1st July, 2012
THE COACHES … Cesare Prandelli (left) and Vicente Del Bosque (right).
KIEV: There are many similarities between the two coaches Cesare Prandelli and Vicente Del Bosque in the Euro 2012 final between Italy and Spain.
Both are quietly spoken and understated individuals who lack the brash confidence of Jose Mourinho or the dominant personality of Sir Alex Ferguson.
In contrast to that pair, they both had highly successful playing careers at the biggest and best teams in their respective countries.
Prandelli spent six years at Juventus, winning three Serie A titles and the European Cup.
Del Bosque spent the majority of his career with Real Madrid, winning the La Liga title five times, as well as four Spanish Cups.
But although each one played in the best domestic team of their generation, neither was a star in those outfits.
Del Bosque was a defensive midfielder and although he played 18 times for Spain, he was by no means a household name outside his country.
Prandelli wasn’t good enough to play for Italy and he wasn’t always a first choice starter at Juve.
But their modest roles at the top of their sport has meant that both are comfortable operating at the highest level yet humble enough not to actively seek the limelight.
Such an approach allows their players to take centre stage and feel important, all the while knowing that behind the scenes there is an astute tactician advising them.
But when it comes to tactics their differences are more pronounced.
Prandelli may come from the home of the door-bolt “catenaccio” system but he is a modern, attacking coach who believes in taking risks.
His preferred system involves one or two deep-lying forwards with midfielders breaking beyond them and revolves around the brilliance of Andrea Pirlo to ping passes all over the pitch.
When Prandelli played Giuseppe Rossi up front with Antonio Cassano, he relied much more on the midfield runners, but now that Mario Balotelli is in the side, the coach looks to his brazen, young talent to stretch the opposition by getting in behind them.
Prandelli regularly says his team must take risks and try to win games and there is no hint about settling for a 1-0 or, worse still, a 0-0 draw.
He is also flexible and tried a 3-5-2 system for the first two group games here, with wing-backs who ran themselves into the ground and a libero in Daniele De Rossi who could push up into midfield.
A big similarity between his style and Del Bosque’s is the emphasis on midfield possession.
That is where Spain, like Barcelona, are the undisputed kings of football.
But unlike the Catalan giants, Del Bosque uses two defensive midfielders with Xavi, who likes to drop deep, sitting just in front of them.
It means most of Spain’s possession lies at the feet of the back four and three central midfielders.
The number of goals they score or chances they create is relatively small in comparison to the amount of time they spend on the ball.
And at this tournament, Del Bosque has twice opted to play midfielder Cesc Fabregas as a lone striker, who drops back to join in the passing moves.
It means a flooded midfield, masses of possession but often a lack of cutting edge.
Whether it is Prandelli’s attacking optimism or Del Bosque’s cautious possession pragmatism that comes out on top on Sunday, the midfield is sure to be a congested area.