Fan's take on Euro 2012 finals: A sure-fire showdown
NYALA, Sudan - So the final game of the Euro 2012 shall be Spain vs. Italy.
A Latino derby between two football-intoxicated nations facing otherwise a painful economic situation at home. Surely, the performance of their national teams will at least have restored some pride among Spaniards and Italians facing mass unemployment and dull economic times.
Spain emerged as winner of its semi-final against Portugal in a monotonous match between two teams able to disturb the game plan of their opponent but rarely able to set up offensive actions to score.
On Wednesday evening, June 27, Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal's talisman, had a bad night, and was unable to repeat the performance of his previous two games when he lifted his team to victory. He sadly squandered the few opportunities to score he got during the game.
This unpredictability, this human fragility is part of what makes football such a unique sport. Talent, repeated tactical and scientific practice can never fully eliminate hazardous emotions or human mistakes.
All these factors are part of the unrivaled beauty of the sport.
After a long and at times sterile battle, the match ended with a 0:0 draw after extra-time and had to be settled via penalty shootout. In such moments, it greatly helps to have a strong experienced goalkeeper.
Great goalkeepers have the capacity to make saves when it really counts, and their reputation puts additional pressure on the penalty shooter facing them.
Spain has just this. A great goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, who also plays for Real Madrid. Fans have bestowed on him the nickname San Iker, given his repeated capacity over the years to do fantastic saves when it matters even when he is having an average game.
And during the semfinal, Casillas was able to pull off yet another miracle.
Spain reached its third successive final in three major soccer tournaments in a row. Spain can possibly win an unprecendented triple crown in three successive major tournaments, something never achieved in the past -- not even by Brazil or Germany in their best times.
We shall see on Sunday evening, July 1, how Spanish players will face history and pressure.
Spain will meet a resurrected Italy, a team reconstructed from ground zero two years ago after a miserable 2010 World Cup, a team severely shaken a few weeks ago by the latest corruption scandal hitting Italian football, including some players from the national team.
Possibly these bad moments have brought the Italian team together, including an enigmatic outsider like Mario Balotelli.
This newly forged solidarity has brought a kind of rage and intensity to the talents of the Italian squad, that makes it extremely difficult to counter.
In the semi-final against Germany, the "Maestro" Pirlo had another great game as playmaker. Balotelli scored twice, exposing German defensive weaknesses. Later, the Italian defense marshalled by an impressive Buffon did the perfect Italian job, annihilating the German attempts to get back into the game and sending Italy to Kiev for the Euro 2012 final against Spain.
Watching Balotelli score his two goals was the perfect demonstration of the extraordinary Italian determination.
His first goal was a header after a remarkable effort of Antonio Cassano, a teammate who had gone through heart surgery less than a year ago. For his second goal of the night, Balotelli shot a missile in the upper left side corner of Germany's goal and celebrate his goal in a stunning way with the exhibition of his pectoral muscles.
This Italian team has emotional qualities that provide great joy to fans, me included. At the end of the game, I loved watching Balotelli hug his mother in the crowd or Cassano salute the fans carrying his little boy in his arms.
A beautiful conclusion for a beautiful evening.
We look forward to this final opposing two great technical and tactical teams with talents on both sides, Casillas vs. Buffon or Iniesta vs. Pirlo. Hopefully, the pressure of the event will leave enough space for attacking football on Sunday evening. (Click here for Rappler's match prediction). - Rappler.com
Christoph Sutter is a big fan of sports and the Philippines, where he has lived and worked for several years. Posted now in another country, he has continued to keep regular ties with the Philippines and its people. His passion for football is one way to keep in touch and share moments of emotion with friends and Filipinos.