Spain have been crowned European champions for the second consecutive time after beating Italy 4-0 in a commanding performance in Kiev on Sunday night. Goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata sealed victory for La Roja in a one-sided game, and put Vicente del Bosque’s men into the record books.
There were high hopes over Italy’s chances ahead of the game after their impressive performance in beating Germany 2-1 in the competition semi-finals, and Cesare Prandelli welcomed AC Milan full-back Ignazio Abate back into his starting XI in place of Federico Balzaretti in the only change from the last game. Spain resorted back to playing without a natural striker, as Cesc Fabregas was reinstated into the side in the false nine position at the expense of Alvaro Negredo.
From the first whistle Spain’s main players looked full of energy and purpose, as they looked to claim their third consecutive international trophy. It did not take the holders long to drive home early dominance, as David Silva opened the scoring after 14 minutes. After a fantastic through-ball by the impressive Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas found space behind Italy left-back Giorgio Chiellini to centre the ball onto the head of the Manchester City playmaker to give Spain the lead. Chiellini would be substituted not long after due to a hamstring strain, replaced by Federico Balzaretti.
Spain did not have things all their own way, as Italy claimed 53 per cent of the possession in the first 45 minutes, but the Azzurri never really threatened the Spanish goal. Mario Balotelli let loose a number of long range attempts that failed to test Iker Casillas, as Spain looked impenetrable. The world champions doubled their lead on the verge of half-time, with Jordi Alba popping up from the back to score. The left-back, who has recently signed for Barcelona, rallied forward after a period of possession and was found by an inch-perfect pass from Xavi, before slotting the ball home past the onrushing Gianluigi Buffon.
Italy looked to change things at half time with the introduction of Antonio Di Natale in place of Antonio Cassano, and the Udinese marksman had an early chance to pull one back, which he spurned. After a clever reverse pass from Riccardo Montolivo, Di Natale received the ball eight yards from goal but could not test Casillas. The game ended as a contest not long later, as Thiago Motta came on for Montolivo, only to pull a hamstring immediately and reduce Italy to ten men as they had made all their substitutions.
With the Italians looking weary and a man down, Del Bosque introduced the pace of Pedro and Fernando Torres. Spain were totally dominant and got their third as Xavi was once more the architect, playing in Torres to slot home from inside the box. Juan Mata got his first run-out of the tournament in the last five minutes and scored the fourth after an unselfish layoff by club team-mate Torres.
All-in-all Spain were totally dominant in everything they did, and never looked likely of relinquishing their title. The side’s midfield was exceptional, with Xavi and Iniesta driving their lethal offensive effort and the side too good for Italy. Spain will now go down in history as one of the best and most successful teams of all time, and are worthy winners of Euro 2012.