Balotelli on Spanish minds

The threat of Italy striker Mario Balotelli and the prospect of an unprecedented treble occupied Spain’s Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Ramos before Sunday’s Euro 2012 final but neither thought those obstacles too big to overcome.

Balotelli, who scored both goals in Italy’s 2-1 win over Germany in Thursday’s semifinal in Warsaw, is at last on top form and joint leading scorer in the tournament with three goals. He must be stopped if Spain are to retain their title.

Barcelona’s Fabregas, when at Arsenal, played against Manchester City striker Balotelli in the Premier League the season before last, and knows better than most members of the Spanish squad what his qualities are.

“I think he is a great soccer player. He showed that yesterday,” said Fabregas.
“He had two fantastic moments and scored two great goals. One a true center-forward’s header and the other one from a real cracking shot from outside the area in a European Championship semifinal against a top team like Germany. This tells you everything. I really liked they way he played and he will be, of course, a threat as well as (Antonio) Cassano or any other forward who plays with Italy.

“They are always very dangerous, but we have the players to stop them. We have defended well. We have to neutralise their attack and midfield where (Andrea) Pirlo is the player, otherwise he will take control of the match,” said Fabregas.

“We have to be realistic about Sunday’s challenge. We need to play at a high level and, basically, we need to be at an unbeatable level because up until today, nobody has been able to achieve three titles in a row and we have the possibility to do it,” said Ramos.

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