It has been a long road for both nations, as Italy and Spain prepare to meet in the Euro 2012 Final on Sunday in Kiev, Ukraine.
The tournament will end the way it started for both squads after facing off in the first match of Group C.
Italy entered the tournament on a three-match losing streak, marked by a loss to the U.S., while Spain began the tournament with an extremely difficult task: follow Euro 2008, and World Cup 2010 success with another major title. The Azzurri came out strong and struck first with a 61st minute goal from Antonio Di Natale. La Roja came back three minutes later with a Cesc Fabregas strike to level the match in the 1-1 result.
Italy followed that match with a 1-1 outcome against Croatia, and followed that with 2-0 win over Ireland.
Italy's win in the final group match set up a quarterfinal encounter with an England squad still searching for an identity. Manager Roy Hodgson seemed content to let the Italians control the ball for a majority of the game and they were more than happy to oblige. Italy dominated with 64 percent possession and took 35 shot attempts with 20 on target.
Unfortunately for Italy, none of those shots found their way past goalkeeper Joe Hart. But Cesare Prandelli's squad eventually proceeded to the semi-finals with a 4-2 penalty shootout win.
In the semi-finals, the Italians took on Euro 2008 runner-up Germany. Considered one of the favorites to win the title after advancing out of the group of death, Germany entered the match on the back of an explosive 4-2 quarterfinal win over Greece. The Italians were in control for most of the match as Super Mario Balotelli scored two impressive goals to lead the upset.
Like La Liga titans Barcelona, Spain relies on dominating ball possession, and have also been particularly efficient on defense, going 400 straight minutes without conceding a goal. Di Natale's strike was the only shot to get past Iker Casillas. La Roja has used possession as an defensive as well as an offensive tactic, preventing opponents from finding a rhythm.
Spain followed up their draw with Italy with convincing victories over Croatia and Ireland to win Group C, and then breezed past France in the quarter-finals. Its semi-final victory over Portugal was far more competitive, as the match ended with Spain beating their neighbors in penalty kicks, 4-2.
Now Spain has the arduous task of becoming the first team to ever repeat as European Champions.
The Euro 2012 Final promises to be an exciting match. Should Italian stars Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli rise to the occasion, Spain will be in for a highly competitive encounter.