Studenty’s Simon Bracken reports on the Euro 2012 final where Spain beat Italy 4-0 to seal a historic third consecutive major tournament triumph.
Vicente Del Bosque returned to a packed midfield for the final with Cesc Fabregas replacing Alvaro Negredo while Ignatio Abate came in for Federico Balzaretti at right back for Italy.
Spain started well playing at a tempo that they had failed to produce earlier in the competition and Italy were immediately on the back foot.
The defending champions deservedly took the lead in the 14th minute when Iniesta played a ball in behind Chiellini for Fabregas who cut it back for Silva to head home.
Balzaretti came on for the injured Chiellini after 20 minutes and provided an excellent out ball for his teammates on the left flank as Italy gained a foothold in the game.
Cassano twice stung the hands of Casillas but Italy were unable to create a clear cut opportunity as they struggled to deal with the tempo of the Spanish game in both defence and attack.
Spain killed off the game just before half-time when Jordi Alba’s determined run was picked out by a brilliantly timed pass from Xavi and the Barcelona-bound full-back finished confidently.
One Antonio replaced another at the break with Di Natale coming on for Cassano and straight from the restart the Udinese legend had a good chance to half the deficit from Abate’s cross but he could only head over the bar.
Moments later Fabregas almost wriggled his way to another Spanish goal but last ditch defending denied him.
Di Natale had another wonderful opportunity having beaten the offside trap but shot straight at Casillas as Italy made a strong start to the second half.
Pedro came on for Silva on the hour while Thiago Motta who came on just minutes earlier was stretchered off with a hamstring injury forcing Italy to play the last half hour with ten men. That proved to be the end of any meaningful challenge from the Azzurri.
In the 84th minute substitute Fernando Torres sealed it once and for all, slotting past Buffon after Alonso put him in behind the Italian defence. That goal saw him join Alan Dzagoev, Mario Balotelli, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Gomez on three goals for the tournament.
Given that fact, Torres was extremely unselfish to tee up Juan Mata for the fourth two minutes from time when he could easily have hunted the glory of the Golden Boot.
Italy greeted the final whistle with delight following a humbling defeat but they can look back with pride on an event where they have exceeded all expectations. For the Spanish their amazing run of success continues and if they play with the pace and style they produced tonight, they will take some stopping in Brazil.