James wil be here shortly with all the latest build-up and new before the Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy.
In the meantime, here's Scott Murray on six great European Championship finals.
1) USSR 2-1 Yugoslavia (1960)
The infant European Nations Cup was all about the Soviets. They flew out of the blocks in the very first qualification game, Anatoli Ilyin scoring after four minutes against Hungary in front of a 100,000-plus crowd in Moscow's fancy new Central Stadium, and never looked back. They were 3-0 up by the 32nd minute, eventually winning the game 3-1. For the second leg in Budapest, Hungary brought back a couple of superannuated Magical Magyars in Gyula Grosics and József Bozsik, and a young star-to-be in Florian Albert, but the Soviets were still too good, and registered a 1-0 win.
In the quarters, Spain's right-wing dictator General Franco claimed full marks for irony, rolling out the red carpet to allow the USSR to saunter straight through to the semis. Whereupon an impressive Czechoslovakian side starring Josef Masopust were dispatched 3-0 in a sweltering Marseille, a lopsided result in which the Russian keeper Lev Yashin was reportedly his side's star man, despite Valentin Ivanov's two goals.
The final at the Parc des Princes in Paris would not be such a showcase of goalkeeping magnificence. Yugoslavia had the better of the first half, Milan Galic at the heart of everything, switching play this way and that in the middle, swinging in dangerous crosses from the left, and eventually scoring the opener, stooping to head a right-wing cross inside the near post on 43 minutes. Yashin, hanging around by the aforementioned upright, should have thrown his cap on it, but didn't, and rocked back on his heels, punch drunk after the mistake, gaddered on incompetence. Admittedly the legendary keeper otherwise had something of a stormer, superbly saving a couple of Bora Kostic free-kicks, but this was up there with Egon Loy's standing-around-smoking-a-fag display at the European Cup final a couple of months earlier.
But anything Yashin could do badly, his opposite number Blagoja Vidinic could do worse. Just after the restart, Vidinic spilled a low, hard but ultimately speculative shot from the dangerous Valentin Bubukin. Slava Metreveli was on hand to sweep home the loose ball. The match went into extra time, and with seven minutes to go, Mikheil Meskhi clipped in a cross from the left which Vidinic went walkabout to claim. He got nowhere near it, and Slava Metreveli guided a header back past the lost keeper and into the top-left corner.
Had the better team prevailed? With Yugoslavia having slipped it around slickly, it's not clear that they did. But the USSR were a staunch outfit, and having started the ball rolling back in 1959, it was somehow fitting that they were the first team to pick up the Henri Delaunay Trophy. Wearing the greatest kit in the history of football – CCCP proudly across the chest, as bold as the Caucasus mountains – as they did so.
Morning all, hope we are all ready for nine hours of thrilling build-up ahead of tonight's finale, I know I'm raring to go...
I suppose there is no better way to kick things off than with some unrelated transfer news ... Clarence Seedorf has joined Brazilian club Botafogo on a two-year deal, West Ham have signed George McCartney and Fulham striker Orlando Sa has left by mutual consent
Here's the full story on Seedorf, who looks destined never to grace the Premier League
The big question you must all ask yourself as we head towards the 7.45pm kick-off: ITV or BBC?
replica celebration from Ken Tokura in Japan, doesn't quite have the same physique does he? Thanks to Ben Newman for that.Will Mario Balotelli be taking his shirt off tonight? Here's a
Euro 2012 has been a success in many ways but is still waiting for its first classic match in the knockout stages. If a good tournament wants to be remembered as a great one a lot depends on what happens in the Olympic Stadium here on Sunday and whether the two finalists can conjure up the occasion the competition probably deserves.
Spain against Italy certainly has the potential after what the two teams served up, as a kind of appetiser, when they had a first look at one another during the group stages in Gdansk three weeks ago. Spain demonstrated that night, as they have before and since, that they will almost certainly dominate the possession, but there are legitimate reasons for Italy to deduce that the holders can be at least vaguely susceptible to the right combination of smothering tactics and quick, incisive attacking.
Daniel Taylor preview's tonight's game, when Spain will look to pass their way into history...
People have no idea how hard football is, absolutely no idea. It's all about pace.
Balotelli looking for a new girlfriend?: "I will invite Shakira to the final, so that she can see what I will do to her boyfriend (Pique)."
Swarming with foreign fans, Kiev prepared on Sunday to host the European championship final between holders Spain and Italy and bring an end to the biggest sports event in Eastern Europe since the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
About 342,000 foreigners arrived in the Ukrainian capital on the eve of the Euro 2012 showpiece. Thousands strolled through the fan zone in the city centre, snapping up souvenirs including football shirts with some shops already out of Italy jerseys.
Spanish fans, though, are set to outnumber the Italians 11,000 to 5,000 at the stadium when the game kicks off, according to tournament organisers.
The public fan zone, which is expected to accommodate up to 140,000 people on Sunday night, held a successful rehearsal on Saturday when about 100,000 fans attended a joint gig by Elton John and Queen. Police reported no disturbances.
Weathermen expected no nasty surprises - such as the thunderstorm which interrupted Ukraine's group game with France in another host city Donetsk - on Sunday evening with a comfortable temperature of 15-17 degrees Celsius forecast.
Your suggestions for any other categories and winners will be gratefully received.
James Horncastle, a pizzeria in Brescia has made the Pizza Balotelli, ingredients (surprisingly no hot heat involved) include buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and arugula. Any suggestions for other Euro 2012 player recipes?Courtesy of
Player of the tournament? Tough to look beyond the obvious, Andrea Pirlo, although Antonio Cassano has arguably been as enjoyable to watch. 100-1 to win the prize before the tournament was Pirlo, and in-the-know Racing Post tipster Mark Langdon was all over it. He's now sweating on Andy Roxburgh doing his duty this evening …
the paella 'La Roja'," writes Javier Leal. "This version is simillar to the paella recipe 'arroz a banda' which is basically done with fish stock, plus red and yellow natural colouring. The recipe was originally made for the South Africa World Cup, but it still does represent the current champions!""As you mentioned about a pizza recipe honouring Ballotelli, here is my contribution to the Spanish simile,
safeasmilk suggests some more tournament awards, including Moan of the Tournament being Mark Lawrenson's punditry on the BBC. Agreed, he has been abysmal. For me, though, there can be only one: the kick-off countdown. A despicable and thoroughly needless addition.Below the line,
this chap giving not a solitary one about the end-of-days storm which suspended Ukraine v France.Fan of the tournament? No question,
It's been a week or so without a thorny diplomatic Euro 2012 story, so here's something to fill the gap: a Ukrainian government spokesman says the Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko may attend tonight's final. AP reports:
The appearance of Lukashenko, who faces EU sanctions for cracking down on dissent in his country, would be embarrassing for the Ukrainian government and the prime ministers of Spain, Italy and Poland who plan to attend the match. Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovych is already under fire for the politically tainted jailing of former premier Yulia Tymoshenko, now the country's top opposition leader. Top EU leaders are boycotting Euro 2012 matches in Ukraine, including Sunday's final in Kiev, over her imprisonment, calling it an attempt to sideline a political rival.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Voloshin said that Lukashenko was slated to attend the game, but had no further information. Lukashenko's spokesman Pavel Liogkiy declined to comment on whether Lukashenko would attend.
Lukashenko has ruled the nation of 10 million for nearly 18 years, earning the nickname in the West of "Europe's last dictator." The US and the European Union introduced sanctions against Belarus after Lukashenko unleashed a violent crackdown on the opposition after a 2010 vote deemed fraudulent by international observers.
His presence at the stadium next to EU leaders would likely further embarrass Yanukovych, who has denied any involvement in Tymoshenko's jailing. Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in October on charges of abuse of office when negotiating a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009.
with a preview of tonight's game. An excerpt:Here's Michael Cox on his always-worth-a-read Zonal Marking site
Of the 30 games at Euro 2012 so far, the 1-1 draw between these two countries in the first game of Group C was probably the most fascinating in a tactical sense. A back three battled against a false nine – not a formation match-up you see very regularly.
Unfortunately, we're unlikely to see such a contest this time around, now Italy have moved away from a 3-5-2 to a midfield diamond. But then again, the diamond is also unique in this tournament – and besides, it gives us an entirely different tactical battle.
It's odd that these two managers should produce interesting strategic battles. Both are fine coaches, but neither are particularly keen tacticians.
here is a piece that's well worth a read by Greg Theoharis on the Dispatches From a Football Sofa blog.Oh, and re: the earlier mention of Mark Lawrenson's awful work during this tournament,
"I've watched practically every (live) minute of the Euros, but that's the first time I've seen Ibrahimovic's goal against France - a cracker it is too," writes Colin Ward. "That France-Sweden game was, of course, the final group game and so played at the same time as England-Ukraine. The latter was shown on ITV and I know the debate about whether ITV or BBC have been the better broadcaster rumbles on, but to me the fact that ITV did not show Sweden's two goals in the immediate aftermath of the England game that night (or at least during the 20 minutes of post-match 'analysis' I saw before my girlfriend got even more bored and switched over to something else) shows a complete lack of understanding or even consideration for football as a whole. England's game aginst Ukraine obviously and correctly deserved ITV's fullest attention, but Sweden's goals did more to put England top of their group than Rooney's one-yard nod and I can't help but think the BBC would've acknowledged that to some degree. One can evaluate – with a lot of validity – pundits, commentators and so forth, but on the absolute basics of football coverage the BBC must be the go-to channel for anyone with even a smattering of appreciation for football beyond what England's brave boys manage to achieve." A fair point, Colin, even if the Beeb has inflicted Mark Bright, Alan Shearer and Martin Keown upon us as well during the tournament. I'll give the ITV Roy Keane, though, he's been as watchable as any pundit on our screens during the tournament, and offering intelligent football analysis.
Voetbal International as saying:Must admit that before the tournament began, I fully expected that it would be England that would stink it out, only for them to outperform expectations and leave the likes of Holland and France to pick up the mantle. And regarding the managerless Oranje, Dutch legend Johan Cruyff has been offering his thoughts on who should replace Bert van Marwijk: Frank Rijkaard. Cruyff is quoted in
"Rijkaard has shown he dares to make radical choices when needed. The Dutch team must start again with a new staff and changes in the squad. Regarding the latter, it should be a mix of current internationals and younger talent.
"This process requires a lot of work to be performed by someone accustomed to this level, including some painful decisions. You must be looked up to as a coach and respected. Though I have not put a lot of thought into it, Rijkaard is the first name that comes to me. He would be a good choice."
for making her try and do a piece to camera among a throng of Dutch fans.Hospital pass of Euro 2012? This Ukrainian reporter's producers,
if Platini is to be believed – be held in any number of countries is intriguing," writes Simon McMahon. "Has nobody told him that's what the qualifying tournament is? Although if it helps Scotland make it back into the big time count me in." My favourite thing about that entire ludicrous flight of fancy from Uefa's president was his assertion that a tournament like this could work because: "In these days of cheap air travel, anything is possible." Because flight companies wouldn't put their prices up for the tournament, would they?"As a Scotland fan I'm used to watching from the sidelines when major finals come around but the news that the next but one tournament (Euro 2020: sponsored by Specsavers?) could –
Laurent Blanc's decision to step down as France coach has prompted all kinds of chat regarding his successor, but one man who isn't interested in the gig is Arsène Wenger. "There are a lot of names," Wenger is reported as telling Telefoot. "But me, I will be very busy with Arsenal where my contract still runs for two years." Tough to look past Didier Deschamps, rightly or wrongly, for the job.
Our Daniel Taylor tweets from Kiev ahead of tonight's game:
"Today's Kiev Post on England fans: 'uncouth lager louts lifting Ukrainian women's skirts or breaking trees' Breaking trees?"
Here's a video of him, alongside fellow Foreign Desk stalwarts, to preview tonight's game.Sid Lowe video alert! Sid Lowe video alert!
having his pen invaded by a Femen protestor last week. If you missed it, there was an interesting piece from Kate Connolly in Berlin on Thursday, with anti-cruelty groups claiming Euro 2012 animal punditry is spiralling out of control:We can all rest easy: psychic pig Funtik has made his prediction for the final and gone for … Italy. At least he's recovered from
Germany's animal rights activists have called on pet owners to think twice before parading their animals as sporting forecasters, saying the national phenomenon – which is now spreading around the world – is spiralling out of control.
The Deutscher Tierschutzbund (TSB), or animal welfare association, says many animals are being exploited, forced to do things that are unnatural to them, and suffering as a result of what it calls a "craze".
ColonelCallan below the line. There hasn't been one since 1980 (a belting penalty shoot-out won by Czechoslovakia, 9-8 against Italy), but perhaps the expansion in future tournaments could help to bring it back?"Why isn't there a third-place play-off in the European Championships like there is in the World Cup?" asks
"Re: third-place play-offs. OK, maybe they throw up the odd extravaganza, but ultimately you're watching 22 players backed by their respective countryfolk, and you know everyone's crying inside," writes Chris Monks. "Winning the play-off is akin to Lincoln's view of the US vice-presidency: it ain't worth a bucket of spit."
so be sure to join him now for the Euro 2012 final. Thanks for your emails and comments. Enjoy the game and thanks forAnd that will be pretty much that from me. Scott Murray is in the building,