Spain Wins Euro 2012 Final, Secures Place Among All-Time Great Teams
In what will be remembered as one of the greatest team runs in sports history, the Spaniards have become the first to ever win three major titles in a row. In 2008, it was the European Championship; in 2010, they became World Cup champs, and now in 2012 they have done it again with a 4-0 victory in the Euro Cup.
Spain's side has become "lo mejor."
In one of the biggest, most important games of their lives, the men of Spain and Italy went toe-to-toe in Kiev, Ukraine for the right to be Europe's greatest team. It was a Euro 2012 Final that pitted the smart, seamless passing attack of Spain against the fun and inspiring play of Italy. Both teams were looking for their own type of glory in this final: Spain, for the designation of being the only team to three-peat titles, and Italy, for their first Euro title in 14 years.
But when the final seconds of the Euro Cup ticked to an end, it would be the Spaniards who raised the trophy in glory.
These teams met in group play earlier in the tournament for a 1-1 draw, and went on different but compelling roads to the final. Many thought that Italy would enter the Final and give Spain a challenge, as their play in the tournament had been inspiring. In the semifinals they bested Germany, one of the favorites in the competition, and they made it look easy. However, Spain was on a mission to silence the critics who said they are "too boring" to make history.
The second time around, the two squads gave the fans much more to write home about. They played with much more fire than the first time they met, antagonizing each other from the first whistle. In the thirteenth minute, Spain created an opportunity for itself when Jordi Alba crossed the ball across the face of goal, and David Silva buried it in the back of the net with a very controlled header.
Just as the action was getting good, the ESPN feed from Bristol tapped out, sending everyone watching in America into a tizzy. Within a few minutes it was back up, and fortunately nothing too noteworthy happened during the outage.
For the Azzuri, Mario Balotelli has been their dark knight, bringing the squad as much controversy as success. His antics have been fabled over the years, but in the tournament it was his two amazing goals against Germany that made headlines. Though he had a few attempts against Spain, he never had a legitimate opportunity to make that magic happen again. To their credit though, Italy did make Spanish keeper Iker Casillas work twice in the first half, drawing him out of the box to make big stops.
In the 48th minute, Spain's Alba went on a great run from his own backfield while Xavi was barreling towards goal with the ball. Just outside the box, Xavi laid it into Alba, who connected and scored his first goal of the tournament.
Early in the second half, though, it seemed that Italy had once again found a reason to fight. Antonio Di Natale fired a missile at Casillas in the 51st minute, and again Casillas stopped it, adding more to his argument for being the best goalkeeper in the world. After that strike, Italy just could not find that energy that had carried them to the Final.
Spain would control the tempo for the second half, showing once more just how brilliant, if low octane, the "tiki-taka" is. Late in the game Cesc Fabregás left the game and Fernando Torres replaced him, and moments later would show that Spain wasn't done yet. In the 84th minute, Torres dribbled around Italian goalie Gigi Buffon to make it three goals to nil.
Then four minutes later, the soccer gods — in their best Mortal Kombat voice — said, "Finish them!" and Torres obliged: he connected with Chelsea teammate Juan Mata for a wide open goal.
In their 4-0 victory, Spain has once again become champions of Europe and winners of the Henri Delaunay Trophy.
This Spanish team will go down in the record books as one of the most consistent and most dominant teams of all time. They showed that passing and possession are what win games, not necessarily flashy goals. They absorbed all the pressure and emerged triumphantly, defying what history indicated as attainable.
And they did it with class.
The credit for this unprecedented achievement must go to head coach, Vincente Del Bosque. He has molded a team full of bitter rivals from Real Madrid and Barcelona football clubs into one with few egos, a cohesive force that has proven to be unstoppable. To put this into context, this would be like having the Lakers and the Celtics from the Larry Bird/Magic Johnson era come together every two years and play on the same team. Del Bosque's accomplishment with his team will catapult him into the ranks of the all-time great coaches.
With yet another dynastic performance, Spain has left no doubt.