Euro 2012: Italy v Spain

GDANSK, POLAND - JUNE 9: Daniele De Rossi (C) of Italy leads on a warm up lap during a UEFA EURO 2012 training session at the Municipal Stadium on June 9, 2012 in Gdansk, Poland. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that most Roma fans also root for the Azzuri, where else can you cheer for Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and Giorgio Chiellini and not feel guilty about it? The current incarnation of Gli Azzuri also boast two Roma stalwarts, Daniele De Rossi and Fabio Borini

Gli Azzuri start their quest for European glory against Spain; La Roja, of course, are the defending European and World Champions.

Spain will be looking to pull off an incredible Euro-World Cup-Euro trifecta. A tough task, as no team has ever retained a European Championship. However, should they achieve this unique feat, this particular generation of Spaniards has to be considered among the greatest teams ever to grace the global stage...

Recent international competitions have not been as kind to Italy, however. A quarterfinal shootout loss to these very same Spaniards was the lasting memory from Euro 2008, which was followed by a last place finish in Group F in South Africa in 2010.

Italy, after storming through the qualification rounds, have lost three consecutive matches without so much as a goal scored. Fresh off another domestic match-fixing scandal, the team are without left-back Domenico Criscito. The loss of Criscito and the uncertain availability of Andrea Barzagli might force Cesare Prandelli to use our beloved Daniele De Rossi in central defense, a role which he has covered for Roma on several occasions.

To his credit, De Rossi has said he is willing to play whatever role is asked of him, this is the Euros after all, though, he maintains his role will as link between the defense and the midfield, not a straight defender.

Following their World Cup victory in 2006, the heartbreaking loss to Spain in Euro 2008, and their less than stellar performance in World Cup 2010, it was safe to say the Azzuri were in a state of transition. Bridging the gap between Francesco Totti, Gennaro Gattuso, and Fabio Cannavro, among others, to the next generation was the key to any success Italy hoped to have in the present and near future.

Prandelli, using a slightly more attacking style, ripped through the qualification rounds and appeared to have eased this transition, leaning on holdovers like De Rossi, Pirlo and Buffon, while integrating the next generation of players, such as Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Balotelli.

This alchemy of the young and old was working fantastically until the recent three game losing streak, leaving the team, once again, facing an uncertain future. Can the patchwork defense contain La Roja's midfield concerto? Will the domestic match fixing scandal gel the team and propel them to victory like 2006? Will Mario Balotelli leave the field in handcuffs?

One thing is for certain....Forza Azzuri!

Kickoff is at 12:00 EDT, lineups (confirmed):

Spain Lineup (4-3-3): Iker Casillas; Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa; Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez; Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas,David Silva

Italy Lineup (3-5-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Daniele De Rossi; Emanuele Giaccherini, Thiago Motta, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio,Christian Maggio; Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli

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