A year ago at EURO 2012, Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final. On Tuesday, while not at the senior level, although they could meet up in the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup, Italy and Spain will play in another final of a continental tournament as they face off in the UEFA U-21 Tournament Final.
Both teams made it to the final without a loss along the way. Italy finished first in their group having defeated England 1-0, hosts Israel 4-0 and drawing 1-1 against Norway. They defeated the Netherlands 1-0 with a late goal from Liverpool forward Fabio Borini to secure passage.
As for Spain, it won all three of it’s group stage games as it defeated Russia and Germany 1-0, and beat the Netherlands 3-0. In their semifinal match, Spain defeated Norway 3-0. In the final, Spain will be trying to repeat as tournament champions and continue the run of winning tournaments.
While both defenses have been solid and up to the task, the strength of these two teams lies in their attacking players, whom have impressed and delivered in each game. For Italy, it all starts with their U-21 version of Andrea Pirlo in Marco Verratti. Playing in that Pirlo deep playmaking position in the midfield, Verratti has done a wonderful job of starting attacks, knowing when to speed up or slow down the game, and serving as a quiet leader on the field for the Azzurrini.
Aside from Verratti, others that have impressed are Lorenzo Insigne and Alessandro Florenzi. After having impressed with a breakout 2012-13 season with Napoli, Insigne has continued to dazzle and open eyes with his daring runs into the box, his link up play with the forwards and his passing. As for Lorenzi, he too like Insigne has impressed with his link up play with the forwards, and has done a wonderful job in working and partnering with Verratti in the middle to control the game for the Azzurrini.
For Spain, they have a plethora of individuals who have stood out in their performances. As previously mentioned, Thiago Alcantara has done exceptionally well in serving as the engine for this side. His play has allowed Spain to be able to play the type of game that it has gotten accustomed to playing here in recent time.
In addition to Thiago Alcantara, Isco has also done a wonderful job on the left side of the midfield. His play has dazzled and has served to show why he is highly sought after by Manchester City and Real Madrid.
Speaking of Real Madrid, forward Alvaro Morata has also impressed by being the a bit of a super substitute. Morata has scored a goal in each of Spain’s four games, scoring the game winner coming on as a substitute against Russia and Germany. His play has prompted many to ask why he didn’t get more playing time under Jose Mourinho and why would Real Madrid entertain about bringing in a forward with Morata showing he is a capable front man.
Two teams that have shown a willingness to attack means that on paper it should be an entertaining game in what has been a showcase of future stars for the respective national teams of Italy and Spain.