On the first day of July 2012, Europeans—and much of the world—will be tuned into a match being held at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine; a simple match between two sides which will determine the UEFA Euro 2012 Champion! Spain’s nail-biting semi-final win—via penalties—over Portugal saw them through against Italy, who managed a rather significant upset victory 2-1 over tournament favorite Germany. Here at STAT BOX STORIES, we got Spain correct but missed on Italy; will today’s result in the UEFA Euro 2012 game mode of EA SPORTS FIFA 12 prove correct? Read on to find out!
Since I played as Spain and Germany in the semi-final round for the playthroughs here at STAT BOX STORIES—for reasons clarified in those respective entries here at the site—I elected to again lace up as the Spanish national team as they attempt to win back-to-back European Championships.
As can often be the case in championship games, the first half of this showdown between Spain and Italy was spent without very much in the way of risk-taking. Each side managed a few shots—most of which were hopeful and fired off to the sides of the goal—but there was nothing in the way of solid scoring chances. The only action which got entered into the match record was a 31st minute yellow card for Italy’s Andrea Barzagli after a dangerous tackle. With 45 minutes in the books at halftime, the score remained even at 0-0 and fans had to be questioning whether or not this match was destined to be decided by penalties.
It only took eight minutes of play in the second half, however, for that thought to be mostly forgotten. Fernando Torres received a pass from Xavi in the Italian box and squared up for a shot on net. Though his strike was deflected by a defender, the resulting knuckleball crossed up goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and his only chance to attempt the save was a desperate punch. With the ball loose close to the goal, Italy’s defense proved unable to clear the rebound before Xavi collected possession and tucked the ball behind Buffon for the game’s first goal and a one-goal advantage early in the half.
With the taste of victory tempting me, I made the poor decision to begin “turtling” play, electing to maintain possession and try to run as much clock as I could via simple passes, with few forays into the offensive half of the field to risk turning possession away. The desperate Italian side began to step up their play, introducing the first of three substitutes in the 67th minute and securing a dangerous attempt on goal from Antonio Cassano which forced Spanish keeper Iker Casillas off his line for the save attempt.
Scoring opportunities continued to be strongly in favor of the Italian side as time continued to approach the 90th minute, with Ignazio Abate finding himself the target of a wide open pass and a brilliant opening for a scoring chance. Much like the Cassano opportunity, however, Casillas was up to the challenge and able to clear the ball away to preserve the Spanish advantage.
Unfortunately for Italy and their fans, that was as close as the Azurri would get for the rest of the game. Spain’s 1-0 advantage held up as the final whistle was blown, and they once again found themselves raising the championship trophy as the top side in Europe.
Spain held a clear advantage in shots and shots on goal, but the numbers do not account for how much pressure the Italians were able to put on in the offensive half as the game drew nearer its conclusion. There was a slight edge in possession to Spain, but Italy were the more aggressive side with regard to tackling. Neither side had a good day in terms of shooting accuracy, with Italy only registering a single official shot on target despite numerous opportunities.
As in the match between Germany and Italy here at STAT BOX STORIES, Gianluigi Buffon took home Man of the Match honors for his 6 saves in net in a losing effort. If not for his solid performance, the Italians could well have won the championship; the game likely would have gone to Extra Time—and eventually penalties—had his defense been better positioned to clear the Torres rebound. His counterpart Iker Casillas—despite only facing one official shot—got credit for 5 saves as he got in the way of clearing passes and came off his line to prevent shots on multiple occasions, proving to be one of Spain’s most valuable pieces aside from goal scorer Xavi.
The beginning of July brings to a close another “special edition” of entries here at STAT BOX STORIES. With the impending launch of NCAA Football 13 on July 10th, 2012, you’ll want to be sure to come back as entries using the new edition of EA SPORTS college football franchise begin!