Three and easy for four-star Spain

Spain made history in Kiev after beating Italy 4-0 in Sunday's Euro 2012 final to become the first side to win three consecutive tournaments.

Last Updated: 01/07/12 at 22:05 Post Comment

Spain: Crowned Euro 2012 champions

Spain: Crowned Euro 2012 champions

The sensational Spaniards trampled all over those boring jibes and marched straight into the history books with a magnificent performance.

First-half goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba and late efforts from substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata confirmed La Roja as the first team to record three successive major tournament victories, including a World Cup, with the biggest-ever win in a European Championship final.

And they did it with the most awesome display of passing power, which made a mockery of all those who had questioned them beforehand.

It was all too much for Mario Balotelli, who marched straight down the tunnel at the end and angrily shrugged away efforts from Italian officials to get him to stay, before returning for the presentation ceremony.

Yet the thing was, Italy were not disgraced and would have held out hopes of a comeback until Cesare Prandelli's final replacement Thiago Motta was stretchered off within four minutes of his arrival, leaving his team-mates to battle through the final half hour with 10 men.

Ultimately though, Spain's display was a fitting end to the best European Championships in almost three decades.

Four players in particular, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and Xavi deserve a special mention after starting all three finals, in Vienna, Johannesburg and now Ukraine.

But, as 'Ole' rang around this magnificent stadium, it was a night to glory in tiki-taka - and the players who put it into practice.

Throughout the tournament, the argument for Spain being a dour outfit had been building.

It dominated the pre-match press conferences and was fuelled still further by Arsene Wenger, who accused the world champions of "betraying their philosophy" by turning their tiki-taka style into a negative.

After 15 minutes of the most majestic football imaginable, the greatest noise was the sound of all those words being rammed jubilantly down throats.

Coach Vicente del Bosque refused to bow to the demand for a regular centre-forward to be included in his starting line-up and was rewarded with a start the quality of which was on a par with anything this group of players has ever produced.

Ramos had a couple of early efforts, so too Xavi. Andres Iniesta also had a shot blocked before Spain cut their opponents' defence to shreds.

The move was astounding in its simplicity.

Alvaro Arbeloa started it, Xavi was also involved before Iniesta split the Italy defence with a pass Cesc Fabregas was able to cut-back from the by-line.

And who should be there to head home? None other than little David Silva, who had got free at the near post and flicked the ball into the far.

By half-time, Spain had another

Again five passes were involved. This time it went back to front. Iker Casillas, Fabregas and then Alba, who fed Xavi and kept motoring.

What unfolded can only make Barcelona thankful they had agreed to pay Valencia £13million for the full-back before the tournament started. His price would have gone up significantly otherwise.

Xavi has played that straight through ball thousands of times in his illustrious career. The pace on it was perfect. Alba, beyond Italy's back-line, steadied himself before sliding a shot calmly past Gianluigi Buffon.

Under normal circumstances, the half-time statistics would have underlined Spain's superiority.

In fact, they showed Italy had played more passes and secured 53% possession, almost unheard of against this Spain team.

With Casillas not enjoying his most secure evening, the Azzurri would have expected to create something meaningful.

But the bounce of the ball would not go their way.

Casillas got in the way of a thunderous effort from Antonio Cassano and Balotelli fired over.

No-one could accuse Prandelli of lacking guts. Within 11 minutes of the re-start he had used all his substitutes and seen one of them Antonio di Natale bring a decent save out of Casillas after collecting Riccardo Montolivo's pass inside the area.

Unfortunately for Italy, the last replacement, Motta was only on the field for four minutes before he pulled a hamstring and had to be stretchered off.

It was dreadful luck for the Azzurri, who now knew their task was a hopeless one.

All that was left was to stave off humiliation.

Even that was beyond them as substitutes Torres and Mata struck in the final minutes.

Italy didn't deserve that.

Their first competitive defeat to Spain - penalties excepted - since the 1920 Olympics.

Spain, record breakers twice over, now unbeaten in this competition for 29 games, a run that stretches back to June 2004.

History makers. How boring.

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