Euro 2012: Rampant Spain make European history

Spain Captain Iker Casillas holds aloft the European Championship trophy. Picture Credit: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

Spain became the first team to successfully defend their European crown after a majestic 4-0 victory over Italy in Kiev.

The reigning kings of Europe were fast out of the blocks, scoring through David Silva and Jordi Alba to give them a 2-0 lead before half-time.

Things went from bad to worse for the Italians when, having used all three substitutes, Thiago Motta pulled up with a hamstring injury, sending his side down to ten men with half an hour to go.

Spain would make Italy pay, as substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata helped themselves to a goal apiece to round off a victory that never really looked in doubt.

The win in the Olympic Stadium sees Spain complete an incredible treble, having won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championships two years earlier in Austria.

Once more we saw Spain take to the field without a conventional front-man, with Cesc Fabregas replacing Alvaro Negredo in their only change from their semi-final success against Portugal.

However, Vicente Del Bosque’s side showed that you don’t need strikers on the pitch to run the opposition ragged when David Silva popped up into the area to head Fabregas’s precise chip into the back of the net.

Italy simply couldn’t get a foothold in the game with Iker Casillas routinely saving a couple of long range drives from Antonio Cassano, as they struggled to create in-front of goal.

As half-time approached, the up-hill battle got that little bit steeper for the Italians when the lightening quick Jordi Alba stroked the ball past Gianluigi Buffon after a precision pass from Xavi put him in the clear.

Cesare Prandelli introduced Antonio Di Natale at half time and he so nearly made an instant impact, glancing his free-header over the crossbar with his first touch of the ball.

Italy’s final change saw Thiago Motta enter the fray, only to pull up with a hamstring problem after just four minutes, forcing them to play the last half an hour with ten men.

With a man advantage, Spain’s killer instinct kicked in.

The mercurial Xavi robbed Daniele De Rossi in the middle of the park before keeping his cool to slide an inch perfect pass to Torres, who made no mistake in rolling the ball past Buffon for 3-0.

With the trophy already being engraved, the Chelsea duo of Torres and Juan Mata were able to combine for a record-breaking fourth.

Sergio Busquet’s great through pass found Torres bearing down on goal and he calmly flicked the ball to his Chelsea team-mate Mata to roll into an empty net

Mata’s strike made sure that Spain would clinch their second successive title and record the biggest final win in the history of the competition.

It was a bold statement from the Spanish, who had their motivation questioned before the tournament and their style of play criticised during it.

Having only conceded one goal throughout a competition that they won at a canter, Spain have put themselves into the conversation for the best team to ever play the game.

The question now beckons as to whether this side can continue to dominate world football over the coming years, in the same spectacular manner that they have since 2008.

(Original post: http://sportsbyte.sunderland.ac.uk/?p=15886)

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