Let's start with this: Giorgio Chiellini is not one of the best defenders in the world. He is the best defender that Italy has, which usually qualifies one for best defender in the world contention, and that he stars for Juventus does not hurt his case either. He is merely a very good defender. Chiellini has had some matches where he has looked fantastic, but he is not in the same category as Thiago Silva or Vincent Kompany, who make up the "Top Defenders in the World" class. In the Euro 2012 final against Spain, though, Italy will need Chiellini to play like the world's best.
Whether Spain plays with a striker or not, it will have runs coming from deep. Andrea Pirlo tracks runs like the 33-year-old that he is and Riccardo Montolivo isn't exactly a defensive mastermind. Those Spain runs will be coming in fast and furious, often diagonally and with minimal help from the midfield, and Italy's defense will be facing a tall task. Specifically, Chiellini will be facing a tall task.
The teams that do best against Spain are the ones who don't just defend in numbers, but get sensational matches from their top defender. Portugal got a magnificent effort from Pepe in the quarterfinals it they kept Spain scoreless for 120 minutes. When Croatia frustrated Spain in the group stage, it did it in large part thanks to Gordon Schildenfeld, who was tremendous.
Now it's Italy's turn to play Spain. They've done it once and managed a draw, but Spain got much better after that match. If Italy is going to do the same as it did in its first match, or even better and win, it will need Chiellini to be marvelous. He may not be one of the best defenders in the world, but he is capable of it. This time, a Euro trophy is dependent on it.
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