Continued from page 4

PaulLogoAP (via Twitter): Spain, Italy players out to inspect the Olympic Stadium turf; Xavi stares down on that grass, is it watered enough?

GDunbarap (via Twitter): How tough is Italy’s task vs Spain? Last player to score past Iker Casillas in a knockout game - Zinedine Zidane, and he retired 6 years ago.

___

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.

___

1900:

jongreenlee (via Twitter): Today history will be made. Spain will win their first meaningful match with Italy in a century. Possesion will win.

cpes100 (via Twitter): Which Balotelli turns up today will influence the result. I go Spain 2 Italy 1 in normal time.

izzy15mercado (via Twitter): The Spanish D will be all over Balotelli making sure he’s very uncomfortable on the pitch. Spain 1 Italy 0.

___

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.

Story Continues →