Tuesday, 3 July 2012

It's Spain Again: Euro 2012 Final

by Ben Willcocks

(source: Daily Dish)
Spain
have found themselves in the history books once again, thanks to their thrashing of underdogs Italy. Two goals in each half gave the Spaniards a 4-0 victory, which made them the first-ever team to score four in a competitive final. More importantly however, Spain is the record-breaking nation, after winning three competitive finals on the bounce.

Before the game, most pundits were debating whether Del Bosque would choose the creativity of Cesc Fabr├ęgas or the goal threat of Fernando Torres in centre forward. He opted for the attacking midfielder who paid dividends early on when he delivered a promising ball to David Silva, who glanced it past Buffon, giving Italy the uphill task of scoring a goal against Spain to get back into the game: they have kept clean sheets in all knockout rounds since the 2006 World Cup, when Zidane scored for the French. 

Whilst it was still 1-0, the Italians did look threating, certainly through substitute Balzeretti who exploited Silva’s tendency to cut inside by making menacing runs down the left hand side. Just after the half hour mark, Cassano tested the Spanish goalkeeper but ‘Saint Iker’ was able to parry it to safety. The Italians also managed to use their ability as both footballers and actors midway through the first half, when they won plenty of free kicks, allowing dangerous playmaker Andrea Pirlo ample opportunities to hit the target.

(source: BBC)
However, some typical build-up play from the Spanish midfielders resulted in a weighted through-ball from Xavi to the advancing left back Jordi Alba, who burst onto the scene, marking his first-ever goal in a competitive international fixture. The new signing for Barcelona gave the Spaniards a comfortable 2-goal cushion at the break.
Prandelli changed 33 year old Di Natale for Cassano at the break, because he wanted to add more flair to the Italian attack, despite the character of Balotelli offering a lot throughout the first 45 minutes. The veteran nearly scored with his first touch, yet Casillas was relieved to see the header soar over the bar.

Italy were fortunate to escape a certain penalty, when Bonucci clearly handled the ball, yet the referee Proenca waved play on, despite the Spanish protests. At this point, both managers shuffled their packs by bringing on likes of Pedro for Spain and Motta for Italy. But Motta was taken off by a stretcher after picking up a hamstring injury barely three minutes after coming on: this left Italy with ten men, as they had used up all their substitutions.

Torres, who scored the only goal in the 2008 Euro Final, replaced Fabr├ęgas with just over a quarter of an hour to play. With 6 minutes to go, Torres extended the lead, after another perfect pass from Xavi, by slotting the ball past Buffon’s left hand corner. Torres as well as receiving the golden boot for three goals also became the first player to score twice in European finals, alongside Xavi, who became the first player to record two assists in an international competitive final.

Finally, Spain gave Mata an opportunity to star in the winning team as he replaced Iniesta late on. The Chelsea duo of Torres and Mata was too much for the tired Italian defence to handle, and the substitute was clinical in front of goal. Ironically, Juan Mata scored the same number of goals as the entire Ireland team did put together, yet he only had 5 minutes in which to do so.

This therefore created an emotional scene at the end of the game, when Balotelli started to cry, when Ramos and Carzola brought their children onto the pitch, and when the Spaniards lifted the cup for the third time in six years.

Read George Kimber-Sweatman's overview of the Euro 2012 tournament here

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