Spain crowned champions of Europe
by Einne OReilly
Spain 4 – 0 Italy. Olympic Stadium Kiev.
The Spanish football team made history on Sunday night in Kiev by winning the European
Championship trophy for the second successive time. This achievement completes an
unprecedented treble of titles for Spain. Sunday night’s magnificent 4-0 victory over Italy
gave Spain their third major Championship title in a row. Never before has this been
achieved in the international game. The comprehensive nature of Spain’s victory over Italy
also adds to their case for consideration as the greatest international football team of all
time. Certainly, they are now assured their place among the pantheon of the greatest teams
ever to play the game.
Having gone into the final on the back of a nervy penalty shootout victory over Portugal in
the semi final, a significant rise in performance was required for Spain. Italy meanwhile, had
recorded a stunning 2-1 defeat of Germany in the other semi final, with Andrea Pirlo and
Mario Balotelli stealing the show. A classic final was expected, with both finalists generally
considered as the best performing teams of the tournament. It was very difficult for
pundits to predict who would claim victory in the final. Spain were favourites, but they had
struggled to find their best form for much of the tournament. Italy had form from the semi
final, but would have to be at their absolute best to have any chance against the European
and World champions.
As it happened, Italy made the brighter start, pressing Spain back in the opening stages of
the match. However, Spain soon settled and began to dominate most of the possession
themselves. An early corner gave a chance to Sergio Ramos but he headed well over the
crossbar. Spain were comfortable in possession and were playing with a high tempo,
continually stringing passes together and pushing forward to create chances. Fabregas,
Alonso, Silva and Xavi were all very prominent as Spain put the Italians under pressure. In
the 20th minute, the breakthrough came. It was Spain’s player of the tournament Andres
Iniesta whose sublime through ball found Fabregas. Faced with Italian goalkeeper Buffon,
Fabregas squared the ball across to the in rushing David Silva who finished to the net
with a header. Italy to their credit responded well and had a good spell in possession with
Pirlo, Balotelli and Cassano getting on the ball. Cassano had a shot saved by Casillas. Three
minutes later Cassano had another good shot which was well saved by Casillas again.
Towards the end of the first half, Spain got on top again with Iniesta, Alonso and Xavi all
pulling the strings in midfield. With just a few minutes to go before the break, a move
involving Alba and Fabregas ended with an outstanding through ball from Xavi to Alba inside
the box and the left back scored his first goal for Spain to make it 2-0, as it was at half time.
Italy needed to raise their game in the second half and substitute Antonio Di Natale headed
a good Abate cross over from twelve yards. Spain were determined to pick up where
they left off and Fabregas had two good chances early in the half saved by Buffon. At the
other end, Italy’s best chance to get back into the game went astray. A brilliant through
ball from Pirlo found Di Natale clear, eight yards out with just the keeper to beat but he
fired straight at Casillas. Some good spells of play followed from both teams with Spain
just having that bit more in terms of penetration. Disaster occurred for Italy in the 61 st
minute. Thiago Motta, who had been Italy’s third and final substitute, was forced off with
a hamstring injury. Italy, who were now under continued pressure from Spain, would have
to play the remaining half an hour with ten men. The closing half hour saw Spain establish
total control. Iniesta had an excellent shot saved by Buffon in the 72nd minute. Fernando
Torres was introduced with fifteen minutes to go and he immediately looked dangerous
with his runs against the tiring Italians. With six minutes to go, Torres got on the end of a
pass from midfield and finished passed Buffon to make it 3-0. The game well up by now
for Italy, who continued to battle gallantly but were in truth, outclassed. With two minutes
remaining, Torres again broke into the Italian danger area and unselfishly played the ball
to his fellow Chelsea player Juan Mata, who struck the ball home for Spain’s fourth. As the
Final concluded, Spain were left to celebrate an historic victory. Vincente del Bosque’s team
had achieved a remarkable feat in claiming their third major title. For Cesare Prandelli’s
Italy, they will look back on what was a very successful tournament for them, though they
will also acknowledge that the best team undoubtedly emerged victorious in Euro 2012. As
Iker Casillas lifted the trophy for Spain, their place among the greatest teams in the history
of football was confirmed.
Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquettes, Xavi, Alonso; Silva (Pedro 59),
Fabregas (Torres 75), Iniesta (Mata 87).
Italy: Buffon, Abate, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini (Balzaretti 21); Pirlo, Marchisio, Montolivo
(Motta 57), De Rossi; Balotelli, Cassano (Di Natale 46).