So loyalty pays off after all! I said a few weeks ago that because Spain had been good to me during the last big tournaments by winning both the 2008 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup, I owed them my loyalty in this yearâ€™s European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, which are coming to an end tomorrow, even though I did not feel they would be repeating the feat.
Five games later, they are in the final again despite not being as vintage as we know they can. Playing a very unorthodox 4-6-0 formation, La Roja, as the Spaniards are called, have confounded the football fraternity with their approach to the game. Suggestions that their possession football is ugly led to boos during their semi-final encounter on Wednesday night.
I do not know what I would be thinking if I were one of Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente, Pedro Rodrigues and Alvaro Negredo seeing that we were called to the squad as strikers and yet we are all sat on the bench while someone who has always been known to be a midfielder is selected ahead of us to play our role. It certainly would not inspire confidence.
Whatever anyone can say about their football, however, Vicente del Bosqueâ€™s men are in the third successive tournament final after a penalty shoot-out win over their Siberian neighbours, Portugal. They finish the tournament just the way they started it â€” a match against Italy who they defeated in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out on the way to their 2008 success.
Not many expected the Azzurri to come this far, given that their semi-final opponents Germany were believed to be the most balanced side in the tournament. They were, in fact, the only side to win all their preceding games despite being put in the proverbial group of death that also had pre-tournament favourites Holland and Portugal. They impressed with their dominant displays
It is quite refreshing to see Italian striker Mario Balotelli making headlines for the right reasons for a change. After an inauspicious start against tomorrowâ€™s opponents when he was taken off having missed one of his sideâ€™s best chances, the Ghanaian-born striker has grown with the tournament and could yet compete with the likes of compatriot Andrea Pirlo when individual honours are ditched out.
Tomorrowâ€™s final promises to be a tight affair if history between the two sides is anything to go by. The two sides ground to a draw in the last European Championships and had to be separated by the lottery of a penalty shoot-out. They also settled for a one-all draw in their first match of this tournament. It would, therefore, not be such a bad idea to prepare for another long night tomorrow.
Before that action, however, our attention will earlier in the day focus on some local action when Blantyreâ€™s football powerhouses, if only in name, Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers lock horns in a league encounter that promises to pack Kamuzu Stadium in. Despite their falling fortunes of the two giants, it is reassuring that the old razmatazz about this fixture is creeping back.
In my days as a secondary school chap some 20 or so years ago, this was the match that you always waited for and in the days building up to the fixture, the excitement was quite palpable. The night before was one of the longest as we looked forward to the game. If Wanderers won, my Bullets friends were sure to have a hell of a time. Kale likati lizibwerera.