Story by Ben Steele
There it is, Euro 2012 is done and dusted. Honestly, was it ever in doubt? Spain, arguably the best international team ever, have won another tournament. They’ve spent the tournament being derided as boring by some sections of the media but I would imagine they don’t care about that at all. The final was a statement; call us boring all you like, but we will continue to play our way and we will continue to win.
After just 14 minutes it looked ominous. Andres Iniesta played an inch perfect ball inside the fullback for Fabregas to run onto. Fabregas got to the byline and pulled the ball back for David Silva. The Manchester City man couldn’t miss, bang. 1-0. The tiki-taka style was up and running, Italy just couldn’t deal with it. The Spaniards were employing their strikerless formation but they didn’t lack a cutting edge. The real killer blow came after 40 minutes. Xavi had the ball at his feet and would normally be looking for his centre forward but with the quality in the Spanish side he didn’t need to worry. The excellent Jordi Alba (nominally a left back) had sprinted 50 yards to break the offside trap and slot the ball past Buffon. Terrifyingly for all club sides in Spain and across Europe, Alba is on his way to Barcelona for just 14 million euros. An absolute bargain.
The second half started as the first half had ended; with Spain in absolute control. The final nail in Italy’s coffin came with an hour gone. Cesare Prandelli threw on his third and final substitute, Thiago Motta, and just 5 minutes later he saw the midfielder lying prone on the floor having suffered a hamstring injury. Italy were forced to play the final half an hour with 10 men. Mission highly unlikely became Mission impossible. Vicente Del Bosque started showing off the embarrassment of riches he had at his disposal as he brought on first Pedro, then Fernando Torres and, for the first time this tournament, Juan Mata.
Spain had records in their sites. Germany held the record for the biggest margin of victory in a European Championship final with a 3-0 win over the Soviet Union in 1972 and against 10 men Spain went about setting a new standard. First Torres got on the end of a Xavi through ball and poked it into the far corner to tie the record. Just 4 minutes later the record was broken, Torres got in behind the defence and squared for his Chelsea teammate. Mata probably couldn’t believe his luck. He’s done nothing but sit on the bench all tournament and here he was being presented with a chance to make history. A chance he took with consummate ease.
That assist also secured Torres as the Golden Boot winner, not bad for a striker who has spent most of his time coming off the bench for short cameos at the end of games. So we might as well start the debate now. Is there any team to have ever played the game who would challenge this Spanish team? Probably not.