Game in a sentence
Spain win Euro 2012 with a dominant final performance against Italy in a game that will be talked about for years to come, not only for the aesthetic, but because they’re the first side to win three major international tournaments in a row.
- Spain, the same names, Fabregas as false nine in 4-3-3. You know the drill.
- Italy, with Ignazio Albate back healthy, started with him in right back, which meant Balzaretti was on the bench. Four at the back again in a diamond midfield, 4-1-2-1-2. It didn’t take long for a change however; Chiellini pulled up in the 21st minute, and the Italian David Beckham got right back off the bench again.
- Directly from kick-off Spain played thrillingly direct football, as if they knew they needn’t leave anything in the tank. They passed with all efficiency toward goal, and found a pair of good chances in the first ten minutes.
- My own impression was that Prandelli knew Spain would be dominant on the ball, and so directed his players not to press too early and exhaust themselves as the game progressed. Spain however were able to find passing lanes through the heart of the Italian defense. This was perhaps one of the most entertaining displays from a team in a major tournament final since 1998. Considering the ‘boring’ label Spain endured to this point in Euro 2012, this was no small accomplishment.
- The Spanish incision paid off in the 14th minute when Cesc Fabregas calmly floated a heat-seeking cross to the head of David Silva, who headed in Spain’s first goal. Expectations of a terse, tense final went poof in a matter of seconds.
- As dominant as Spain were, Italy still looked more than capable of a goal, particularly as the Spanish fullbacks, Jordi Alba in particular, were advanced enough in attack that the wide players in the diamond had an awful lot of space in front of them. Unfortunately Antonio Cassano was sometimes profligate in creating chances, and Riccardo Montolivo didn’t play to the same effect as the trequartista who’s not quite a trequartista.
- Speaking of attacking fullbacks: Jordi Alba simply ran past the Italian centreback pairing of Bonucci and Barzagli to score Spain’s second goal in the 41st minute, from a sensational pass from Xavi. Spain looked positively ruthless, and despite some back four heroics from Bonucci on occasion, the flat back four was left to deal with a Spanish midfield that utilized every acre of space in Italy’s narrow midfield diamond.
- Heading into the second half, Prandelli knew he had to gamble in order to preserve Italy’s chances at a sensational comeback. On came Di Natale for a largely ineffective Cassano. And eleven minutes later, Prandelli made a fatal roll of the dice: Thiago Motta on for Montolivo. These were necessary changes, but at what cost using up all three subs? Five minutes later, Motta pulled up, and had to leave the pitch in the 62nd minute leaving Italy with 10 men.
- Should Prandelli have picked Alessandro Diamanti instead? The widely favoured player was not as good as he might have otherwise appeared in previous matches, and Prandelli was right to take the risk with less than 35 minutes to play.
- The game from that point saw Spain tease the ball to good positions in the flank, and Torres came on to generally do nothing until an easy through pass saw the game finished off in the 84th minute, while Mata stuck the dagger in from an unselfish pass from Fernando Torres in the 88th.
- First, Cesare Prandelli’s accomplishment in bringing this unfavoured Italian to the final is nothing short of remarkable. One of the most impressive managerial performances of the tournament.
- Spain have won three major international tournaments in a row, the first side ever to do so. They did so in sumptuous fashion, playing gorgeous football, at least in the final. Worth it for a half-century of underachievement? Probably.
- Euro 2012 eh? Pretty good.
2. Jordi Alba
3. Sergio Busquets