeper, but a singer? Eyes closed, roaring out the words of the national anthem again. Can’t accuse him of lacking passion, could do with some tone practice, though.
2055: Cesc Fabregas will lead Spain’s attack, with recognized strikers Fernando Torres and Alvaro Negredo starting on the bench. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli makes just one change from the semifinal win over Germany, with right back Ignazio Abate returning from injury to replace Federico Balzaretti. Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano will lead Italy’s attack in front of Andrea Pirlo.
2050: And here are the lineups:
2015: About 90 minutes until kickoff. Both teams have left their hotel in purple UEFA coaches and are approaching the stadium. The Italians almost had to turn back. As the doors closed, one squad member came running out of his hotel!
2010: In Rome, thousands of fans are gathering around giant screens in the Circus Maximus where temperatures soared to 100F (38C). For one fan, mindful of the state of the nation’s economy and general European slump, it’s payback time: “They are paid very well, so they should give us who are watching some satisfaction,” said Rossana Marrucci.
1915: In an era when many sports struggle to maintain ratings, U.S. viewership of international football is increasing at a startling rate. The two Euro 2012 semifinals averaged 1.91 million viewers, a 46 percent increase from 1.31 million four years ago. With both semis starting at 2:45 p.m. EDT, Spain’s penalty kicks victory over Portugal was seen by 1.95 million on Wednesday, and Italy’s 2-0 upset win over Germany was viewed by 1.85 million the following day. ESPN said the semis averaged 576,000 additional viewers on computers, smart phones, tablets and Xbox. The first 31 matches averaged 1.2 million viewers on ESPN’s networks, up 61 percent from 2008.
1645: Five hours until kickoff at the Olympic Stadium _ and the outcome is so hard to predict. Can Italy’s Andrea Pirlo continue to shine even in the company of Spain’s Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso? Will it be showman Mario Balotelli’s night? Or another headline-grabbing night for Cesc Fabregas whose penalty got Spain into the final and also won the 2008 European Championship final? Of course it could come down to nerve-wracking penalties _ with two of the world’s very best goalkeepers, Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, emerging the hero.
1630: Will Spain throw off the shackles and attack more tonight? They beat Portugal on penalties in the semifinals after a 0-0 draw. Their 2-0 victory over France in the quarterfinals included a penalty and a 1-0 win over Croatia in the final group match needed an 88th minute winner from Jesus Navas. That’s just two goals from open play in 300 minutes of football. The coach has mostly opted for starting lineups without a recognized striker, hoping one of the midfielders will ghost into attacking positions and score. That’s risky _ especially gainst Italy which over the years has traditionally been a hard team to break down.
1615: Among tonight’s guests could be Belarus’ authoritarian president Aleksander Lukashenko. EU leaders are boycotting Sunday’s match over the jailing of former Ukraine premier Yulia Tymoshenko.
1600: So far, 72 goals have been scored and here are AP’s John Leicester top five contenders. Still time, though, for another entry or two tonight. Want your say? Contact us via Twitter:
DANNY WELBECK vs. Sweden: Brilliant for its cunning and exquisite timing.
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC vs. France: An acrobatic kick Bruce Lee would have been proud of.
DAVID SILVA vs. Ireland: He passed it into the back of the net _ past one defender, through the legs of two others, and beyond ‘keeper Shay Given.
ANDREA PIRLO vs. England: The height of cool, chipping a penalty over the ‘keeper _ Panenka-style.
By David A. Clarke Jr.
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