SPAIN (4) vs ITALY (0)
SPAIN manager Vicente del Bosque last night lauded his players’ historical feat after La Roja became the first team to win three successive major international tournaments with a masterful European Championship final victory over Italy.
First-half goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba were the product of Spain’s near-complete control before further finishes from Fernando Torres and Juan Mata concluded a scoresheet that read like a hall of fame for world football’s finest.
The result was a cruel turn for Italy who succeeded in restoring national pride in the team but, in finishing the game with 10 men after the use of three substitutes and Thiago Motta’s unfortunate injury, they were left with simply too great a task.
“This match was great for our players, they controlled the game,” said Del Bosque, who also lead La Roja to the 2010 World Cup after their Euro 2008 victory. “After the first goal the Italians became more dangerous but we kept the pressure, the depth, we are very happy. This success is something historic, and now we have to look to the future and try to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.”
Shedding their “boring” tag in stunning style, Spain began with a greater energy and urgency than previously seen in this tournament to suggest Del Bosque recognised the risks that went with the concession of the first goal to a team as fine as the Azzurri. It was an instance to justify overlooking the selection of an orthodox centre forward as Spain’s bewitching movement left Italy entirely powerless, and one to dismiss the traditionalist’s claims that this side failed to excite.
Silva’s opener came when the vibrant Cesc Fabregas controlled Andres Iniesta’s menacing pass and delivered an opportunistic, cutback cross from which Silva could do little but head in Spain’s first.
Before Alba put the game almost beyond doubt in the 41st minute, two shots from Italy striker Antonio Cassano tested goalkeeper Iker Casillas but thereafter the destination of the trophy became entirely clear. A trademark overlapping run from the left-back was met by another of Xavi’s perfect passes before Alba slotted past Gianluigi Buffon with a finish of which even a striker would be proud.
Motta’s injury then gifted Spain even greater control, and thereafter play essentially transformed into the most glorious celebration of victory.
Six minutes from time substitute Fernando Torres collected another masterful Xavi pass to stroke beyond Buffon, and the striker then turned provider for Mata to score from an immensely inviting opening goal.
SPAIN’S TOP 3 STARS
The Barcelona-bound left back caught the eye with his attacking overlapping runs. His dribble and cross set up the crucial first goal in the quarter finals, while last night he scored a cracker.
Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque argued that both Alonso and Sergio Busquets are more attacking than people think. Alonso backed this up with two goals, and excelled in midfield throughout.
With his tricky dribbling and killer passes, the Barcelona man was key to unlocking the determined defences that Spain have faced. Creative and superb at retaining possession.