Spain have thrashed Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev to retain their title, becoming the first European team in history to win three major international tournaments in a row.
It took Vicente del Bosque’s charges just 14 minutes to put their noses in front. David Silva scored with an accurate header, guiding a crisp Cesc Fabregas cross from the byline into the net after Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was drawn to his near post.
The Italians then had a couple of good set-piece opportunities to equalize. But Spain’s captain Iker Casillas didn’t give them a chance, twice tipping crosses to safety, as Daniele De Rossi and then Mario Balotelli seemed poised to head goalwards.
When the Italian assault abated, the Spaniards took full control of the game and put the final result almost beyond doubt in the 41st minute courtesy of Jordi Alba. The defender raced clear to meet a Xavi Hernandez pass and sent the ball past Buffon.
Italy’s situation worsened early in the second half after their last substitute Thiago Motta injured his thigh just a few moments after getting onto the pitch. The midfielder couldn’t continue, meaning the Italians were down to 10 men.
The reigning World and European champions couldn’t but capitalize on their opponents’ misfortune and substitute Fernando Torres made it 3-0 with seven minutes left. The Chelsea striker scored in his second consecutive Euro final and booked his team’s place in football history. Torres was not finished yet though, and his pass gave Chelsea team-mate Juan Mata, who had only just come on as substitute, an easy opportunity, making the final score 4-0.
The victory was the most comprehensive in a European Championship final, overshadowing West Germany's 3-0 win over the Soviet Union in 1972.
“To win three titles is almost impossible. Congratulations to the players,” Vicente del Bosque said afterwards. The 61 year old followed Luis Aragones as coach after Euro 2008 and went on to become the first-ever coach to guide teams to success in the World and European Championships, as well as the Champions League.
Despite the loss, del Bosque’s Italian counterpart left the tournament with his head high.
“This was a great European Championship for us,” Cesare Prandelli said. “Really the only regret is that we didn't have a few extra days to recuperate.”
“When we see the lights of the Kiev stadium from the airplane it will be painful, but tomorrow we'll have a new outlook. We have shown that you can lose with dignity," Italy’s coach added.