Spain Wins Euro Cup
Is Spain the greatest team of all time?
They certainly made their case after a 4-0 thrashing of Italy at the Euro Cup 2012 Final.
Spain received goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres, and Jesus Mata to become the first team to ever win three major championships in a row. They also become just the second team in history to win three Euro Cup championships. The only other one is Germany.
Spain won the 2008 Euro Cup and followed it up with a win at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This performance at the 2012 Euro Cup was filled with a wealth of firsts for the Spanish team.
No other team won the championship by just allowing one goal.
No team had ever allowed four goals in a final match of the Euro Cup Championship, meaning that other team had ever scored that many goals in said match.
Spain went over 500 minutes without allowing a goal after giving up a goal on the 61st minute in their first match against Italy.
Spain has also shut out teams in 10 straight knockout stages; they have won eight of those games in regulations with two wins coming in penalties. The last time Spain gave up a goal in the knockout stages of a major tournament was in 2006 against France in the World Cup.
Coming into the match, many pundits truly believed in the Italians' ability to take down the Spanish. After, they were the only team to stop them from a victory after their 1-1 tie in the opening match. They were also the only team to score on Spain and had since improved as a team. Their 2-1 defeat of all-mighty Germany was likely the biggest reason most believed that Italy could come out victorious in the final match.
Italy's strategy from the get-go was to pressure Spain and keep possession away. For most of the first half, Italy dominated possession and generated the majority of the chances. Spain was unable to establish its tiki-taka play and seemed to revert to speeding up the tempo rather than their customary slowing down of it.
Spain broke through rather early in the 13th minute when Andres Iniesta fed the ball to a speedy Cesc Fabregas on the right of the penalty area. Fabregas took one touch to goal and then cut the ball back into the middle to David Silva who headed it into the back of the net to give Spain a 1-0 lead.
Italy would answer with more attacking and numerous chances, including a point blank blast from Antonio Cassano that Iker Casillas batted away.
In the 41st minute, Spain doubled its lead when a beautiful give and go play from Xavi Hernandez found a racing Jordi Alba behind the Italian defense. Alba ran onto the throughball and chipped it past Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon to give Spain a 2-0 lead at the half.
As the second half started Italy looked to get on the board and its best opportunity came when Andrea Pirlo found substitute Antonio Di Natale open in the Spanish box. Di Natale blasted at the net from the prime spot, but was met by Casillas who hit it away.
Italy had already lost Giorgio Chiellini to injury in the 21st minute and would find more misfortune when substitute Thiago Motta was also injured late in the second half. Since Italy had already utilized its three substitutions, it was forced to play with 10 men for the remainder of the match.
At this point, Spain reverted to its tiki taka play and began monopolizing possession for the first time in the match. This led to a series of scoring opportunities that eventually led to the third goal from substitute Fernando Torres. Xavi engineered the play once more as he offered a thruball to Torres who chipped it past Buffon for his third goal of the tournament.
Just four minutes later in the 88th minute, a similar play from Xavi found a breaking Torres. However, this time, Torres touched the ball to substitute Juan Mata who used his first touch of the entire tournament to put the ball into the back of the net and add to the Spanish euphoria. Xavi had no points through the first five matches; the two assists in this match were his first. Torres ended up winning the Golden Boot award as his three goals and assist tied Germany's Mario Torres for the most in the tournament. However, Torres played fewer minutes that Gomez, giving him the points per minute advantage. He also became the first ever play to score in consecutive matches of the Euro Cup. He did not score a single goal in the 2010 World Cup.
The Italians played a strong match for the first hour of the play before injury and the score line worked against them to dampen an otherwise solid tournament. Through their first five matches, Italy had only allowed three goals; the four they allowed in the final was the most allowed by any team in the championship of the Euro Cup.
Goalkeeper Casillas became the first goalkeeper to ever win 100 matches as the goalkeeper for his national team. Spain ended scoring 12 goals in the tournament and only allowed one. They won the tournament without all-time leading goalscorer David Silva and legendary defender Carles Puyols. Both men were present at the event and were part of the 2008 and 2010 champions.