Well, for those of you who read my Euro 2012 recap and final preview, you’ve seen that my prediction for the final didn’t exactly pan out, but hey, I’m not the only out there who is coming to the realization that they shouldn’t have doubted this Spanish squad after all.
This is a case where you have to give credit where credit is due. Spain proved in the final on Sunday exactly why they are a team for the football record books. Spain became the first country to win three straight major tournaments, an incredible feat considering the rising amount of competition in the World Cup and European Championship.
Even though the Italians came out second best, they deserve a high amount of praise for their performances in Euro 2012. This version of the Italian national team was rejuvenated by Cesare Prandelli’s tactics as he introduced a more attack minded mentality than previous Italian teams.
The Italians were led offensively by their star midfielder Andrea Pirlo who proved at age 33 he is still one of the world’s best at his position. Pirlo is the route through which Italian goals are usually created, and often during Euro 2012 he put on a clinic in this department. Had the Italians came out on top in the final on Sunday, it would have been very hard to argue against giving Pirlo the award for best player of the tournament. In the final however, he was outclassed by the Spanish duo of Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
Ultimately, that award went to Spanish star Andres Iniesta who was very deserving in his own right. The first goal for Spain was a product of Iniesta’s talent. A perfectly weighted through ball to Cesc Fabregas who then ducked past Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini and played a cross into the middle for David Silva to direct off his head into the net. The goal was a classic example of what this Spanish squad is capable of when they are on the attack. It all started from the pass from Iniesta who, along with his midfield partner Xavi, can play perfect passes with the greatest precision.
Another Spanish player who was deserving of the player of the tournament praise was defender Sergio Ramos. Spain were forced to deal with the glaring omissions of star players David Villa at the striker position, and Carles Puyol at center back. Spain managed to overcome both absences and Ramos showcased that he was up to the challenge with some excellent performances throughout the tournament, especially in the final. Some questioned whether he could play the center back position effectively but he proved all his doubters wrong with a strong and consistent Euro.
The second Spanish goal in the 41st minute was one of the goals of the tournament that stemmed from the flawless through ball from Xavi that was perfectly placed into the run of defender Jordi Alba. Alba’s determination was impressive as he sprinted from the middle of the field and gave Xavi the unexpected option of having to play the left back in alone on the keeper. Alba finished the play in excellent fashion as he showed the ability of a world class striker with a great finish to put Spain up 2-0 and leave Italian fans dejected.
Neither Antonio Cassano nor Mario Balotelli could do enough to pose any serious threats or cause problems for the Spanish defence. The Italians started the second half by replacing an ineffective Cassano with Antonio Di Natale. This provided a bit of life for Italy as they began to look a bit more dangerous and a few chances by Di Natale gave them some hope. This Italian momentum was short-lived however, and the final blow for the Italians was the injury to Thiago Motta who could not continue only four minutes after being substituted on.
Motta was introduced into the game at 57 minutes in what proved to be the one and only mistake by Italian coach Cesare Prandelli during Euro 2012. He was placed in a tough situation by Chiellini’s injury early in the first half, and also been down 2-0. But, to use all of your substitutes before 60 minutes proved to be costly as Italy was then forced to play the remainder of the match with 10 men.