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.
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.
The goal did not dishearten Italy. Their response to going behind for the first time in the tournament was not to cower, but to try and wrest control back. Daniele De Rossi was instrumental with a forceful 20 minutes and, having seen Chiellini taken off with an injury, replacement Federico Balzaretti also provided real impetus down the left.
De Rossi robbed Xavi of possession on one occasion and pinged a pass out to Antonio Cassano. The forward made a smart turn before rolling in a low shot that Casillas saved, and later took the ball from Pirlo before seeing another effort beaten away by the Spain captain. Remarkably Italy had the better of possession in the first half, but they could not find an equaliser.
And with four minutes left in the first half, Spain scored a killer second goal. 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 out.
Any hope that Italy had of winning the game ended in the 61st minute when substitute Motta pulled up with a hamstring injury leaving Italy with only 10-men and 30 minutes to go. Questions will have to be asked how Motta could injury his hamstring minutes after coming on as a sub. Did he not have a sufficient warm-up?
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.
A tough way for Italy to end the tournament. Under Cesare Prandelli, Italy got better as the tournament progressed and their attacking flair made them a pleasure to watch.