UEFA Euro 2012 Final
Spain 4-0 Italy
(Spain are crowned European champions)

 

 


 

Fernando Torres comes off the bench to roll the ball past Buffon for Spain's third goal as he claims the personal golden boot crown (above top); while captain Iker Casillas lifts the trophy high into the air with sheer joy as the Spanish celebrate making history by winning Euro 2012

 

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from the Olympic Stadium, Kiev 


Spain become the first international team to win three consecutive major tournaments as they cruised past Italy in the Euro 2012 final with a sensational passing masterclass. 

The rampant Spanish entered unchartered territory breaking the unprecendented record of becoming the first side to successfully defend the European Championships crown as David Silva opened the scoring on 14 minutes with a close range header after excellent work from Cesc Fabregas. Left-back Jordi Alba added a second with a clinical finish shortly before the interval racing onto Xavi's pass and Fernando Torres came off the bench to make the scoreline worse for the Italians who had Thiago Motta stretchered off in the second period. Chelsea's Juan Mata rounded the night off perfectly for the Spanish late on by converting a fourth helping La Roja to mark their meteoric rise with the biggest ever win in an international tournament final.

Vicente Del Bosque- who became only the second coach to win both the World Cup and Euros- made one change to the Spanish side as they reverted to the system of playing without a recognised centre-forward with Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who netted the winning spotkick in the semi-final as they overcame Portugal on penalties, replacing Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo with six of the XI coming from Catalan giants Barcelona.

Italy also altered just one member of the starting line-up from their incredible 2-1 victory over Germany in the semi-finals which came in defence with Palermo's Fernando Balzaretti dropping out as Ignazio Abate returned from a hamstring injury which forced him out of the previous game at right-back. Napoli full-back Christian Maggio was back from suspension on the bench while the front two of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano shook off slight problems with cramp to remain in the side. 

Before kick-off, a marvellous twelve-minute production took place on the pitch for the closing ceremony of the tournament as over 600 volunteers danced to the tune of the official Euro 2012 song Endless Summer performed by German singer Oceania in another celebratory tribute to the sixteen participating nations. The traditional national anthems were presented by soloists of the Kiev Municipal Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre moments before one of the histrionic finals in international football.

It is a fixture that didn't need an introduction or any sub-plots as the curtain came down on three weeks of quality football which started for the two finalists against each other in a 1-1 draw in Gdansk. The Italians, whose side contained five Juventus players who won last season's title including the mercurial Andrea Pirlo, began by trying to copy the Spanish inquisition early on enjoying a couple of forward bursts and a short spell of possession in order to settle any nerves.

In a fairly low tempo start, the tension began to build around the ground with Spain fans demanding a fast beginning from their team which Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos almost provided with a seventh minute header attacked at full tilt from a Silva corner as he beat Giorgio Chiellini to the ball but powered over the crossbar. Andres Iniesta saw two shots blocked in the space of two minutes before Xavi whistled an effort over from the edge of the box after some cultured build-up play as the Spanish adopted a shoot on sight policy in the early exchanges.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Spain are now unbeaten in eleven matches at European Championship finals- defeated last in a 1-0 reverse against Portugal in the quarter-finals at Euro 2004.

 

Spain began to pick up the pieces a little and increase the pace with Italy going for a more direct attacking route when they got themselves in a position to push forward hitting high for Balotelli and Cassano to chase. The Spanish started to grow into the game keeping more of the ball which resulted in the first goal for Del Bosque's men. 

The deadlock was broken before the fifteen minute mark when a sensational move of quick movement and cohesion developed with Iniesta threading a pass through to Fabregas who got around the outside of Chiellini, motoring to the byline before cutting back for Manchester City's Silva to head into the roof of the net from close range popping infront of Leonardo Bonucci. It was the playmaker's second goal of the tournament after scoring in Spain's 4-0 group stage win over Republic of Ireland and got the Spain fans off their feet for the first time in the night.

The Azzuri, who fell a goal behind in the tournament for the first time, looked to respond positively needing to come out and play as the Spaniards placed themselves firmly in the driving seat. Manager Cesare Prandelli, beaten for the first time in a competitive match as Italy manager since replacing Marcello Lippin in 2010, had an injury concern to contend with on 20 minutes as defender Giorgio Chiellini- who missed the quarter-final with England because of fitness problems- struggled with a knee complaint and was immediately replaced by left-back Balzaretti.

Italy, competing in their eighth international final, came under the kosh facing an unenviable predicament of trailing against the reigning world and European champions while needing to unlock a Spain defence who had conceded just once in the tournament so far and had kept nine straight clean sheets in knock-out games coming into the match. The Spanish, branded as "boring" throughout Euro 2012 for their tactics, produced some of the best football ever seen during an irresistible 45 minutes in which the Italians were easily penetrated by the passing game imposed through the irrepressible duo of Iniesta and Xavi.

Prandelli's men showed small signs of pulling level with the right flank proving a potential weakness point for the Spanish and, on the other hand, a promising path for the Italians with Palermo defender Fernando Balzaretti able to find constant room as David Silva seemingly looked reluctant to backtrack. AC Milan's Antonio Cassano latched onto a De Rossi pass and turned away from Arbeloa before shooting low through the legs of Pique but into the gloves of goalkeeper Casillas. Moments later, the 31-year old Italian fired a shot in from twenty yards which forced Casillas to fist the powerful effort away from the danger area.

The attacking threat from the Italians, though, remained scarce and occasional throughout as they were left in a precarious position having conceded relatively early. Consequently, Spain capped off a fine first half by doubling their lead in the 41st minute when a precise pass from Xavi fed Barcelona's latest signing Jordi Alba who had galloped forward down the left hand side, timed his run to perfection to take the ball into his stride and finish with composure past Gianluigi Buffon to score his first senior international goal to leave the Italians with an impossible mission to accomplish. At the other end, Montolivo, who has agreed to join AC Milan before the start of the Serie A season next month, saw an effort beaten clear by Casillas on the stroke of half-time for Italy.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Italy were facing Spain for the 31st time in their history and competing in their third European Championship final.

 

A near impeccable display from Spain in the first period made the second half difficult for the Azzuri with the owness on them to open the game up and throw down the gauntlet in order to turn the game around. Italy brought on Antonio Di Natale at the interval for Cassano to bolster the attack and within minutes, the best chance of the match for Prandelli's men fell his way. Abate got forward to deliver a pinpoint cross which the Udinese forward, who scored against Spain in the opening group game, met with a header but narrowly missed the target.

While at the opposite end of the pitch, Spain were incensed when Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca turned down their appeals for a penalty after Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci appeared to handle a header by Sergio Ramos inside the box. The Spanish had the luxury of a two-goal cushion however it could have been halved on 51 minutes with the Spanish indebted to their goalkeeper and skipper Casillas for thwarting Di Natale. Everyone paused expecting a flag from the linesman although none was forthcoming as the ball arrived at Di Natale's feet however the last line of defence for Spain pulled off a splendid save to block the attempt.

Italy, previously unbeaten in seven competitive meetings with Spain, were wary of the need to score the next goal in the game, bracing themselves to commit more men forward and diversify the play. Spain seeked to mount an unassailable advantage which seemed increasingly likely when the Azzuri were dealt a circumventing blow which would leave them with a man short for the remainder of the match. 

PSG's Thiago Motta, brought on for Montolivo, lasted just five minutes before being stretchered off after tearing a hamstring and experiencing excruciating pain. Their hopes seemed well and truly dashed as they played out the final half an hour with ten men having made all three substitutes already.

Spain, in total control, dictated the momentum and pattern of the match as they totally dominated possession waltzing around at will while waiting patiently in their search for a third goal. Finally, after 75 minutes, an orthodox centre-forward was introduced for La Roja as Chelsea's Fernando Torres, who scored the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final against Germany in Vienna, was sent on to take the place of Cesc Fabregas. 

With Spain having Italy right where they want them, Pedro should have added to the two goals they had already racked up when Jordi Alba's ground-level cross was skewed wide by the Barcelona wideman although his blushes were spared by the raising of the flag for offside.

On 84 minutes, the third goal arrived as Fernando Torres slotted into the bottom corner of the net with ease to become to the first player to net in two European Championship finals after another delightful Xavi pass carved open the Italian rearguard. The Spanish continued to stroll towards the final whistle and they managed to find a fourth to add gloss to a scoreline which was beginning to reflect their dominance. 

Chelsea's Juan Mata, on as a late substitute for his first appearance of the tournament, wrapped up the resounding win in style two minutes from time as club team-mate Torres claimed the golden boot with a goal and assist on the night. The forward unselfishly squared for the ex-Valencia man to squeeze the ball home to confirm what had been known for a long time.

It was a fitting end to an entertaining tournament of thirty-one games, 76 goals, three red cards and two nerve-racking penalty shoot-outs as the curtain went down on international football at this level for another two years until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with Spain's dynasty writing history.

 

 


EURO 2012 FINAL ANALYSIS:  Spain 4-0 Italy
Adam Higgins- Chief Football Editor reporting in Kiev


"Congratulations to Spain on making history and winning the tournament which has lit up the footballing world over the last three weeks. To win three consecutive tournaments is just tremendous. This current crop of Spanish players are the best I have ever seen in football. We have seen some really good football, goals, games, shocks and moments which have brought up some interesting talking points and you couldn't have asked for much more. Nobody really expected Italy to make the final so Cesare Prandelli deserves credit for helping them reach this stage- it is a fantastic achievement in itself for them. They were always going to find it difficult but they were just outclassed really in every department on the pitch. Italy will get better. Some of the football we saw was exhibition stuff of the highest order. It was evident in the first half that the Italians were struggling from fatigue playing their third game this week with several players looking a little tired and drained in terms of their energy levels. At the end with ten men, Spain just strolled and added two extra goals late on- the game had long gone for Italy and injuries took their toll. Spain could go on to dominate international football for years to come."

 

 

 

 

Sunday 1st July                 UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine                   Final                  Olympic Stadium, Kiev


Spain 4-0 Italy                                              KO 7:45pm                  Live on BBC1 & ITV1/HD               (HT 2-0)

Silva 14
Jordi Alba 41
Torres 84
Mata 88

 

 

 

Spain:

(4-3-3)


1 Iker Casillas (C)-  8/10  Similarly to most games he plays for club and country, had precious little to do but reacted well when called upon saving well from Di Natale in the second half. A quiet game but had the proudest moment of all at the end in lifting the trophy.

17 Alvaro Arbeloa-  8/10  Got forward down the right whenever he wanted to, was never really asked to defend with no natural lef-sided midfield player for Italy and joined in the passing rhythm, keeping possession and always found time and space.

3 Gerard Pique-  8.5/10  Outstanding from the first minute, showed real fight to battle away all night long, was superb at distributing the ball mainly to Busquets or Alonso to get the ball moving forward and read the game well all night long. Was never out of position and didn't put a foot wrong- not tested enough.

15 Sergio Ramos-  8/10  A solid display from the central defender who once again stood in for Puyol superbly. Never gave Balotelli even a sniff of a chance with his strong tackles and heading ability.

18 Jordi Alba-  8.5/10  Another sterling performance from a full-back receiving rave reviews and demonstrated why Barcelona have just splashed the cash to bring him into the club. Constantly got up and down the left side and scored his first Spain goal. Made the left back spot his own now.

16 Sergio Busquets-  8.5/10  Sat back and did the sweeping role to great effect, broke up just about all the Italy forages forward with some timely interventions. Got involved well in the passing game that Spain deploy and was never really caught out. Nullified the threat of Pirlo by pressing high up the pitch.

14 Xabi Alonso-  8/10  Quietly got about his business in the middle of the park, speeded the play up when he needed to and broke forward at will to offer his support. Just the type of player needed to steady the ship and we saw one or two of his famous long-range passes. A decent display from him.  

8 Xavi Hernandez-  9/10  Italy couldn't handle Xavi and the way he dictates game, he can pass even when closed down and given less space- the sign of a truly world class player. Even when Italy got tight, he could play his way out of trouble. Set up Torres and Jordi Alba goals and worked well in unison with Iniesta.

6 Andres Iniesta-  9.5/10  Was imperious all night long, produced one of the balls of the tournament when releasing Fabregas for Silva goal and was unstoppable in the middle of the park. Can pass through the eye of a needle and looked deadly ever time he touched it. Gave Marchisio and Montolivo the run around.

10 Cesc Fabregas-  8.5/10  Heavily involved in setting up Silva for goal and was good at bringing other players into the game- is gradually suiting the forward's role he has been given but would rather be in the middle of the park. Taken off after 75 minutes.

21 David Silva-  8/10  Scored the first goal and looked lively linking up well with team-mates and showed his qualities but hasn't shown anything near the form we saw at Manchester City last season throughout the tournament. Was understandably frustrated to be substituted early in the second half.

 

Substitutes bench:-
12 Valdes (GK), 23 Reina (GK), 2 Raul Albiol, 4 Javi Martinez, 5 Juanfran, 20 Cazorla, 22 Jesus Navas, 7 Pedro, 13 Mata, 9 Torres, 11 Negredo, 19 Llorente
.

 

Subs used:

Pedro (for Silva-  58 mins)-  4.5/10  Barely heard him mentioned when he was brought on, didn't make a sufficient impact, never really offered himself in space to receive the ball. Wasted a good chance but was offside- didn't really justify his place.

Torres (for Fabregas-  75 mins)-  4/10  Collects the golden boot after scoring a goal and assisting one during the fifteen minutes we saw him. Was prepared to run after the ball, chase lost causes and run down the channels to get in behind. A very good cameo.

Mata (for Iniesta-  86 mins)-  3.5/10  On for around four minutes of normal time for his first appearance of Euro 2012 and couldn't have done much more. Scored a goal and added to the tally that Spain were building. Keen to make an impression in the short amount of time he was on the pitch.

 

Booked:        Pique (24)

Sent-off:        None

 

 

 

Italy:

(4-4-1-1)


1 Gianluigi Buffon (C)-  6.5/10  Could have done little about all four goals and will feel disappointed to lose in the manner they did. The experienced goalkeeper was under immense pressure from the word go to galvanise the players against the breathtaking Spanish. Made one or two routine saves otherwise a painful watching brief.

7 Ignazio Abate-  7/10  Back from injury. Was always looking to help the side out in an attacking sense, set up a decent headed chance for Di Natale in the second half however he was suspect for the Jordi Alba goal in failing to track his storming run. Defensively, could have been better in dealing with the likes of Silva and Iniesta who were on the rampage.

15 Andrea Barzagli-  7/10  Was pressurised all the time but didn't have a completely disastrous match in comparison to some of his colleagues. A little nervous at the beginning with some astray passes however once he got into the game, his confidence grew and so did his strengths in defence. Was wide open for Torres goal nevertheless.

19 Leonardo Bonucci-  6.5/10  Tried to play Spain offside occasionally which didn't work and never looked assured when carrying out his defensive duties. Made a couple of vital headed clearances from corners but when Spain were passing it through the lines freely, he couldn't cope.   

3 Giorgio Chiellini-  2.5/10  Looked distinctly shaky and was feeling the effects of the game. The makeshift left-back was given a torrid time by the skilful Silva. Pulled up through injury and immediately taken off after 20 minutes.

18 Ricardo Montolivo-  6.5/10  Barely heard his name mentioned all night showing how dominant Spain were in the middle of the park, never had an opportunity to play passes across the pitch, was sloppy when he had the ball and was caught dawdling once or twice.

8 Claudio Marchisio-  7.5/10  Probably one of Italians best performers for his work ethic and attempts to win the ball back- helped out in defence when required with some good interceptions. Worked extremely hard to make up the extra man when playing with ten in order to stop Spain from running riot.

21 Andrea Pirlo-  7/10  Still one of the best players at the tournament but he was virtually anonymous in this match epitomising how hard Spain worked. Was closed down by Busquets, never settled into the game or created even half a chance. Had a lot more defending to do- blocked a couple of shots.

16 Daniele De Rossi-  6.5/10  Tasked with stopping Arbeloa getting down the right hand side but found himself dragged into the middle of the park frequently to deal with the extra man when Fabregas dropped deep freeing up room for the Spain right-back. Not his best match- energy levels sufficiently drained.

9 Mario Balotelli-  6.5/10  Didn't have as many chances at goal as in the previous two games, was iscolated at times and was able to forge that partnership and link-up play with Cassano due to splendid Spanish defensive techniques. A disappointing night for him.

10 Antonio Cassano-  5.5/10  Hardworking and industrious throughout the first half, playing more out on the left hand side but tried to drift inside to help out Balotelli. Saw one weak effort saved while forced Casillas to save a more powerful effort. Replaced at half-time- looked very tired towards end.

 

Substitutes bench:-
12 Sirigu (GK), 14 De Sanctis (GK), 2 Maggio, 6 Balzaretti, 4 Ogbonna, 5 Thiago Motta, 13 Giaccherini, 22 Diamanti, 23 Nocerino, 11 Di Natale, 17 Borini, 20 Giovinco.

 

Subs used:

Balzaretti (for Chiellini-  20 mins)-  6/10  On for the injured Chiellini and provided more width down the left hand side- was left with acres of space to run into which was utilised well by Italy to a certain extent. It was soon cut off and he was rather anonymous in the second period.

Di Natale (for Cassano-  Half-time)-  4.5/10  Came on at half-time and added more of a genuine goal threat however wasted two decent chances in the space of five minutes which could have reduced the deficit and made the game more interesting as a spectacle.

Thiago Motta (for Montolivo-  56 mins)-  2/10  A very short appearance for the PSG midfielder, came on in the second half, only got one or two touches of the ball and then had to be stretchered off with a fairly serious injury leaving Italy to play with ten men.

 

Booked:        Barzagli (44)

 

Sent-off:        None

 

 

My Man of the Match:   Andres Iniesta (Spain)- Rating 9.5/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Antonio Cassano (Italy)- Rating 5.5/10

 

  

Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal)- 8.5/10
Attendance: 60,000

 

 

Match Facts:


Possession: Spain- 51%                      Italy- 49%

Shots at goal: Spain- 14                        Italy- 11

Shots on target: Spain- 9                     Italy- 6

Shots off target: Spain- 5                      Italy- 5

Corners: Spain- 3                        Italy- 3

Fouls: Spain- 17                        Italy- 9

Offsides: Spain- 3                        Italy- 3

Assists: Spain- 4 (Iniesta, Xavi 2, Torres)                       Italy- 0 (None)

 

 

 

 

MANAGERS COMMENTS & Reaction:


Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque:  "We're talking about a great generation of footballers. They know how to play together because they come from a country where they learn to play properly. This is a great era for Spanish football. We have some great lads who play abroad, which was impossible before. We didn't really have players abroad and now foreign clubs want our players. To win three titles is almost impossible. Congratulations to the players. It's true we were lucky enough to play a great match. Everything worked for us. It was an extraordinary performance against a difficult opponent. We played our own game. There were no real external influences - we were faithful to what we've done in recent years. I didn't really want to be the coach who wins but the coach who educates. I want to keep preparing them for the future. There will always be some criticism as we have set the bar so high. That's what happens when you come down a step. It's been four marvellous years. You might think that a 4-0 margin against Italy means it was easy - but we have been gradually stepping up as the tournament went along. We did a really good job in defence, but not only defence. We know we have a lot of quality up front. If you can have a clean sheet then it's easier to score. Are we the best ever? I don't know. I think we have to keep winning and win more trophies. When we're retired in 10 or 15 years then may be we can look back and say we were really good."


Click here to hear the thoughts of Spain players after their Euro 2012 final win



Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli:  "You have to hold your hands up and say the opponents were better, accept defeat. We have to congratulate a great side for their victory. Against a team like Spain I think you really need to be good in the tackle and fit. We've had a terrific European Championship. The only regret is the fact we didn't have a few extra days to rest up before this game. I told Mario that these are experiences you have to deal with and have to accept. Perhaps we could have got back into the game at the start of the second half, we had two chances but of course once Thiago Motta went off injured, we didn't have anything left in the tank. You also have to make sure this helps you going forward and you can grow from the experience. This has happened to a number of players, and will happen again, but this is what sport is all about. They totally dominated this evening. I know the lads will be able to put this behind them and move on towards the next tournament and get better and learn from their mistakes. I am very proud of my team."

 

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