Spain rout Italy to retain title in style
Majestic Spain took their place among the game's greats by thrashing Italy 4-0 to retain their European title on Sunday, the biggest victory margin in a World Cup or Euro final - and all without a recognised striker.
Their success rewrote the tactical handbook and the record
books after goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba and late
substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata gave the world
champions an ultimately easy victory over an Italian team down
to 10 men through injury for the last half-hour.
"It was a great match for our players, they controlled the
game," Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque told reporters.
"But there is not one football, the important thing is to
score goals. We have strikers but we decided to play with
players who went better with our style."
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli added: "They made history and
deservedly - they have a lot of players who are tried and tested
at this level and even though they don't play with a classic
striker they certainly cause you plenty of problems."
While Spain's brilliant performance brought them a fully
deserved success, what they achieved needs to be placed in some
historical perspective, if only because their tiki-taka
short-passing style has been criticised during the tournament.
Spain have become the first national side to win three major
tournaments in the modern era after their Euro 2008 success and
World Cup victory two years ago and have equalled Germany's
record of three European titles.
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Sunday's win also beat the victory margin Helmut Schoen's
West Germany side recorded for a Euro final with their 3-0 win
over the Soviet Union in 1972.
Two years later Schoen led West Germany to a World Cup
triumph, a unique double success for a coach until Del Bosque
matched it on Sunday.
Torres became the first player to score in two Euro finals
and, together with his Chelsea club mate and fellow scoring
substitute Mata, became one of a handful of players to win the
Champions League and European Championship in the same season.
Other records were eclipsed too as the Spaniards redefined
what it takes to be successful at the elite level of the game in
the modern age.
Starting without a recognised striker because David Villa
was unfit for the tournament and Torres's form has been erratic,
Del Bosque put his faith in midfield magicians like Cesc
Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and the
uncompromising Sergio Busquets.
They created the chances for themselves and they knew how to
take them too.
Spain's second goal came from left back Jordi Alba, who
burst through a static defence like a midfielder, picking up the
ball from Xavi's pass like Usain Bolt collecting a baton in a
relay before slotting home.
Four-times world champions Italy were in danger of losing
from as early as the 14th minute when Spain took the lead
through a rare header from the diminutive Silva.
Italy responded before halftime with eight goal attempts
but, when they went in trailing 2-0 at the break and with their
striker Mario Balotelli having an off night, the task looked
Their midfield playmaker Andrea Pirlo, so impressive in the
earlier rounds, was also eclipsed and looked on in tears as
Spain collected the trophy at the end.
Cruelly for Italy, their plight was not helped when their
third substitute Thiago Motta limped off with a hamstring injury
just four minutes after coming on, leaving them with just 10 men
for the last 30 minutes.
Italy had more possession than Spain in the opening half but
when they did have a sniff of goal, Iker Casillas maintained his
astonishing record of not conceding a goal in the knockout stage
of a tournament for the 10th successive match.
The Spain goalkeeper also reached another milestone with a
record 100th win for his country.
The only other team to claim three successive major titles
was Argentina who lifted the Copa America in 1945, 1946 and 1947
when the tournament was held annually.
However, that feat pales into insignificance compared to
Spain's achievement such is the pace and the demands of the
Somehow Spain have not only been able to cope with those
demands but have risen way above them.