A late header by Tottenham Hotspur transer-target Paulinho put Brazil into the Confederations Cup final and cemented a 2-1 victory over rival Uruguay Wednesday. An all-Euro battle between tiki taka master Spain and catenaccio-styled Italy takes place Thursday to see who faces the Brazilians.
Spain and Brazil are dead-even at +100 to win the Confederations Cup outright. The Italians are off in the distance currently sitting at +1200.
Spain v Italy (-250, +375, +600)
Game time: 3 p.m. ET
Not a whole lot needs to be said about the Spanish. They set the record for consecutive competitive matches without a defeat (28) following their 3-0 win over the Nigerians. It certainly is a golden era in Spanish football. A once maligned and underachieving national team, now they just seem to win trophies like it's going out of style. And speaking of style, the Spanish lead the tournament in possession (per normal) at 68.9 percent. They pelt the opposition with 22.3 shots per game and pass the ball at an absurd rate of 92 percent accuracy. And some think they haven't even hit their stride. Sheesh. The Italians, on the other hand, are not faring up to their own standard. The Azzurri were throttled 4-2 by the Brazilians in the final match of the group stage and are wrecked with injury. Striker Mario Balotelli and left back Ignazio Abate are both out. Midfielder Riccardo Montolivo is doubtful and rumors are circulating that manager Cesare Prandelli may need to switch to a 3-5-2 as a result. Mind you, the Italians played in that formation at times in Euro 2012 and played some of their best football in years. Basically, midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi must capture the form they had in the 2012 tourney if Italy has any chance here.
* The two sides played twice at the aforementioned Euro 2012 tournament. The nations drew 1-1 in the first match and eventually met in the final. Spain dominated said final to the tune of an easy 4-0 victory.
* The Italians last defeated Spain in a 2011 friendly by a score of 2-1. Midfielder Alberto Aquilani, who will probably feature in the starting 11 Thursday, scored the winning goal.