No one was really surprised that Spain beat Italy in the final of Euro 2012, but no one expected for the Spanish players, especially Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva to produce their finest performance of the tournament, leading the team to a devastating 4-0 win and a record third consecutive major international title, leaving the Italians stunned and crushed.
It wasn’t exactly a risky bet to put your money on Spain in the beginning of the tournament or before the match. Still, Italy kept improving with every match they played in the tournament, culminating in a masterful and tactical display of football against Germany in the semifinal. After already drawing once with Spain, it should have been a much fairer fight.
Instead Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain finally showed what the 4-6-0 was all about. Italy decided to give up on the three centre back setup, resulting in a much easier road for Spain towards the Italian goal and poor Buffon, who didn’t really have a chance against any of the four goals he conceded.
David Silva and Jordi Alba found the net twice in the first half as the entire defensive concept of Italy collapsed. It’s not like they didn’t get any chances to score, but Iker Casillas, maybe the MVP of the tournament, was there every time, for the long tries and the rare ones from inside the box. Mario Balotelli? The joker/ace card of Prandelli didn’t show up, as his reliance on a functioning midfield was too much of an obstacle.
The second half saw Prandelli try and turn the tide, but it wasn’t enough. The final showed just how far ahead Spain are from the rest of Europe and the footballing world, and sheds a different light on their effectiveness in this tournament, conceding only one goal en route to a title, and in general over this current generation of Spanish footballers, being the first to win back to back European championships with a World Cup as a very satisfying bridge in the middle.
Even Fernando Torres, deservedly, got to get his goal in the few minutes he got to play. This was a so-so tournament for him, with a mixed feeling of a comeback aside with stepping in place. But I’m pretty sure he’ll take the good for these three weeks. Chelsea certainly hope so, feeling rather happy another player of theirs, Juan Mata, got up from the bench and scored against the deflated Italians.
After all, the world of football stayed the same. Italy lose in a European final to a team that defines this era of soccer in the continent, finally showing what everyone knew and hoped they were capable of, demonstrating that there’s not just one way to win a match and a tournament, while people will forgive you for the unattractive road if you win the final in style.