Defending champions Spain win Euro 2012 to complete historic treble
By Paul Gittings, CNN: Defending champions Spain claimed an historic third successive major international trophy with a 4-0 rout of Italy in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev Sunday.
It was a breathtaking display from the 2010 World Cup winners, with victory all but sealed by halftime as goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba gave them a 2-0 lead.
Substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata rounded off the emphatic win with two late strikes.
Victory in the final also represents a triumph for 61-year-old coach Vicente Del Bosque, the first man to lead teams to the World Cup, European Championships and European Champions League crowns, the latter with Real Madrid in 2000 and 2002.
“This success in Spanish football is something historic, and now we have to look to the future and try to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” he told gathered reporters.
But for Italy and their coach Cesare Prandelli it was a bitter end to a tournament which they had earlier graced with their imaginative performances.
“We came up against a terrific side,” Prandelli admitted.
Euro 2012 LIVE: Spain vs Italy
La Roja shone brightly from the start and with a cutting edge, despite again starting the match without a recognized striker.
Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez brushed the crossbar with a fierce shot in the 10th minute after dazzling interplay but it did not take long for the pressure to pay off.
Xavi’s club teammate Andres Iniesta threaded a perfect pass through for Cesc Fabregas to cross for David Silva to head home on 14 minutes.
Italy, who caused such a shock with a 2-1 win over Germany in the semifinals, responded with a pair of Antonio Cassano efforts, but with Mario Balotelli unable to make much impression they always looked second best.
Spain went further ahead just before halftime and the goal was typical off their all round teamwork.
Defender Jordi Alba exchanged passes with Xavi and burst through the center of the Italian defense before easily beating Gianluigi Buffon.
This success in Spanish football is something historic
Vicente Del Bosque
After the break, Italy responded with a pair of chances for Antonio di Natali, the first a header, the second with a clearer sight of goal only to be denied twice in quick succession by Spain captain Iker Casillas.
Italian hopes of a comeback took a further dent when their final substitute, Thiago Motta, lasted only five minutes before being stretchered off.
Against a tiring team with only 10 men, Spain eventually took full advantage after the introduction of Chelsea’s Torres.
Xavi found him with another superb pass and he slotted home the third on 84 minutes, becoming the first man to score in two successive European Championship finals.
He had grabbed the only goal of the 2008 final win over Germany.
Torres then cleverly set up his club teammate Mata to score with virtually his first touch of the ball.
In doing so, Torres clinched the tournament’s Golden Boot for his joint leading three goals and that final assist.
It left Casillas to lift the trophy in the magnificent Olympic Stadium, the Real Madrid goalkeeper reveling in yet another showpiece triumph for a team many are calling the greatest in history.
“This is such a truly wonderful moment. The second goal from Jordi (Alba) clinched it really,” he told Telecinco television.
“It’s been four marvelous years. You might think that a 4-0 margin against Italy means it was easy — but we have been gradually stepping up as the tournament went along.”
Sunday’s final set the seal on three weeks of competition in Ukraine and Poland at eight match venues and involving 16 teams.
Twenty four national sides will take their place in the next finals in France in 2016 and they will do well to match the overall high standard of attacking play in Euro 2012.
Incidents of racist chanting and violent clashes between supporters from Poland and Russia marred the group stages, but fears of widespread fan violence proved just fears.
This is such a truly wonderful moment. The second goal from Jordi (Alba) clinched it really
Ukraine’s alleged mistreatment of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko also led to threats of a boycott by European political leaders, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended their quarterfinal victory over Greece.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rayoy were guests at the final, a welcome distraction perhaps from the economic turmoil engulfing their austerity-hit countries in the Eurozone crisis.
More controversially, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was also among the dignitaries, despite being the subject of a European Union travel ban.
His invite sparked a protest from a feminist group in Kiev before the final.