Spain 4-0 Italy
A final score that was a little unjust, but the actual result wasn’t.
Spain and Italy were fairly even when it came things like possession, but the Spanish passing skill was as good as you will ever have seen it, in a performance that was easily their best in the last few finals. Ineista, Xavi, Silva and Fabregas upped their game to previous levels, the lethargy that was on display against France was banished. They were vibrant, quick, fully aware of all options around the, in that way which leaves opposition teams floundering.
Italy were not bad in the first 45, but struggled to do anything of value in the Spanish half other then long shots and that did not really trouble Casillas. The Spanish defence is routinely looked at as the weaker part of this outfit, but they were solid for the vast majority of this tournament, Pique and Ramos doing sterling work at the back to keep Italy at bay. Balotelli and Cassano were marked out of the game and Italy looked toothless as a result. Balotelli was especially worthless, as he was in four of the seven games he played in.
The Spanish midfield was dominant, with Pirlo having his worst game of the tournament right when Italy needed him the most. Spain were their typical selves, sharks, passing it around and waiting for the opportunities. Some dub this “boring” football, but I certainly don’t think so. The Spanish game is football turned into an art form, the end result of a lifetime of preparation for these players. They’ve scored the most goals of any team in the tournament so it can’t be called negative. Perhaps the criticism of this Spanish team on such lines is evidence of boredom with the Iberians winning all the time, rather than the style of play that has accomplished this.
Silva’s first was a result of some well worked play from Fabregas, with the Manchester City man placing himself in the right position to head home. Alba’s second came from a wonderful through ball and a great finish. Italy went all in with Di Natale in the second half, and he had two great chances to get Italy back into it. That was the crucial time, and things could have turned out very differently of one of them had gone in. Spain were never in too much difficulty, but Italy were making chances.
But Motta’s injury killed the game dead. Two goals down and then a man down, with so many key players not performing to previous levels, Italy were done. The last 20 minutes were simply an exercise in keep ball for Spain, and the final question was not whether Italy could get back into it, but if they had the capability to stop Spain from scoring more.
They didn’t as it turned out, with Torres positioning himself well to take advantage of the turnover in possession that led to his goal, and in being in the right spot to unselfishly pass off to Mata late on. Four nil it was, a beating that Italy did not quite deserve, but Spain were rampant.
So, champions of Europe again, world champions to boot. Are they the best ever? It is hard to really dispute that title, given their achievements. A times Spain have looked flat and directionless – against France most of all, but occasionally against Italy (in the group) and Portugal as well – but they have still been phenomenal overall. That midfield, the midfield of Xavi Ineista, Silva, Fabregas, is just amazing when they click, which is frequent. The defence has proven itself a brick wall, their keeper is the best in the world, and the few strikers that Spain choose to employ are all top quality (well, Torres occasionally). It is a well deserved win for the Kings of world football.
For Italy, the bitter disappointment of how the final turned out will be assuaged somewhat by the unlikely chance of them getting this far at all, given the inferiority of the squad compared to past versions, the match fixing scandal at home, the difficult group. Italy gave Spain a hell of game in that group, breezed past Ireland, slugged it out with England and utterly destroyed Germany. For all that effort, for the way Pirlo lit up the European stage, they should be proud. With the right amount of work in the next two years they could make an impact in Brazil.
So ends Euro 2012. A final recap, with awards and team rankings, will be coming at some point in the next week. Until then.