Boring Spain? I don’t think so. Spain took Italy apart today in the Euro 2012 final winning 4-0 and becoming the first side to win three successive major tournaments.
This was a record breaking performance by Spain as Iker Casillas became the first player to win 100 international games and Vicente del Bosque became the first coach to win the European Championship, the World Cup and the Champions League.
Spain had been criticized by some for winning without flair. That the tiki-taka style was boring to watvh as Spain were more concerned with keeping possession than going for goals. Today against Italy, we saw the best of tiki-taka. The fantastic one-touch passing that completely overwhelmed the Italian midfield. But we also saw the attacking tiki-taka with the defense shredding passes that rip defences to shreds.
The goals by Spain were brilliant to watch. The first after 14 minutes from David Silva came about when Iniesta took possession of the ball 25 yards from goal and opened up the Italy defence with a perfect through-ball for Fabregas. Fabregas hit the byline and pulled a fine cross back for Silva, who timed his run excellently and from eight yards out directed his header inside the far post.
If that goal was good, the second one was even better. Jordi Alba played the ball square to Xavi and accelerated through the centre of the pitch with a brilliant run to receive the return pass. His first touch to control was exquisite, his second surgical as he placed his shot past Buffon. It was a fantastic goal from the new Barcelona left-back.
So 2-0 to Spain at half-time and if Italy was to get back into the game, they needed to score quickly in the second half. And they almost did. Riccardo Montolivo played a fine pass through to Antonio Di Natale, who appeared to be offside, but the flag stayed down and Casillas made a really good save to deny the Italian striker. If he had scored then, who knows how the game might have turned,
But he didn’t and when substitute Motta pulled up with a hamstring injury leaving Italy with only 10-men and 30 minutes to go, it became a question of how many would Spain score.
Playing against Spain with 11 men is difficult enough, but playing with only 10 is near impossible and as the Italian midfield tired, Spain went for the knockout punch.
First Xavi split the Italian defense is a fantastic through ball and substitute Fernando Torres ran through and calmly beat Buffon to make it 3-0 after 84 minutes.
Four minutest Torres was free again behind the Italian defense, but instead of shooting he unselfishly squared the ball for Mata who marked his two minutes of tournament football with a goal of his own.
The pass ensured Torres won the Golden Boot having finished level on goals and assists with Germany’s Mario Gomez but having been on the pitch for only 189 minutes in total. The striker’s goal in Kiev meant he was the only player to have scored in two separate European Championship finals.
With three wins in as many major tournaments the big question now is whether this Spanish side can be called the greatest national team side of all time. What do you think? Are they?