Euro 2012: Andres Iniesta gives Spain the inspiration to conquer peak again with victory over Italy

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Spain 4 Italy 0: Italy thrashed by superb Spain who win Euro 2012 final 4-0 to claim third tournament on the trot

The Olympic Stadium

In the end it was, to put it mildly, not even close and when Spain's players walked up the steps to collect the Henri Delaunay trophy shortly before midnight in Kiev last night they did so with the familiarity of a team for whom winning is no longer a surprise, it is a straightforward case of expectation.

At the top of the stack, looking down on the rest of the world there can be no arguments any more about who is the greatest, and no more quibbles about style: this, unquestionably, is the age of Spain, the great champions of modern football. They have answered every question asked of them in the last four years and their margin of victory last night was a brute reminder of how far ahead of the rest of the pack they remain.

To win one major tournament is an extraordinary achievement but to clamber back to the top of the pile a second and now third time, as Vicente del Bosque's team has done, is the calling card of a side that is not just winning trophies but redefining how we think about football. Spain picked off Italy in the first half, despite a resurgence from Cesare Prandelli's team, and then they crushed them in the second.

European champions four years ago; World Cup winners in 2010 and now the winners of Euro 2012 – it can be difficult to comprehend the scale of Spain's achievement. Boring? Only if you think it boring to watch a team capable of shaping and controlling the chaos of the game with such style and such technical accomplishment.

This kind of domination of world football does not come easy. The likes of Iker Casillas, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, all superb last night, learned the international tournament together as teenagers, age-group by age-group, trophy by trophy. At the peak of their strengths last night they celebrated, with their children playing among the streamers on the pitch, their third consecutive international trophy. It has never been done before.

Yes, Italy had their moments, especially after Spain's first goal on 14 minutes from David Silva when they fought back into the game to the extent that they had 53 per cent of the possession in the first half. Those possession statistics have not fallen in favour of an opponent of Spain since the Euro 2008 final against Germany and by the end of the game normal service had been resumed.

Jordi Alba scored Spain's second, in thrilling style, on 41 minutes and, with Prandelli chasing the game, the Italians walked into an ambush. Prandelli had used his first substitute to replace the injured Giorgio Chiellini in the first half, then brought on Antonio Di Natale for Antonio Cassano at half-time. It was his third change, on 55 minutes, Thiago Motta for Riccardo Montolivo, that really did for Italy.

When Motta, who has struggled with injury all tournament, pulled up with a hamstring injury, there was no option to replace him. Italy found themselves in the crosshairs with nowhere to run. Spain choked the life out the game and, when their opponents could fight no more, they scored twice in the closing stages through Chelsea's Spanish boys Fernando Torres and Juan Mata, on as substitutes.

It was a brutal end for the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Daniel De Rossi who put up noble resistance. For Torres it caps a season that is difficult to assess. He won the Champions League and the European Championship, yet could hardly claim to be a key figure for club or country. His goal last night won him the Golden Boot for Euro 2012, by virtue of the fact that he had scored his three goals in fewer minutes on the pitch than the others on that total.

At the end of the game, Torres looked delighted. Good luck to him. Being a £50m centre-forward in a team that does not play with a recognised striker would test the patience of the most balanced individual.

It was a frantic start by Spain who, at times in those opening stages, played as well as they ever have. It was as if they had been saving themselves for this final, tailoring their style and preserving their energy in the previous rounds in order to make one final statement about the kind of team they are.

Cesc Fabregas hit the cross for Spain's first goal, a chip back across goal that he retrieved from the byline under pressure from Chiellini. Fabregas had started the move and got the ball back via Xavi and Iniesta to pick out Silva in the box. Silva met the ball sharply with his head and beat Gianluigi Buffon who had followed the ball out from his goalmouth.

With only 14 minutes gone and under intense pressure, lesser teams than Prandelli's Italy might have folded but they came back into the game and created chances. A few times Spain were saved by Casillas who always seems to find a way to get a punch or, failing that, a touch to the ball when it matters.

The second Spain goal started with Alba winning the ball in his own half. He gave the ball to Xavi, continued his run forward and in the moment Alba crossed the defensive line, Xavi struck a wonderful pass through the Italian rearguard. The Portuguese linesman got his call just right to give him onside and Alba finished with the casual confidence of an experienced centre-forward

That second goal sent Italy back into the changing rooms at half-time robbed of all the momentum that their good 20 minutes in the middle of the first half had given them.

Italy missed a couple of chances that fell to Di Natale at the start of the second half and then, with Motta's injury, events really began to conspire against them.

By the time Torres slipped the ball past Buffon from Xavi's pass Italy were out the game. Mata's close range goal from Torres' cut-back only made it worse.

As for Mario Balotelli, this was a poor performance, compounded by him shoving an Italian Football Federation official and stomping off down the tunnel at the close.

He later returned to shed a few tears for the television cameras but he need not have bothered. This was Spain's night and no one was going to stop them.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Scorers. Spain: Silva 14, Alba 41, Torres 84, Mata 88

Substitutes: Spain Pedro (Silva, 59), Torres (Fabregas, 75), Mata (Iniesta, 87). Italy Balzaretti (Chiellini, 21), Di Natale (Cassano, h-t), Motta (Montolivo, 56). Booked: Spain Pique. Italy Barzagli.

Man of the match Iniesta. Match rating 7/10.

Possession: Spain 55% Italy 45%.

Attempts on target: Spain 9 Italy 6.

Referee P Proenca (Por).

Attendance 60,000.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York