|From left to right: Spanish defender Jordi Alba, Spanish forward Pedro Rodriguez, Spanish defender Sergio Ramos, Spanish midfielder Jesus Navas, Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta, Spanish defender Alvaro Arbeloa, Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, Spanish defender Gerard Pique and Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso gather for the penelty shoot out during the Euro 2012 football championships semi-final match Portugal vs Spain on June 27, 2012 at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk. (AFP PHOTO / DAMIEN MEYER)
Five things Spain needs to do to beat Italy in the Euro 2012 final Sunday.
1. Force Italy to open up in the middle.
The Spanish forwards and midfielders must make diagonal runs into the Italian defence to open up space, otherwise all Spain will be able to do is pass the ball around the perimeter. Unless Spain penetrates, it will be difficult to score on Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
2. Get in Balotelli's face.
Balotelli is a dangerous man for Spain ... but also for Italy. If he blows a gasket, who knows what might happen? If the Spanish defence can somehow get him focusing on things other than the soccer ball, it creates a big hole in the Italian attack.
3. Do something about Pirlo.
Every team Italy has played knows Pirlo runs the team, yet no one has stopped him. Spain has a reputation for having the best midfield in the world. It's time to show it again. The Spanish can stop Pirlo two ways -- pressure him continually or keep the ball so he doesn't have it.
It seems silly to say that but this game is not going to go to penalties at 0-0. Spain cannot survive the way it played against Portugal and then win on penalties. Italy won't miss if it is given all the opportunities Portugal had to win it in regulation time.
5. Consider starting a striker.
That means starting a real striker, not someone merely filling the position to distract the Italians. If you don't like Fernando Torres, try Pedro or someone else. It's the one thing Italy is probably not expecting.