Spain hasn’t conceded a goal since then and has reached the final with the fewest allowed since West Germany won the tournament 40 years ago. Spain’s defense hasn’t been breached in its last nine knockout games.
After Balotelli scored twice in the 2-1 victory over Germany in the semifinals, defender Sergio Ramos said Friday “it would be a lie to say I’m not worried about them, but we are not obsessing over” Italy.
“They are where they are today because of the way they’ve played,” Ramos said. “They really took the game to us, led by two strikers as they looked to hit us on the counter. We can’t start worrying about them, we have to stay calm and stick to our philosophy of play.”
Balotelli’s goals against Germany on Thursday helped the Manchester City striker overcome a poor start to the tournament, which included wasting a glorious opportunity alone in front of goal against Spain. He’s also been the subject of racist chants during the tournament.
“He’s a great player and he showed that again yesterday,” midfielder Cesc Fabregas said. “To score like that in the semifinal against Germany says it all. We have to try and throw him off his game because he is a player who can cause problems.”
The current world champions needed penalties to beat Portugal in the semifinals after the game finished 0-0, despite extra-time. Though Ramos and Fabregas both scored in the shootout, Spain is hoping that its potential place in history is not decided on penalties on Sunday.
With the possibility of winning three straight major championships, it’s no surprise the players are well aware of the stakes.
“The truth is, yes, it is something we think about,” Ramos said. “That’s what we’re playing for on Sunday, it’s something that will never be surpassed as no other national team has managed it before and we have the chance now to do it.
“Whatever happens Sunday, Spain has already made history, but we obviously want to win this European championship again after all the work this team has done. It’s cost us a lot to get where we are, now we have to show our best level against a great team.”
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