Spain put on a masterclass performance in Kyiv, Ukraine on Sunday with a 4–0 win over Italy. In a thrilling first half, Spain took a 2–0 lead and then benefited from injuries that forced Italy to play with 10 men for most of the second half.
Spain won their third European championship and now have won three major tournaments in a row—Euro 2008, 2012, and the 2010 World Cup. A good argument could be made for this generation of Spanish superstars as making up the best team of all time.
Once again, Spain started Fabregas as a “false 9”—playing with six midfielders and no strikers. Spain had adopted this formation in all but one of their matches.
Spain and Italy played to an exciting 1–1 draw in their opening Euro 2012 match on June 10. Since then, Spain had not conceded a goal and they wouldn’t give one up to Italy today.
Spain quickly established their possession dominance game and threatened the Italian goal. Their pressure on the Italian defense paid off in the 14th minute when Cesc Fabregas latched on to a through ball in the 18-yard box, made his way to the goal line before cutting back a superb pass to David Silva.
Silva punched his header into the open net for a quick 1–0 lead. It was the first goal from open play Italy had conceded since their second group stage match against Croatia.
Antonio Cassano responded for Italy with a couple of shots that Iker Casillas in the Spanish goal parried without too much difficulty.
But Spain’s footballing superiority was up for all to see toward the end of the first half. Xavi Hernandez fed a perfect ball to fullback Jordi Alba who timed his run to perfection. The young Spaniard was able to cut through the Italian defense and ease the ball past Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian net for a two-goal lead.
The Italians brought on their most experience striker in Antonio Di Natale in place of Cassano at the start of the second half. They began the second half desperate to get on the board quickly, but the Spaniards were able to create dangerous threats given the holes that were being left in their defense.
Italy suffered a bad blow when substitute Thiago Motta had to leave the match after less than three minutes of action with what looked like a hamstring injury. Italy had lost defender Giorgio Chiellini in the first half and having made all their substitutions, the Azzurri had to play the final 30 minutes of the game down to 10 men.
The match lost its intensity and unpredictability at this stage as an extended endgame started to be played out. Spain began moving in for the kill and Italy had no answer with 10 men against 11.
Spain brought on two Chelsea players in Fernando Torres and Juan Mata. Both scored in the dying minutes to make the score 4–0 for the repeat champions of Europe. Torres won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer with three goals. He was tied with three others with three goals but he had more assists than the others.
It was a very unfortunate scoreline for the Italians who were undone by injuries. But few pundits picked the Azzurri to reach the final and under coach Cesare Prandelli, they’ve shown they have a bright future.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports
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