Spain’s dominance of European football continued with a magnificent 4-0 victory over a hapless Italy in the final of Euro 2012 at the Olympic Stadium in Ukraine’s capital Kiev.
Winners of the European Championships in 2008 and World Cup champions in 2010, Spain have become the first country to retain the European title in the competition’s 52-year history and marked their place in the history books winning a third-straight major title with a tremendous performance on Sunday night.
David Silva opened the scoring in the 14th minute, heading home a deadly cross from Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas. Jordi Alba made it two on 41 minutes after he ran onto a sublime through-ball from his new Barca team-mate Xavi Hernandez and slotted a left-foot shot past the Italy’s helpless goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Fernando Torres – who scored in Spain’s 1-0 Euro 2008 final win against Germany four years ago – made it three with six minutes left while his Chelsea colleague Juan Mata made it four on 88 minutes.
The result is also the highest margin of victory recorded in either a European Championship or World Cup final.
“My team mates made history before and now I am doing so together with them in my first European Championship,” said Spain’s goalscorer Alba.
“I am struggling to believe it but it seems to be sinking in little by little.
“I told my friends and family I was gong to score tonight and that’s the way it turned out.”
Italy were spectators against a team who had been criticised for being ‘boring’, but came out with all guns blazing.
|It was just not the night for Italy’s Mario Balotelli [Reuters]|
Initially they had more possession than Spain in the opening half but when they did have a sniff of goal goalkeeper Iker Casillas maintained his astonishing record of not conceding a goal in the knockout stage of a tournament for the 10th successive match.
Spain, who started without a recognised striker, were all artistry and guile in midfield while Italy, whose own creator Andrea Pirlo failed to shine, were handicapped by having only 10 men from the hour mark after using up all three substitutes.
The third of them, Thiago Motta, only lasted four minutes after replacing Riccardo Montolivo in the 57th before limping off with a hamstring injury.
Italy went close twice through second half substitute Antonio Di Natale but Mario Balotelli, the two-goal hero of their 2-1 semi-final win over Germany, rarely looked like scoring.
The opening goal came when Andres Iniesta split the Italy defence with an incisive pass to Fabregas who outpaced Giorgio Chiellini to get to the byline where he pulled the ball back to Silva who flashed his header past the helpless Buffon.
The second came when Alba tore past the static Leonardo Bonucci and planted a perfect left foot shot past Gianluigi Buffon. Torres then ran through to score the third after another Xavi through ball before setting up Mata with a deft flick.