KIEV: Cesc Fabregas says that Spain will need to pay special attention to Mario Balotelli if they are to get the better of Italy in Sunday's Euro 2012 final in Kiev.
Balotelli produced the finest performance of his blossoming international career on Thursday by claiming an excellent brace to give Italy a 2-1 win over Germany in their semi-final match in Warsaw.
The 21-year-old Manchester City striker now finds himself in contention to win the tournament's Golden Boot and Fabregas says that his performance against Germany proved he is coming of age at international level.
“Balotelli is a great player,” the Barcelona midfielder said on Friday.
“He showed that yesterday by scoring two superb goals in a semi-final against a very strong team like Germany.
“He'll be a threat, just like (Antonio) Cassano and the other strikers.”
Asked to assess Italy's key strengths, Fabregas said that Cesare Prandelli's side possessed dangerous players in every area of the pitch.
“They have a very competitive team,” he said.
“They are very experienced at the back and up front, and they have players who had excellent seasons for teams like AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus.
“Italy's defenders are very experienced, and they know when to attack and when to defend.
“On top of that they have a goalkeeper (Gianluigi Buffon) who's a natural leader, but Spain have a great goalkeeper as well in Iker Casillas.
“They also have a lot of variety up front. They have strong players like Balotelli, tricky players like Cassano, and in midfield they have special players like (Claudio) Marchisio and (Andrea) Pirlo, who's had a great tournament.
“It will be a tough game and the winners will be deserving champions. I think we've been the two most consistent teams at the tournament.”
Victory for Spain on Sunday would make them the first team to successfully defend the European title and the first side to win three consecutive major international tournaments.
Having already played a starring role in the successes at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, Fabregas says he continues to draw inspiration from the dedication of the country's supporters.
“The players are lucky to have a country behind us that loves football,” he said.
“It's a great pleasure for us to transmit joy to the fans who support us.
“The fans have been coming out onto the streets in Spain after our matches, and there are fans who have travelled to Ukraine despite all the logistical difficulties with transport.
“It's fantastic to have the whole country behind us. We have great faith in the fans, and we hope the fans have faith in us.
“The aim of the players here is to continue to write history.”
A second-half substitute in the 2-0 quarter-final win over France, Fabregas will hope to be granted a starting berth in Sunday's final at the Olympic Stadium.