Italy coach Cesare Prandelli says his team must not allow Spain to settle into the passing rhythm that has it on the verge of making soccer history.
Italy and Spain meet tonight in the European Championship final in Kiev. A victory for the Spanish means Vicente Del Bosque’s reigning world champions retained the continental title they won in 2008, something that’s not happened before.
Prandelli told a news conference yesterday at the Olympic Stadium that Italy will press high up the field to disrupt Spain’s so-called Tiki-Taka style that has seen it top the possession charts. The Spanish have averaged 60 percent of possession in their five tournament games and completed 4,222 passes. Italy ranks third with 3,311 passes and has had 52 percent of the ball.
“In terms of our tactical approach, I really hope we can be positive and take the game to them,” Prandelli said just hours after his team arrived in Ukraine from Warsaw, where it shocked favorite Germany 2-1 to make the final. “Our first aim will be to shut down space to win the ball back. For us, what’s important is to try and remain very focused on our target. Our aim is to close the space particularly in central midfield.”
Led by Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso, Spain has seven of the competition’s top ten passers. Andrea Pirlo, ranked third, is the only Italian in that group.
Italy midfielder Claudio Marchisio said the interaction among Spain’s players resembles musicians who know which notes each other will play.
“They’re so harmonious with the ball,” Marchisio said in an interview after his team’s final training session. “They have these short quick bursts of passing and can suddenly appear in attack so we have to be very attentive when they start moving the ball around.”
Spain started its current run of success at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, where it needed penalties to overcome Italy in the quarterfinal on the way to a final victory over Germany.
It took the same shootout route to tonight’s game after a 0-0 semifinal draw with Portugal and has faced criticism that its style of keeping the ball for long periods without creating chances is boring.
“It’s not a case of them being boring,” said Prandelli. “It’s a fear of seeing the same side always winning. Spain always seems to come out on top, so they’re not boring in any shape or form.”
The teams met in their opening Euro 2012 group game, when Spain came from behind for a 1-1 draw. Prandelli picked three central defenders in that match, but said he won’t be doing the same after playing four defenders in subsequent games.
“Over the last few games we’ve had a lot of balance in the side,” he said. “But what we have understood is that, over the course of a game, we can switch to that system.”