7/1/2012 1:57:53 PM
After living under the tag of underachievers at major tournaments since 1964,
Spain ended its 44-year drought without a major trophy by winning Euro 2008
with a 1-0 defeat of Germany.
La Roja followed that feat with another title two years later, edging the
Netherlands, 1-0, in extra time of the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.
No national had ever won three successive major tournaments, but Spain smashed
that record on Sunday by beating the Italians by the largest margin of victory
in a Euro final.
Spain had opened its Euro 2012 haul with a 1-1 draw against Italy in Group C
play, but the outcome of Sunday's rematch was never in doubt as David Silva,
Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata scored a goal apiece to secure its
status as repeat champions.
After a cagey start for both sides, Spain seized control of the match in the
14th minute from a well-worked moved capped with brilliant reaction finish
Cesc Fabregas latched on to a through ball on the right side of the penalty
area and quickly fired a cross in front of goal. Silva had little time to
adjust but was able to get a head to the delivery and guide it into the far
corner for his second goal of the tournament.
Italy struggled to get into a rhythm and they paid mightily for it as the
Spaniards doubled their advantage four minutes before the break.
Alba got a taste of what life will be like at Barcelona in the coming years as
the future left-back of the Catalan club made surging run down the left flank
to collect a perfectly-timed through ball from Xavi. The defender took one
touch before slipping a shot past Gianluigi Buffon to put the finishing touch
on a superb run.
The nail in Italy's coffin came six minutes from time when a giveaway in the
midfield allowed Torres the space to go one-on-one with Buffon. The Chelsea
striker netted in consecutive Euro finals as he calmly slotted his shot around
the Italian 'keeper and into the back of the net.
Mata added insult to injury for the Azzurri by taking a square pass from
Torres in the 88th minute and tucking home Spain's fourth goal of the match.
While Spain's possession style of play traditionally garners all the
attention, the nation's 2012 triumph was built on a staunch defensive effort.
La Roja conceded just one goal all tournament, the fewest in any edition of
the European Championships.
Spain not only leaves the tournament with a 15-0-2 record when scoring first
in the Euros, but with a legacy of arguably the greatest national team to ever
grace the pitch.