Spain reign supreme

Spain were too good for Italy in the final, substitutes Torres and Mata celebrate. Photo wikimedia/Football.uaMillions of German fans were left as frustrated onlookers and wondering what might have been as Spain recorded the biggest European Championship final victory of all time by crushing Italy 4-0 in Kiev on Sunday night to become the first team to win three successive major tournaments.

Germany, of course, had succumbed once again to the Italians in the semi-final. Germany has now failed to beat their bogey team 'Azzuri' in a major tournament in eight attempts, including the 2006 World Cup semi-final in Dortmund. However, even a German side firing on all cylinders would have struggled to match this dominant Spanish side.

First-half goals from Manchester City's David Silva and Barcelona's new signing Jordi Alba put the World Champions in complete control before late efforts from substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata applied the icing on the cake.

After taking undue criticism for their style of play during their less-than-serene progress to the final, 'La Roja' ran out convincing winners producing a master-class of passing power, which made a mockery of all those who had belittled their tactics beforehand.

Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque refused to bow to the demand for a traditional centre-forward to be included in his starting line-up and was rewarded with a dazzling display. His all-conquering side added their second successive European Championship to go with their 2010 World Cup triumph in South Africa, completing an unprecedented treble of successive major trophies.

The floodgates opened with a trademark 'tiki-taka' goal on the quarter hour mark. Andres Iniesta produced a slide-rule pass to the vibrant Cesc Fàbregas, who pulled it back from the by-line for the unmarked Silva to nod home into the top left-hand corner.
Spain doubled their lead five minutes before half time. Xavi's inch-perfect through-ball played in Alba, who easily slotted past Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to give Spain a comfortable half-time cushion.

Italy battled gamely but were always playing damage limitation once coach Cesare Prandelli's final replacement Thiago Motta was stretchered off just four minutes after his arrival with a hamstring injury, leaving his team-mates to struggle manfully through the final half-hour reduced to ten men and already two goals in arrears.

Substitutes Torres and Mata, both plying their trade for Champions League winners Chelsea applied the finishing touches with two late goals on the break. Spain had answered their critics in rampant fashion. Torres, who scored the winner for Spain in the 2008 final against Germany in Vienna, also won the Golden Boot as top scorer of the 2012 tournament. Despite being tied with Mario Gomez on three goals and one assist, he takes home the prize due to having played fewer minutes than the Germany and Bayern Munich striker.

'Super Mario' could not repeat his magic in the final. Photo wikimedia/Football.uaIt was all too much for Manchester City's Mario Balotelli, two-goal hero against the Germans, who marched straight down the tunnel at the end, before returning very much against his will for the presentation ceremony.

After the game, Spain boss Vicente del Bosque was delighted to see his side make history with another tournament triumph.
"This match was great for our players, they controlled the game," said Del Bosque.
"After the first goal the Italians became more dangerous but we kept the pressure, the depth, we are very happy.
"This success of Spanish football is something historic."

Italy's captain Buffon admitted the better side had won.
"Tonight, there was no contest. They were too superior, so the bitterness at losing this final is only relative," he said.

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