Spain became the first team in the history of football to win three consecutive international tournaments after an inexplicable display of footballing genius in the finals of the Euro 2012 on Sunday. La Roja created history on a night when records tumbled one after another, as the defending champions thumped a wayward Italian side 4-0 to retain their crown as the Euro 2012 champions in the final at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.
First half goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba put the champions in cruise control as Spain dominated the game with incredible ease. With Spain in the driving seat, it was just a matter of time before the game was put to bed. Late substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scored within minutes of their arrival to secure the Holy Grail.
Despite pre-match reports that Coach Vicente Del Bosque will opt for a specialist striker in the finale, Spain named an unchanged lineup with Cesc Fabregas starting in his usual ‘False nine’ role.
Italian coach, Cesare Prandelli made one change to his team that beat Germany in the semi-finals. Ignazio Abate, the AC Milan fullback who missed the semi-finals through injury returned to the starting lineup in place of Federico Balzaretti.
Spain hardly needed any time to settle into the game and started controlling the proceedings effectively. Quick one-two’s and incisive movements pulled the Italians out of their positions on numerous occasions as Spain kept knocking on the door.
Sergio Ramos almost put Spain ahead when his clean header sailed over the bar after he was picked out unmarked with a well taken corner kick. Xavi came close to giving Spain the lead when his thunderous effort whistled past the cross bar after a beautiful exchange with Fabregas.
Early dominance paid off as Spain took the lead eventually on the 14th minute when Iniesta spotted a brilliant run from Cesc Fabregas and picked out the former Arsenal man with an impeccable through ball. Fabregas did well to lose Chiellini and fire a cross into the box for David Silva to head home.
Italy responded straight back with successive efforts through crosses and set pieces. However, the Real Madrid and Spain captain, Iker Casillas did brilliantly to keep the Italians at bay.
Just as the Italians started to build some pressure on the Spanish, the Azzurris suffered a massive blow with defender Giorgio Chiellini’s premature ending to the night due to a pulled hamstring. The Juventus defender was replaced by the lively Federico Balzaretti as the Italians continued to search for the equaliser.
Despite the pressure, Spain had little trouble in winning the ball back. With the Italians pressing the Spanish playmakers it was now time for Spain to launch the counter. La Roja showed their brilliance yet again with a splendid breakaway, as they doubled the lead on the 41st minutes.
Xavi demonstrated his exceptional passing and vision as he picked out a blistering run by the new Barcelona signing Jordi Alba with a wonderful through ball and the young fullback did brilliantly to finish it off.
Leading 2-0 at halftime, Spain looked like running away with the trophy. However, Prandelli’s decision to bring on Antonio Di Natale in place of Cassano at half time added extra penetration to the Italian forward line.
Di Natale almost got on the score sheet as he was treated to some lovely passes few minutes after his arrival. However, the pressure kept on piling up as the Udinese talisman failed to convert a couple of decent chances.
Despite the momentary pressure from Italy, Spain did well to get hold of the game again. Italy were forced to defend deep and struggled to deal with the wave of Spanish attacks. Prandelli’s men were forced into their own half and were restricted to long balls and counter attacks in order to get the ball up ahead.
The damaging blow was struck on the hour mark when substitute, Thiago Motta had to be carried off the field on a stretcher after having pulled his hamstring. By that time, Italy had used up all of their substitutions and were braced with a nightmare scenario of playing the rest of the game with ten men. Trailing by a couple of goals and now down to ten men, as if the task wasn’t tough enough.
From thereon, it was Spain all the way. Italy survived an intense spell of Spanish pressure with Iniesta and Fabregas coming close to increasing the lead.
La Roja drained the life out of the Italian players with their relentless passing and reduced the Azzurris to mere spectators. The tired Italian team was treated with further discomfort as Del Bosque introduced the fresh legs of Torres and Pedro for the final quarter of an hour.
After a consistent spell of pressure Spain finally managed to find the clincher as substitute, Fernando Torres scored his third goal of the tournament and claimed the golden boot six minutes from time.
The humiliation got worse for the Italians when Spain added to their tally four minutes later as Fernando Torres set up his Chelsea teammate, Juan Mata with a neat pass and the former Valencia drew curtains to a truly remarkable Spanish treat with his first touch of the tournament.