Who will be crowned king in Kiev?
Del Bosque, Prandelli plot their path to glory
UEFA expects 250 million TV audience
Paes wins, Sania-Bhupathi crash out
FAI secretary general Vij dies
Usain hit by Blake bolt
Battle for Europe
Spanish captain Iker Casillas
Spain are bidding to become the first team in history to win three successive major tournaments (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012) and the first to retain the Henri Delaunay trophy.
La Roja are contesting their fourth European Championship final (1964, 1984, 2008 and 2012).
Vicente del Bosque's side are 19 competitive games without defeat and have won their last nine knockout matches at major tournaments without conceding.
However, the Iberian outfit have not registered a competitive win over Italy in nearly a century (with their penalty shoot-out success in the quarter-final of Euro 2008 classed as a draw).
Italian captain Gigi Buffon
Italy are competing in their third European Championship final (1968, 2000, 2012). They have won just one (1968).
The Azzurri are facing Spain for the 31st time, with their record in prior encounters reading W10, D12, L8. The sides' most recent meeting was in their opening match in this tournament, which finished as a 1-1 draw.
Italy have won just two of their last eight matches in regulation time, but are yet to lose a competitive fixture under Cesare Prandelli.
With his double against Germany, Mario Balotelli became the first Italian to score three goals at a single European championship.
road to the final : Spain
10 June: vs Italy DRAW (1-1)
14 June: vs Ireland WIN (4-0)
18 June: vs Croatia WIN (1-0)
23rd June: vs France win (2-0)
27 June: vs Portugal DRAW (0-0) Spain won 4-2 on penalties.
Top Scorer: Xabi Alonso (2)
Most Assists: David Silva (3)
Most Fouls: Alvaro Arbeloa (12)
road to the final: Italy
10 June: vs Spain DRAW (1-1)
14 June: vs Croatia Draw (1-1)
18 June: vs Ireland WIN (2-0)
23rd June: vs England win (2-0)
27 June: vs Germany WIN (2-1)
Top Scorer: Mario Balotelli (3)
Most Assists: Andrea Pirlo (2)
Most Fouls: Mario Balotelli (14)
Who will be crowned king in Kiev?
Kiev, June 30
Having beaten strongly fancied Germany 2-1 in Thursday's second semi-final in Warsaw, 1968 title-winners Italy will contest a Euro final for the first time since their extra-time loss to France in 2000.
Reigning world and European champions Spain are seeking to become the first team in history to win three consecutive major titles, but they required a penalty shoot-out to edge Portugal in the last four in Donetsk.
Despite dominating possession, as they did in the 2-0 quarter-final success over France, Spain laboured in attack against the Portuguese and have started to face accusations that their 'tika-taka' style has become sterile. Italy, in contrast, have confounded low pre-tournament expectations to eliminate first England and then Germany, and they have not been beaten by Spain over 90 minutes in a competitive match since the 1920 Olympics.
Italy's preparations for the tournament having been clouded by the Calcioscommesse match-fixing affair, the Azzurri could be poised to triumph in the face of adversity once again.
Their World Cup successes in both 1982 and 2006 were prefaced by match-fixing scandals, but coach Cesare Prandelli has cooled talk of omens by insisting that his side will be the underdogs at Kiev's Olympic Stadium.
"We are looking for Spain's weak points and we'll be working on that, but it won't be easy," said Prandelli, whose side beat Spain 2-1 in a friendly in August last year. "They are world and European champions." Spain and Italy drew 1-1 in their opening Group C game Cesc Fabregas cancelling out Antonio di Natale's opener and it will be the fourth time that two teams who have met in their first game resume hostilities in the final.
The last occasion was at Euro 2004, when Greece twice upset hosts Portugal. Italy successfully stifled Spain three weeks ago in Gdansk, as Prandelli opted for a 3-5-2 formation that afforded his defenders extra room to manoeuvre against Spain's fluid front three.
Fabregas was used as a 'false nine' in that game, but Spain coach Vicente del Bosque appears to have doubts over who is the best player to spearhead his attack.
Fernando Torres played up front in the 4-0 win over Ireland and the 1-0 defeat of Croatia, while Alvaro Negredo started in the 0-0 draw with Portugal.
One striker brimming with confidence is Italy's Mario Balotelli, who came of age in the semi-final against Germany with a confidently taken first-half brace.
The controversy-prone 21-year-old provided one of the images of the tournament by embracing his adoptive mother in the crowd after the final whistle, and he will enter Sunday's game as the tournament's joint-top scorer with three goals.
"Balotelli is a great player," said Fabregas. "He showed that (on Thursday) by scoring two superb goals in a semi-final against a very strong team like Germany."
An engaging tournament requires only a memorable final to confirm its status as a modern classic, but Spain will need to awake from their slumber if they are to overcome Italy.
The champions must also shake the weariness from their legs after 120 minutes of graft against Portugal, although they will benefit from an extra day's rest.
"We're very motivated by the possibility of setting a new record by winning the trophy," said centre-back Sergio Ramos. "But we also want to enjoy the moment. Even if we lose, we've already made history just by reaching the final. Winning would be the cherry on the cake.
Both teams are expected to be at full-strength, with Italy's Ignazio Abate having shrugged off a muscle problem. As well as pitting together two of the tournament's outstanding midfielders in Spain's Andres Iniesta and Italy's Andrea Pirlo, the game will also see Spain attempt to become the first country to defend the European title. AFP
Marios parents want him back
London: The Ghanaian parents of Italy striker Mario Balotelli have expressed their agony of not being able to meet their son and claimed that they do not care about his money, but just want him to come home. Mario was born to Ghanaian immigrants, Rose and Thomas Barwuah in Palermo, Italy, but health problems led to him being fostered, then adopted by Francesco and Silvia Balotelli, an Italian family in Brescia. Legally, the family separation might be complete but the Barwuah clan have kept a close eye on Mario's career.
Unfortunately, Mario's grandfather Nana, a retired bus driver, expired two weeks ago at the age of 74. Mario, 21, had plans to visit the African state for the first time in August to see his grandad and had sent him a baseball cap with his signature embroidered inside as a gift. However, his father Thomas informed him that Nana had passed away. The Man City star made no mention of his grandfather's death in his post-match interviews. ANI
Warsaw, June 30
For Del Bosque, the Kiev final is just another chapter in Spain's domination of world soccer since they were crowned European champions in 2008, and then became world champions two years later.
For Prandelli, another meeting with the holders, three weeks after they drew 1-1 in their opening group stage game, is reward for the impressive rebuilding job he was tasked with after Italy's embarrassing flop at the 2010 World Cup.
Nothing has changed much about Spain, or Del Bosque, in his four-year tenure as coach. The 61-year-old from Salamanca commands the same quiet understated authority as when he first put on his Spanish blazer, and his walrus-like silver moustache still sports an impressive thickness.
The man at the helm of the Galactico era at Real Madrid, winning two Champions League finals and successfully massaging the egos of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Brazil striker Ronaldo, has had little trouble commanding respect.
His commitment to Spain's ruthlessly-effective 'Tiki Taka' game of pass and move, has never wavered. "All I want is for us to show the style of football we are so passionate about and try to make history by winning," Del Bosque said after the semi-final shootout win over Portugal.
"Already we've achieved something for everyone to be proud of and should we make history in the final then that would be While Spain have seemingly not missed the presence of shaggy-haired defender Carles Puyol, robbed of appearing at the tournament by injury, Del Bosque still seems undecided on the best way to line up without record scorer David Villa. Had Villa been fit and not missed the tournament through injury after failing to recover from a broken leg in time, there is no doubt Del Bosque would have automatically selected a recognised frontman.
As it is, he has wavered between fielding a six-man midfield and no striker, as he did against Italy in Gdansk on June 10, or starting with Fernando Torres or, surprisingly, Alvaro Negredo who failed to make an impact and was taken off against Portugal. His lack of faith in Torres is clear, with the Chelsea striker having made just two starts in Spain's five games. Reuters
Kiev, June 30
Epstein says "I think it's a strong performance and we're happy so far." Average audience ratings include viewers who watch for at least 30 minutes. Epstein says UEFA expects 350 million television viewers to see at least one minute of the match played in Kiev. AP
London, June 30
The French Open champion pair of Bhupathi and Sania Mirza, who later joined the selection row by lashing out at the AITA for using her as a "bait" to pacify Paes, suffered a crushing 3-6 1-6 defeat to Australian P Hanley and A Kudryavtseva in a 50-minute mixed-doubles match at the All England Club here.
However, Paes - who confirmed his participation in the Olympics just yesterday - and his Czech partner Radek Stepanek notched up a 6-2 6-4 7-6 (5) victory over Isreali combination of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram in a gruelling two hour and 20 minutes battle.
Seeded fourth in the tournament, Paes and Stepanek rode on their batter serves and broke their rivals twice in the first set. The Israeli pair started to get their bearings right in the second set but they failed to create opportunities even as Paes and Stepanek broke them once out of the five chances that came their way.
In the third set, both the pairs broke each other once but in the end it was the Indo-Czech combination who had the last laugh.
In contrast in mixed doubles event, the fifth seeded Indian duo of Bhupathi and Sania failed to match the game of their unseeded rivals and made an early exit. The Australian-Russian duo sent down six aces and also broke the Indian pair four times out of the seven chances that came their way.
In comparison, Sania and Bhupathi failed to create any break opportunity and also had three double faults and four unforced errors. The Indians, who would not be playing together in next month's London Olympics after the All India Tennis Association (AITA) paired Sania with Leander Paes in mixed doubles, were better than their rivals in their first serve but they failed miserably in the second serve in the opening set.
In the second set, Sania and Bhupathi looked lacklustre as Hanley and Kudryavtseva sent down four aces and pushed the Indians to commit unforced errors and sealed the match comfortably. The Indians were also broken thrice in the second set.
Meanwhile, the mixed doubles pair of Indian Rohan Bopanna and Jie Zheng of China got a walk over against the duo of Marcelo Melo of Brazil and Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the second round.
The 10th seeded Indo-Chinese pair will next play the winner of the match between the British duo of Dominic Inglot and Laura Robson and the combination of Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Iveta Benesova of Czech Republic. PTI
Ana Ivanovic beat Julia Goerges 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Serena Williams beat Zheng Jie 6-7(5), 6-2, 9-7 Victoria Azarenka beat Jana Cepelova 6-3, 6-3
Petra Kvitova beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 6-0
Yaroslava Shvedova beat Sara Errani 6-0, 6-4
Tamira Paszek beat Yanina Wickmayer 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-5
Francesca Schiavone beat Klara Zakopalova 6-0, 6-4
P Kohlschreiber beat Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(6)
Brian Baker beat Benoit Paire 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3
FAI secretary general Vij dies
Patiala, June 30
Sports officials from throughout the state reached the city today for his cremation and paid floral tributes to Vij.
A graduate from Kirori Mal College, Delhi, Vij completed his post graduation in Physical Education from Punjabi University, Patiala. He joined the Punjab Sports Department as a kho-kho coach and retired in 2008. Throughout his career, he was known to champion the cause of sportspersons.
After his retirement from the sports department in 2008, Vij held various posts in national and international bodies. He was also the vice-president of Commonwealth Fencing Federation and secretary general of South Asian Fencing Federation.
Remembering the demised soul, MLA Patiala (Rural) Brahm Mohindra, president of the Punjab Fencing Association, said it was a big loss to the fencing community as it was due to Vijs consistent efforts that fencing had recently gained popularity in the country.
He was the backbone of the fencing community and had been constantly
Meanwhile, Brahm Mohindra informed that the State Fencing Championship schedule for July 6 and 7 had been postponed till further notice.
Sydney, June 30
"Nine-point-seven-five - it's awesome. I won the world championship, so I've got that," The Herald Sun quoted Blake, as saying. "Now, I'm the national champion for Jamaica, so I've got that. And now, I go into the Olympics like this," he added. ANI
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