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Alba, Balotelli ready to star

A third successive international crown awaits Spain on Sunday as a generation hope to make history.

The list of stars in the Spanish side rolls off the tongue – Fabregas, Alonso, Iniesta, Xavi – but it’s one of their unsung heroes who has helped the side most.

Hailed as a ‘revelation’ than no less than Johann Cruyff, it appears Euro 2012 will be making of Jordi Alba.

Stepping into the boots of Joan Capdevila, veteran of the 2008 and 2010 successes, was never going to be easy.

But since making his debut in October last year, Alba has proved himself a worthy successor.

None more so than in the quarter-final against France, providing the cross for Xabi Alonso’s opener before completing his defensive duties with a calm authority.

If that didn’t give him the confidence he needed heading into the final, Alba completed a move back to Barcelona on Friday.

Whilst they might be labelled as boring this year, conceding just one goal shows the defensive threat the Spaniards will pose Italy on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Golden Boot is within the grasp of Mario Balotelli – just one more goal could see him become the first Italian to lift the golden boot at a European Championship.

He came into the tournament on a high – having helped Manchester City to a first title in 44 years, setting up the last-gasp goal that secured the title.

But it took until the final group game for Balotelli to make his mark in Ukraine and Poland with a stunning final minute volley against the Republic of Ireland.

If playing in his first international tournament wasn’t hard enough, the charismatic striker has been flung into the limelight by newspapers in Italy.

Various headlines and cartoons, along with alleged racist abuse from Spain and Croatia fans, might have rocked the volatile forward.

But his double against Germany ensured the praise of a nation and a hope that ‘Super Mario’ will fire them to a second European crown.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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