Euro 2012 final build-up – live!
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12.04pm: Remarkable story from The Times of Israel about Mario Balotelli’s Jewish ‘heritage’
People have no idea how hard football is, absolutely no idea. It’s all about pace.
Daniel Taylor preview’s tonight’s game, when Spain will look to pass their way into history…
Euro 2012 has been a success in many ways but is still waiting for its f irst classic match in the knockout stages. If a good tournament wants to be remembered as a great one a lot depends on what happens in the Olympic Stadium here on Sunday and whether the two finalists can conjure up the occasion the competition probably deserves.
Spain against Italy certainly has the potential after what the two teams served up, as a kind of appetiser, when they had a first look at one another during the group stages in Gdansk three weeks ago. Spain demonstrated that night, as they have before and since, that they will almost certainly dominate the possession, but there are legitimate reasons for Italy to deduce that the holders can be at least vaguely susceptible to the right combination of smothering tactics and quick, incisive attacking.
11.19am: Who thinks Spain are boring? Have a read of this if you are in that camp
11.03am: Will Mario Balotelli be taking his shirt off tonight? Here’s a replica celebration from Ken Tokura in Japan, doesn’t quite have the same physique does he? Thanks to Ben Newman for that.
10.54am: The big question you must all ask yourself as we head towards the 7.45pm kick-off: ITV or BBC?
10.37am: Here’s the full story on Seedorf, who looks destined never to grace the Premier League
10.28am: I suppose there is no better way to kick things off than with some unrelated transfer news … Clarence Seedorf has joined Brazil ian club Botafogo on a two-year deal, West Ham have signed George McCartney and Fulham striker Orlando Sa has left by mutual consent
10.19am: Morning all, hope we are all ready for nine hours of thrilling build-up ahead of tonight’s finale, I know I’m raring to go…
James wil be here shortly with all the latest build-up and new before the Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy.
In the meantime, here’s Scott Murray on six great European Championship finals.
1) USSR 2-1 Yugoslavia (1960)
The infant European Nations Cup was all about the Soviets. They flew out of the blocks in the very first qualification game, Anatoli Ilyin scoring after four minutes against Hungary in front of a 100,000-plus crowd in Moscow’s fancy new Central Stadium, and never looked back. They were 3-0 up by the 32nd minute, eventually winning the game 3-1. For the second leg in Budapes t, Hungary brought back a couple of superannuated Magical Magyars in Gyula Grosics and József Bozsik, and a young star-to-be in Florian Albert, but the Soviets were still too good, and registered a 1-0 win.
In the quarters, Spain’s right-wing dictator General Franco claimed full marks for irony, rolling out the red carpet to allow the USSR to saunter straight through to the semis. Whereupon an impressive Czechoslovakian side starring Josef Masopust were dispatched 3-0 in a sweltering Marseille, a lopsided result in which the Russian keeper Lev Yashin was reportedly his side’s star man, despite Valentin Ivanov’s two goals.
The final at the Parc des Princes in Paris would not be such a showcase of goalkeeping magnificence. Yugoslavia had the better of the first half, Milan Galic at the heart of everything, switching play this way and that in the middle, swinging in dangerous crosses from the left, and eventually scoring the opener, stooping to head a right-wing cr oss inside the near post on 43 minutes. Yashin, hanging around by the aforementioned upright, should have thrown his cap on it, but didn’t, and rocked back on his heels, punch drunk after the mistake, gaddered on incompetence. Admittedly the legendary keeper otherwise had something of a stormer, superbly saving a couple of Bora Kostic free-kicks, but this was up there with Egon Loy’s standing-around-smoking-a-fag display at the European Cup final a couple of months earlier.
But anything Yashin could do badly, his opposite number Blagoja Vidinic could do worse. Just after the restart, Vidinic spilled a low, hard but ultimately speculative shot from the dangerous Valentin Bubukin. Slava Metreveli was on hand to sweep home the loose ball. The match went into extra time, and with seven minutes to go, Mikheil Meskhi clipped in a cross from the left which Vidinic went walkabout to claim. He got nowhere near it, and Slava Metreveli guided a header back past the lost keeper an d into the top-left corner.
Had the better team prevailed? With Yugoslavia having slipped it around slickly, it’s not clear that they did. But the USSR were a staunch outfit, and having started the ball rolling back in 1959, it was somehow fitting that they were the first team to pick up the Henri Delaunay Trophy. Wearing the greatest kit in the history of football – CCCP proudly across the chest, as bold as the Caucasus mountains – as they did so.