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Dec 12, 2012 7:51pm
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KIEV, Ukraine—And so they meet again at Euro 2012. Matt Schaub Womens Jersey . This time,
however, Spain and Italy are playing for the European Championship and a place
in the history books. The Mediterranean rivals meet on Sunday in Kyivs Olympic
Stadium, three weeks after they drew 1-1 in their opening match of the
tournaments group stage. As the defending champion and World Cup holder, Spain
is bidding to win a third straight major title and to cement its place as one of
the greatest national sides of all time. It would also match Germanys record of
winning three European Championship titles. Only the unpredictable Mario
Balotelli and a surprising Italy team—orchestrated by Andrea Pirlo—stand
between Spain and what many see as its destiny. Even Italy coach Cesare
Prandelli reckons that Spain is the best bet to lift the trophy. “At the moment,
even if I open my eyes, I am still dreaming,” Prandelli said after his sides 2-1
victory over Germany in the semifinals, where Balotelli scored both goals.
However, he added that “Spain remain favourites because of the years of hard
work that they have put in. They have been dominant in every game theyve played
so far.” Spain hasnt lost in a European Championship game in eight years and has
already matched West Germany as the only defending champion to return to the
final after winning the World Cup. The West Germans managed it in 1976, but
subsequently lost to Czechoslovakia following Antonin Panenkas famous chip shot
in a penalty shootout. This final brings together teams with players who are
brazen enough to have successfully copied Panenkas audacious spot kick during
their sides penalty shootouts in the knockout rounds. Spain defender Sergio
Ramos used it in the semifinal win over Portugal, after Pirlo employed it
against England in the quarterfinals. It also features the tournaments best
defensive team against one of its most exciting attacking sides. Spain has not
conceded since that opening draw with Italy and hasnt conceded a goal in nine
elimination games at major tournaments. Balotelli, Antonio Cassano and Pirlo are
meanwhile leading one of Italys most attack-minded teams in recent history. “We
always just tried to play, I think that is our strength,” said Prandelli, whose
team is bidding to give Italy its second European title, the same number as
Spain and France. “When we started off at this tournament, we were convinced
that by working in a certain way we could become a proper team—not just a
quality team, but also a team with the right spirit.” Though Balotellis
selection had been in doubt due to troubles both on and off the pitch at
Manchester City, the 21-year-old Italian of Ghanaian descent has now scored
three times at Euro 2012. “I waited a long time for this moment, especially
because my mother came all the way here and I wanted to make her happy,” he said
after the victory over Germany. “This is the greatest evening of my life, but I
hope Sunday will be even better,” said the striker, who has a chance to finish
as the tournaments top scorer with one more goal. “For the final my father is
coming, too,” he added. “So I hope to score…” Along with their players, the
Azzurri also have an encouraging statistic on their side ahead of Sundays final.
Spain hasnt beaten Italy in a competitive match that didnt end in penalties
since 1920. Spains attack has featured a rotating cast of forwards, with
attacking midfielder Cesc Fabregas usually being preferred to striker Fernando
Torres. On Sunday, coach Vicente del Bosque is likely to repeat the 4-6-0
formation he first deployed against Italy on June 10. Substitutes Pedro
Rodriguez and Jesus Navas have had impressive tournaments, and Del Bosque
certainly values the contribution of players who dont feel slighted by being on
the bench. “When you send out a substitute who is upset it always makes things
more difficult. When you send out a player who is happy and ready to play one
minute if thats whats needed, that is very important,” said Del Bosque, who can
match West Germanys Helmut Schoen as the only coaches to have won a European
Championship and a World Cup. Del Bosque admitted that Portugal had not only
made Spain look sloppy for over an hour, but had taken his players “to the
limit.” However, his teams extra day of rest compared to the Azzurri will help
with preparations, while Italy is keeping an eye on any injury problems after
Balotelli came off in the second half against Germany due to cramp. “Were proud
of what we are doing and of course we hope to achieve what no one else has done
before,” Del Bosque said, before touching on what victory would mean with an
economic crisis back home. “It would be good for everyone, for Spanish football
and for our country.” Owen Daniels Jersey . —Kevin Tucker fired a
3-under-par 69 Tuesday to take the early lead at the Canadian Tours California
Q-School Tucker, who was a Canadian Tour member in 2011, managed to successfully
navigate the 7,200-yard course at The Country Club at Soboba Springs despite
windy conditions. Brian Cushing Womens Jersey . Both players
sat out practice all week and the Browns downgraded them on their final injury
report Saturday before facing the defending Super Bowl champions. Greg Little
and rookie Josh Gordon will likely start Sunday, with Jordan Norwood working as
the slot receiver. http://www.houstontexansfansprostore.com/wade-smith-jersey
. After criticizing Clevelands fans for failing to support the first-place
Indians, Perez wasnt sure what to expect when he came in for the ninth inning
with another game on the line. Andre Johnson Elite Jersey . Power was deeply
in debt eight years ago, certain he was headed home to Australia to join the
family business because he couldnt afford to continue chasing his racing dreams.
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Athletics hardly needed any additional motivation for this key September series
with playoff implications.PARIS—Daniel Nestor will be competing in the mens
doubles tennis event at this summers London Olympics with Vancouvers Vasek
Pospisil. There had been speculation about whether his partner would be Pospisil
or Canadas top-ranking singles player, Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont. The
decision hasnt been officially announced but a source says it was made several
weeks ago and Raonic has been informed. A significant reason for choosing
Pospisil over Raonic was that the latter will be competing in the singles event
and might not be able to give as strong a commitment to doubles as Pospisil.
Pospisil partnered with Nestor for two victories in Davis Cup in 2011. They
defeated an unheralded Ecuadorian pair in Guayquil in July and then won
impressively over the experienced team of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram of Israel
in a match played near Tel Aviv last September. That fouur-set win helped vault
Canada into the World Group level of the competition in 2012. J.J. Watt Jersey. Raonic has played with
Nestor on two previous occasions in Davis Cup, winning over Juan Sebastian Cabal
and Alejandro Falla in Colombia in 2010 and then losing this past February in
Vancouver to Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra of France. Nestor currently
ranks No. 1 in the ATP individual doubles rankings along with his partner Max
Mirnyi of Belarus. As a top-10 player he has the right, under Olympic tennis
competition rules, to select any player from his country who is in good standing
with the International Tennis Federation. Pospisil is No. 203 in the doubles
rankings while Raonic, currently No. 22 in singles, is No. 262. The Olympic
doubles event runs from July 28 to Aug. 4 and will be held on the grass courts
at the All England Club in Wimbledon. ’ ’ ’