Record breakers Spain have been crowned European Champions for the third time in their history and for the second time in a row after a dominating victory in the Euro 2012 final.
They beat Italy 4-0 with goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba and Fernando Torres, before Juan Mata added gloss to proceedings late on. Italy though had to play the final twenty minutes with ten men after using all their substitutions before Motta, a substitute himself, was forced off with injury and the final scoreline is harsh on Italy who in fact only had 2% less overall possession by full time.
Despite this, Spain gave the same lethal display that has seen them go 12 European Championship matches unbeaten – a new record. In fact, the night was full of them. Fernando Torres’ goal means he is the first player to score in two European finals and coach Vincente Del Bosque equalled West Germany manager Helmut Schon’s achievement of wining both the World Cup and the European Championship.
Any suggestions that Spain are “boring to watch” were well and truly rubbished tonight. Much maligned for preferring to pack the midfield instead of play a registered striker up front, del Bosque actually got his tactics spot on.
It was midfield trio Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva who combined for the first. Former Arsenal man Fabregas received the ball from Iniesta, who provided a pass that cut Italy’s defence to ribbons. He then beat defender Giorgio Chiellini to the byeline and sent in an inch perfect cross for David Silva, ironically one of the more diminutive of players, to head past Buffon.
Italy responded with purpose however, having to get used to being behind (this was the first time in the tournament in which they had faced a deficit), Andrea Pirlo pulled the strings in midfield as usual, and had a free-kick deflected wide for a corner.
Iker Casillas then had to tip the resulting corner away and Sergio Ramos had to awkwardly head over his own crossbar from another set piece as Italy began to look dangerous.
Italy’s Chiellini though then pulled up with an injury, and was replaced early on by Federico Balzaretti.
He almost had an instant impact on proceedings as he sent in a cross seemingly destined for Mario Balotelli’s head until Iker Casillas got a hand to it to turn it away.
After 30 minutes, Italy had 53% of possession, the first time Spain had been in the minority for the opening half hour at Euro 2012. Mario Balotelli sent a shot from 25 yards the way of Iker Cassilas but it was always going over. For all Italy’s possession, they failed to make it tell and were punished by Spain four minutes before half time.
Defender Jordi Alba played a one-two with Xavi to put him through on goal, and duly steered his finish past a despairing Buffon as Italy grimaced collectively as the half time whistle blew, leaving them with a mountain to climb.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Spain were home and hosed, but there was no complacency or taking the foot off the pedal in the second half by the team in red.
They were shouting for a penalty when Sergio Ramos’s header was blocked by the hand of Leonardo Bonucci but the referee waved away the appeals as Italy lived to breathe again.
They responded to the deficit by putting Antonio Di Natale on for Antonio Cassano, and he almost connected with a floating, delicate pass from Andrea Pirlo but failed to make any sort of connection.
Then things went even further down south for Italy. Thiago Motta was put on for Riccardo Montolivo as Prandelli had one last throw of the dice. Unfortunately for the Italian manager, Motta was forced off the pitch on a stretcher moments later with a hamstring injury, leaving Italy to battle on with 10 men for the remainder of the game.
With blood well and truly in the water, Spain looked to take advantage by putting Fernando Torres on for Cesc Fabregas.
The Chelsea forward then killed the game off 5 minutes from time. With Italian players fatigued by the extra hard work they had to put in with a man disadvantage, Claudio Marchisio sloppily gave the ball away in midfield, as Xavi picked out Torres, who rolled the ball past Gianluigi Buffon.
The man whom’s career many thought was over was sensationally revived – as he picked up the Golden Boot award. Who would have believed that 6 months ago?
Spain made their final change of the night when fellow Chelsea player Juan Mata came on for Andres Iniesta. It was another masterstroke from del Bosque as Mata scored Spains fourth of the night with his very first touch. It was Torres who got the assist, drawing Gianluigi Buffon out from his goal before sliding a pass square to his colleague to roll into an open net.
As the full time whistle blew on a piece of history, Mario Balotelli petulantly left the field of play, storming to the sanctuary of the dressing room. It was a hiding of epic proportions, but there is no hiding one thing, Spain have made history and are once again the best team in Europe, and the World.
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