Spain v Italy, KO: 19:45, Live on BBC1 & ITV1, Match Odds: Spain 2.245/4, Italy 3.953/1, The Draw 3.259/4
For those of us who thought that Italy were in serious danger of going out in the Group Stage of Euro 2012, watching their progress to the final has been something of a surprise.
I'm delighted to see Andrea Pirlo's brilliance finally recognised on an international stage, and the question that we must now ask ourselves is whether the Italians can find the strength to beat the World and European Champions.
Italy are 3.953/1 to win the final in normal time, with Spain trading at 2.245/4, and given the fact that the two teams have already drawn at this tournament, that result in the final has to be interesting at 3.259/4.
It's rare that we can approach a game of such magnitude with an obvious recent form guide, and so that 1-1 draw in the Group Stage should be our starting point.
Italy surprised Spain with their positive approach, and took the lead early in the second half, only to relinquish it moments later. If Spain had been able to field the Fernando Torres of three years ago, they would have won it towards the end, but their ability to get in behind the Italian back three proved fruitless and they had to settle for the draw.
Since then, Italy have changed their defensive system, and Spain's safety first approach has become even more evident. Before having a bet on the final, make sure that you read Michael Cox's tactical analysis of that first match. The Italian system may have changed, but it provides us with plenty of key information .
Don't fall into the trap of expecting exactly the same scoreline here, though. This is the fourth time that teams have met at the Group Stage AND the final of a European Championship, and on the three previous occasions, the matches had different scorelines, and only Greece and Portugal in Euro 2004 provided the same result. Much can change over the course of a tournament, and it's Italy's development that makes this final intriguing.
One of the most interesting things about that first encounter was just how open it proved to be, and so I don't think that Under 2.5 Goals is necessarily the shoo-in that many seem to think. The stats all point to the "unders" in this match. The last seven finals of the European Championship have all been under that mark, and, of the six knockout matches at this tournament, only the two games involving Germany have gone over 2.5.
All of that doesn't mean, however, that there is any value in backing Under 2.5 Goals at 1.491/2. In fact, the 3.02/1 about their being three goals or more, unlikely though it may seem, probably has to count as value. After all, the two most recent matches between these sides have finished 2-1 and 1-1. Over 1.5 Goals is currently trading at 1.654/6, and I think that it will be worth letting that price lengthen to odds against and getting involved, in the expectation that the game will open up after a cagey start.
Remember that a European Championship final has NEVER finished 0-0, and although that might seem a probable scoreline here, the quality on the pitch is more likely to produce at least one goal than not. The other way of playing this is to back the 2nd half in the "half with most goals" market, and you can do that at 2.35/4.
In general, the value to be had in these major tournaments is down to the edge that you can get in the Group Stage, in knowing more than the next person due to diligent research. That approach has produced a great return from my betting.betfair.com colleague James Eastham, and would have led you to success in supporting factors like Portuguese corners and goals in games involving Sweden.
By the time of the knockout stages, however, most of that edge has gone, and the tournament is there to be enjoyed, rather than punted on. That's certainly true of a final which is tricky to call, as any tips come down to instinct and opinion, rather than a feeling that you have an edge. So, with advice to go cautiously, here is that opinion.
I see a cagey start to a fascinating tactical game, one which is a lot closer than the prices would suggest. Spain's defensive record is impressive, but Italy have proved that they can find a way to break them down, and there's no reason to think that they won't do so again. It might be asking for too much to expect three goals in the match, but "Both teams to score" is a very real option for us, and is attractively priced at 2.3611/8.
I would advise getting involved in that Over 1.5 Goals market once the price has reached the 2.35/4 mark, and also invest in the second half being the one with the most goals at 2.35/4.
Italy will interest some in a Corners Match Bet at 4.57/2, but after they lost their semi final by 14 corners to nil I'll leave well alone. I will, though, be backing the excellent and slightly underrated Andres Iniesta to score at any time at 5.59/2. No one has had more shots at the tournament without scoring, and that record has to change soon.
Best Bet: Back 2nd Half to have most goals @ 2.35/4
Recommended Bet:Back Both Teams to Score @ 2.3611/8