Euro Cup 2012: Spain makes history
On Sunday afternoon, the Spanish national team broke records and cemented itself in history when it beat Italy 4-0 in the 2012 Euro Cup final in Kiev, Ukraine. Spain became the first team to ever win back-to-back-to-back major tournament titles, and the first team to win back-to-back European Championships.
David Silva scored the game winning goal off a cross from Cesc Fábregas in the 14th minute. Andrés Iniesta sent a through ball to Fabregas, who earned the start after being left out of the lineup for the semifinal. Fabregas dribbled toward the touch line and crossed the ball to Silva, one of the smallest men on the field, who headed the ball into the back of the net. The Italian goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon committed to a near post shot, and when Fabregas crossed the ball instead of taking the shot, it left an empty net for Silva.
Spain’s next goal came in the 41st minute when Xavi sent another beautiful through ball to the left back Jordi Alba who slipped the ball past Buffon. This was Jordi Alba’s first goal for Spain, and it happened on one of the biggest soccer stages. Spain went into halftime with a 2-0 lead.
In the second half, Italy’s luck turned from bad to worse. In the 57th minute Italy made its third and final substitute, Thiago Motta for Riccardo Montolivo. But less than 10 minutes later Thiago Motta hurt his hamstring, and Italy was forced to play nearly 30 minutes with 10 men. The comeback, which was already going to be difficult, turned nearly impossible.
In the 84th minute Fernando Torres, who came on in place of Fabregas, received another splendid through ball from the assist man Xavi and scored. This marked Torres third goal of the tournament. Moments later, Juan Mata, who was seeing his first minutes in the tournament, scored off an assist from Torres. Torres’ assist tied him with German Mario Gomez for the Golden Boot, but because Torres played fewer minutes during the tournament (a tiebreaker), he won the Golden Boot.
Italy held Spain to its lowest time of possession in the entire tournament: 52 percent–a surprising number considering Italy’s bad luck in the second half. When Italy went down to 10 men, it was almost too painful to watch. Spain passed the ball around the tired Italian side that barely held possession of the ball and, when it did get possession, almost immediately gave it away. Italy did have a couple chances to score, but Iker Casillas continued to perform at a high level in goal. Spain went 512 minutes without conceding a goal, the longest streak in Euro Cup history. Spain also only conceded one goal in the entire tournament, the fewest allowed since the Euro Cup adopted the group stage in 1980. The 4-0 victory is the largest margin of victory in a Euro Cup final, although its hard to say if Spain would have won by four goals if Italy had stayed healthy for the entire game.
The back-to-back-to-back major championship titles (2008 Euros, 2010 World Cup, 2012 Euros) and back-to-back Euro Championships makes Spain arguably one of the greatest teams in soccer history. And with Spain’s core starters only being in their late 20s and early 30s, its more than likely that we’ll see this same squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Only this team will be slightly stronger with the return of injured David Villa, and I’d hate to see what kind of damage that team can do.