Last night Spain rewrote history as they became the first team to retain the Henri Delaunay trophy and in some style too as they thrashed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final and put forwards their claim to be the best team of all time. Vicente del Bosque’s men won their third consecutive major tournament and in an invigorating, attractive way thanks to Silva, Alba, Torres and Mata goals.
Spain strode out onto the Olympic Stadium turf riled by growing criticism of their play and a desire to change that. Their dominant and patient traditions of playing had been scrutinised and labelled as boring and negative by a group which had slowly formed throughout the tournament and escalated after the stagnant Portugal semi-final.
Vicente del Bosque felt the need to address these claims in his press conference and clearly instructed his team to attack with increased vigour, which is what we got.
One of the most magical performances in recent football history made sure of Spain’s place in history and the emphatic scoreline, although harsh on Italy, could perhaps have been more.
Cesare Prandelli’s brave gladiators had fought tirelessly throughout the tournament and surprised a few in reaching the final altogether but could not prevent the dominance of del Bosque’s matadors. Spain pushed and pressed and rarely let Italy from their grasp and controlled the game as though they’d read the script beforehand.
Italy can still hold their heads high and take pride in their efforts as few teams in history could have played tactics to suppress and beat that performance from Spain. Much had been said about Andrea Pirlo’s influence and how he held the hopes of his nation upon his shoulders before kick-off with his fine array of passes and technical ability but Spain stifled him and locked him away for 90 minutes. Instead Xavi and Iniesta stole his thunder and played the games of their lives in the heart of the Spanish midfield as almost every chance flowed through the pair.
Deploying a formation devoid of a striker had failed to yield significant results prior to last night but it came to fruition at last as the movement of the Spanish players matched the fluidity of the tactic as David Silva capitalised on his country’s early dominance. Iniesta provided the inch perfect pass for Fabregas who crossed for the winger to head in after 14 minutes. At last Spain had injected some urgency into their play in the final third, something football purists had been crying out for, as the reigning champions began to unleash their full capabilities.
Xavi was next to create and Jordi Alba gratefully accepted his through ball to score his first international goal from a rapid and devastating counter attack. Alba’s desire to get forwards and composure infront of goal proved in that moment exactly why Barcelona had just spent a great deal of money for his services next season. It also confirmed the quality coursing through each and every position in the Spanish squad and the attacking intent of the nation.
Prandelli tried to inject his side with more attacking options at the break by bringing on Di Natale but with the way Spain were playing there was little point. Pirlo had been masterfully contained by Busquets and the enigmatic Mario Balotelli failed to create any of the sort of fireworks his reputation forewarns (literally).
Italy’s hopes crumbled as Thiago Motta was forced off injured after all three substitutions had been made meaning they had to endure the final 30 minutes with a man less than the imperious Spain combined with the fatigue from the rest of the tournament.
Del Bosque’s side were cruising towards the trophy as Torres and Mata were introduced to the game and made it safe in the final few minutes. Torres, reminiscent of Vienna in 2008, finished past Buffon coolly before setting up Chelsea teammate Juan Mata to tap into an empty net to round off a performance unlikely to be repeated again.
This Spain squad have drawn comparisons to some of the greatest teams of all time and have dominated football for the past six years and could do for many more. They are truly the greatest team of our generation and a joy to watch when in such form.