Spain reign supreme
Spain defended their European Championship crown on Sunday as they saw off Italy 4-0 to pick up a record-breaking third consecutive international title.
Last Updated: 01/07/12 10:26pm
Spain successfully defended their European Championship crown on Sunday as they saw off Italy 4-0 to pick up a record-breaking third consecutive international title.
David Silva rounded off a brilliantly incisive move to edge them in front and the buccaneering Jordi Alba added a second before half-time.
Fernando Torres, four years on from netting the winner against Germany at Euro 2008, stepped off the bench to grab Spain's third, before putting their fourth on a plate for Chelsea team-mate and fellow substitute Juan Mata.
It took just 14 minutes for a Spain side that had been accused of being boring heading into the game to break the deadlock.
Andres Iniesta fed a brilliant pass into Cesc Fabregas and, after wriggling away from Giorgio Chiellini, he cut the ball back onto the head of Silva to nod into an unguarded net.
Spain were back to their free-flowing best and doubled their lead four minutes before the interval when Xavi was allowed to drift forward and feed the ball into the path of Alba, who made no mistake as he calmly slotted past Gianluigi Buffon.
Italy were always going to struggle to keep the score down once Thiago Motta was stretchered off and left them with 10 men, and Torres got his hands on the golden boot on 84 minutes when he rolled into the bottom corner.
He then turned provider four minutes later as he squared for Mata to plant the ball into an empty net and put the seal on a productive night's work.
Throughout the tournament, the argument for Spain being a dour outfit had been building.
It dominated the pre-match press conferences and was fuelled still further by Arsene Wenger, who accused the world champions of having 'betrayed their philosophy' by turning their tiki-taka style into a negative.
After 15 minutes of the most majestic football imaginable, the greatest noise was the sound of all those words being rammed jubilantly down throats.
Coach Vicente del Bosque refused to bow to the demand for a regular centre-forward to be included in his starting line-up and was rewarded with a start the quality of which was on a par with anything this group of players has ever produced.
Sergio Ramos had a couple of early efforts, so too Xavi. Iniesta also had a shot blocked before Spain cut their opponents' defence to shreds.
The move was astounding in its simplicity.
Alvaro Arbeloa started it, Xavi was also involved before Iniesta split the Italy defence with a pass Fabregas was able to cut-back from the byline.
And who should be there to head home? None other than little David Silva, who had got free at the near post and flicked the ball into the far corner. By half-time, Spain had another
Again five passes were involved. This time it went back to front. Iker Casillas, Fabregas and then Alba, who fed Xavi and kept motoring.
What unfolded can only make Barcelona thankful they had agreed to pay Valencia £13million for the full-back before the tournament started. His price would have gone up significantly otherwise.
Xavi has played that straight through-ball thousands of times in his illustrious career. The pace on it was perfect. Alba, beyond Italy's back-line, steadied himself before sliding a shot calmly past Buffon.
Under normal circumstances, the half-time statistics would have underlined Spain's superiority.
In fact, they showed Italy had played more passes and secured 53 per cent possession, almost unheard of against this Spain team.
With Casillas not enjoying his most secure evening, the Azzurri would have expected to create something meaningful. But the bounce of the ball would not go their way.
Casillas got in the way of a thunderous effort from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli fired over.
No-one could accuse Cesare Prandelli of lacking guts. Within 11 minutes of the re-start he had used all his substitutes and seen one of them, Antonio Di Natale, bring a decent save out of Casillas after collecting Riccardo Montolivo's pass inside the area.
Unfortunately for Italy, the last replacement, Motta, was only on the field for four minutes before he pulled a hamstring and had to be stretchered off.
It was dreadful luck for the Azzurri, who now knew their task was a hopeless one. All that was left was to stave off humiliation.
Even that was beyond them as substitutes Torres and Mata struck in the final minutes.
Italy did not deserve that. Their first competitive defeat to Spain - penalties excepted - since the 1920 Olympics.Spain, record breakers twice over, now unbeaten in this competition for 29 games, a run that stretches back to June 2004. History makers. How boring.
|2||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||4|
|5||Shots off Target||6|
|53.1||1st Half Poss.||46.9|
|60.3||2nd Half Poss.||39.7|