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.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
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

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?