The bandwagons promise to be filled to capacity on Sunday (2:45 p.m., ESPN) as Spain takes on Italy in the Euro 2012 final at Kiev Olympic Stadium in Ukraine. It's a juicy matchup pitting the national team that everybody outside the North End loves to hate (Italy) against the team that most hardcore soccer fans adore (Spain).
It is the culmination of a three week tournament held in Poland and Ukraine that occurs every four years. This has been an exciting event, culminating in Spain's 4-2 penalty kick shootout win over Portugal on Wednesday in the semifinals and Italy's surprising 2-1 victory vs. Germany on Thursday. Adding to the stakes, the Spanish try to become the first team to win three major titles in a row while Italy is no stranger to important games .
The most ironic part is that the two nations were pitted in Group C together, meaning that they have already played (1-1 tie on June 8 in Poland) in their first respective match of the tournament. Neither team has suffered a defeat yet as Spain went 2-1-0 in group play before beating France 2-0 in the quarterfinals. Italy had to scrape a bit more as they went 1-2-0 in group play then outlasted England 4-2 in penalty kicks during the quarterfinals.
Spain doesn't have a marquee goal-scorer since Fernando Torres is a shell of his former self and David Villa has been out the whole way with an injury. Rather, they win by dominating possession and stringing together passing sequences that seem to last for hours at a time.
Italy's run has been unexpected but they possess one of the most dangerous yet unpredictable strikers in the world - Mario Balotelli- who is soccer's answer to Ron Artest. He scored both goals against Germany and he has three for the tournament. Midfielder Andrea Pirlo has more than just the best hair in sports, he can pinpoint passes and free kicks as well as anybody. At 34-years-old, Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is still regarded as the best and he proved it with a couple vital saves against the Germans.