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Italy's coach Cesare Prandelli (PETER ANDREWS/REUTERS)
Italy's coach Cesare Prandelli (PETER ANDREWS/REUTERS)

Del Bosque and Prandelli plot path to glory Add to ...

Composed, thoughtful and smartly dressed, it is unlikely Vicente Del Bosque or Cesare Prandelli will indulge in touchline histrionics when Spain face Italy in the Euro 2012 final on Sunday.

For Del Bosque, the Kiev final is just another chapter in Spain’s domination of world soccer since they were crowned European champions in 2008, and then became world champions two years later.

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For Prandelli, another meeting with the holders, three weeks after they drew 1-1 in their opening group stage game, is reward for the impressive rebuilding job he was tasked with after Italy’s embarrassing flop at the 2010 World Cup.

Nothing has changed much about Spain, or Del Bosque, in his four-year tenure as coach. The 61-year-old from Salamanca commands the same quiet understated authority as when he first put on his Spanish blazer, and his walrus-like silver moustache still sports an impressive thickness.

The man at the helm of the Galactico era at Real Madrid, winning two Champions League finals and successfully massaging the egos of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Brazil striker Ronaldo, has had little trouble commanding respect.

His commitment to Spain’s ruthlessly-effective ‘Tiki Taka’ game of pass and move, has never wavered.

“All I want is for us to show the style of football we are so passionate about and try to make history by winning,” Del Bosque said after the semi-final shootout win over Portugal.

“Already we’ve achieved something for everyone to be proud of and should we make history in the final then that would be even more the case.”

While Spain have seemingly not missed the presence of shaggy-haired defender Carles Puyol, robbed of appearing at the tournament by injury, Del Bosque still seems undecided on the best way to line up without record scorer David Villa.

Had Villa been fit and not missed the tournament through injury after failing to recover from a broken leg in time, there is no doubt Del Bosque would have automatically selected a recognised frontman.

As it is, he has wavered between fielding a six-man midfield and no striker, as he did against Italy in Gdansk on June 10, or starting with Fernando Torres or, surprisingly, Alvaro Negredo who failed to make an impact and was taken off against Portugal.

His lack of faith in Torres is clear, with the Chelsea striker having made just two starts in Spain’s five games.

Italy coach Prandelli will have no such selection dilemmas after a vintage display from frontmen Antonio Cassano and two-goal Mario Balotelli in the 2-1 semi-final win over Germany on Thursday.

The 54-year-old, twice Italian coach of the year, has moulded Italy into a force to be reckoned with again following their dismal 2010 World Cup group stage exit when they drew with Paraguay and New Zealand before losing to Slovakia.

Prandelli was given the task of “overhauling the entire structure of the national teams” when appointed weeks after their return home from South Africa, and he has yet to taste defeat in a competitive fixture.

The statistics make for odd reading. There is no doubt that Prandelli’s Italy take a more adventurous approach than Azzurri sides of old, yet defensively they are as solid as ever.

Italy went through Euro qualifying unbeaten, winning eight of 10 matches, and scoring 20 goals, but also finished with the best defensive record across the nine groups, conceding just twice.

While their tournament preparations were off-colour with three successive friendly defeats and a match-fixing scandal back home, Italy have displayed pride and passion in abundance at Euro 2012.

Prandelli must now plot a way to stop Spain equalling Germany’s record of three European titles. The fact that Spain have met Italy seven times before in major tournaments and never managed an outright win give him, and his impressive team, the chance to dream.

 

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