Spain could make history by becoming the only international team to win three major titles in a row when they meet Italy in the Euro 2012 Final on Sunday.
This is a look back at their journey to the Final and what to expect from the game at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.
Their tournament began as it will finish; against Italy.
Vicente del Bosque elected to play without a striker in a 4-6-0 formation that included Cesc Fabregas as a makeshift frontman. His system allowed the six middle men to swap positions frequently, exchanging passes between one another until space opened up for a break away pass through the opposition’s back four.
Italy, playing a 3-5-2, coped well under the pressure and by half time the score remained 0-0. Italian wingers Christian Maggio and Emanuele Giaccherini were immense at falling back to clog up the penalty area and stop Spain’s fluid attacks.
More dogged defending from Italy and the introduction of Antonio Di Natale in the second half prompted the Azzurri to find the opener. A cutting pass from Andrea Pirlo played substitute Di Natale through on goal and he waited for Iker Casillas to commit himself before looping the ball into the net.
The lead only lasted seconds however, as Fabregas arrived in time to slot home David Silva’s cross past the onrushing Gianluigi Buffon.
The match ended 1-1, despite Fernando Torres twice breaking free of the Italian defence and twice being unable to show the composure that earned him his reputation in red.
Up next, the Republic of Ireland, were swept aside 4-0 in a game that was never a struggle for Del Bosque’s side. Torres, selected ahead of Fabregas, capitalised on a mistake by Richard Dunne in the first few minutes to power home a sublime opener.
David Silva added a second just after half time; the Manchester City star rolled the ball past three defenders and Shay Given with the upmost confidence and composure. Then Torres added the third before Fabregas leathered the fourth between Given and Keith Andrews on the near post.
With four points Spain knew that top spot was a certainty if they could beat the brave Croatians, who had drawn with Italy and beaten the Irish convincingly.
Spain lined up with Torres leading the attack in a 4-5-1 formation, Croatia however went in search of more points with a dynamic 4-2-3-1.
Spain, as expected, dominated possession but couldn’t break the hardy Croat back four. Vedran Corluka and Gordon Schildenfeld lacked pace but were strong and stopped any building pressure by narrowing the defensive line to break up any balls through the middle.
David Silva and Torres had chances to break the deadlock before half time but neither could beat Stipe Pletikosa in goal.
When play resumed it was much the same as before, with Spain in control but misfiring. Then Croatia had the golden chance they had been begging for all match. A cross from the right found Ivan Rakitic unmarked at the far post but he headed the ball straight into Casillas and the chance fell apart.
While the Croatians faltered, the Spanish took advantage and late substitute Jesus Navas poked home the winning goal from a yard out. Fabregas had lobbed the centre-backs to find Iniesta who quickly squared the ball away from Pletikosa and into the path of Navas.
Topping the group meant that Spain would meet France in the Quarter-Finals. After days of hopeful speculation and anticipation among French fans, their side put on a lacklustre display and were easily put to the sword by Spain.
Xabi Alonso’s fourteenth and fifteenth international goals on his 100th cap were enough to see the reigning champions through to the Semi-Finals.
The Real Madrid midfielder headed home the first after an accurate cross from Jordi Alba found him unmarked in the box. He then stepped up to convert a late penalty won by Pedro Rodriguez following Anthony Reveillere’s clumsy challenge.
The Semi-Finals were almost the end of the road for Del Bosque’s conquerors. Portugal matched them for 120 minutes before referee Cuneyt Cakir blew the whistle for penalties.
Xabi Alonso had the first penalty saved by Rui Patricio, who had an incredible tournament coming out of the group of death. Then Felipe Joao Moutinho had his spot-kick turned away by Casillas and the teams were still level.
Iniesta coolly converted the next Spanish kick, with Pepe doing the same for the Portuguese. Gerard Pique gave Spain a 2-1 lead with his penalty, sending the ball neatly into the corner.
Then Eduardo Bruno Alves was interrupted as he walked up to take his kick by Luis Nani, who replaced him behind the ball. Nani wasn’t affected by the sudden change but Alves was.
After Sergio Ramos coolly chipped the ball into the net past Patricio, Bruno Alves arrived at the penalty spot again. Clearly shaken by two trips to the penalty area he lost his concentration during his run-up and smashed his penalty against the crossbar. Advantage Spain, 3-2.
Cristiano Ronaldo watched on from the half way line as Fabregas walked up to take the decisive kick. After waiting to take the final penalty, Ronaldo now faced the proposition that he wouldn’t get to take one at all if Fabregas scored.
Sure enough, the former Arsenal captain scored. Rui Patricio dived the right way but couldn’t get a hand to the penalty that hit the left post and rebounded into the opposite side of the net.
In the Final Spain face Italy in a Group C rematch to decide who walks away with the European Championship. Spain have won the trophy twice (1964, 2008), Italy once in 1968 and both have been runners-up to France before.
The question is; will Del Bosque start Fabregas and his circus of midfielders or decide that Torres has the talent to see off Italy?
Kick-off is at 19:45 on Sunday 1st July.
- 30 Sexiest WAGs Of 2012
- 50 Sexiest Women You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
- 10 Most Paused Movie Moments
- Football’s Worst Ever Cheating Divers
- 10 Great Footballers Who Made Terrible Managers
- 100 Greatest Premier League Players Of All Time
- 50 Great Footballers Who Ruled 2012
- 15 Worst Ever Premier League Signings