By Mike Collett
KIEV (Reuters) - After three weeks of almost non-stop action, Euro 2012 paused for breath on Friday with the finalists assessing each others strengths and weaknesses ahead of Sunday's showpiece between holders Spain and old rivals Italy.
Spain's Sergio Ramos and Cesc Fabregas held media conference at Dynamo Kiev's home ground, while at their base camp in Krakow, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli held court, looking back at Thursday night's impressive 2-1 semi-final win over Germany.
In Warsaw, meanwhile, UEFA said Portugal's Pedro Proenca will take charge of the showpiece game in Kiev.
Proenca, 41, also refereed last month's Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea.
Not surprisingly, the news went largely unnoticed in Kiev's huge pedestrianized fan zone which was subdued on a gloriously sunny day in the Ukrainian capital, in stark contrast to the atmosphere expected at the nearby Olympic Stadium on Sunday.
Italian and Spanish fans not already in town, were beginning to arrive ahead of the eagerly awaited first ever final between the national teams of two countries whose clubs sides have dominated European competition for years.
Fabregas and Ramos agreed that the threat of Italy striker Mario Balotelli and the prospect of an unprecedented treble were obstacles they could overcome on Sunday.
Spain are bidding to become the first national side to win three successive major honors following their triumphs at Euro 2008 and the World Cup in South Africa two years ago.
Meanwhile, Balotelli, who scored twice to secure Italy's surprise win against Germany 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.
Fabregas said: "I think he is a great soccer player. He showed that yesterday.
"He had two fantastic moments and scored two great goals. One a true centre-forward's header and the other one from a real cracking shot from outside the area in a European Championship semi-final against a top team like Germany.
"This tells you everything. I really liked the way he played and he will be, of course, a threat as well as (Antonio) Cassano or any other forward who plays with Italy."
Ramos added that Spain needed 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.
"It takes a lot of years of work, humility, sacrifice and now is the time to enjoy these moments.
"As I said the other day, no matter what happens on Sunday, Spain has already made history. It is evident that this is not over yet because it is evident that our goal is to win this trophy."
Italy are also, suddenly, the form team as they bid for their first European title since 1968 with coach Prandelli saying he will hone in on Spain's weaknesses on Sunday.
"We will look for Spain's weak points and work on those areas, even if it won't be easy because they are the world and European champions and here they are in the final again," he said.
"That shows their qualities aren't just in terms of technique but also on the level of morale and character. They are a reference point in many different ways but we have also improved with time."
Away from the eagerly anticipated match, one of Europe's greatest players, Portugal's Eusebio, top scorer in the 1966 World Cup with nine goals, was involved in a battle of a different kind.
Eusebio, now 70 and Portugal's soccer ambassador, was recovering in a Lisbon hospital after suffering a stroke while at the tournament in Poland. A spokesman said he was in a stable condition but would remain in hospital for the foreseeable future.
(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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