Spain won the European Championship 2012 with a historic 4-0 victory against Italy, comforting their supremacy as best team in the world, already winner of the Euro 2008 and the 2012 World Cup.
AP - Spain trounced Italy 4-0 in the European Championship final on Sunday, retaining its title and extending its reign as the best team in world football.
Goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba in the first half gave Spain a convincing lead. Fernando Torres and fellow substitute Juan Mata added goals in the last six minutes.
Italy’s task was tough enough with 11 players, and it became impossible with just 10 after the 64th minute. All its substitutes were used when midfielder Thiago Motta, who had only been on the pitch for seven minutes, was taken off due to injury.
The victory lifted Spain to a record third straight major title, after winning Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. The hat trick of titles is an unprecedented feat for a European team, as is successfully defending the championship.
Spain even allowed Italy the majority of first-half possession, yet its trademark quick passing game was lethal when required.
Spain captain Iker Casillas was outstanding in keeping Italy’s attack at bay for his 10th consecutive clean sheet in tournament knockout matches.
The victory was the most comprehensive in a European Championship final, beating West Germany’s 3-0 win over the Soviet Union in 1972.
It was also a perfect response to Spain’s critics, who said the world and European champion had become boring.
Possession was kept with endless back-and-forth passes to deny opponents the ball and stifle games, not win them, the detractors said.
But Spain answered by playing its best and slickest football at Euro 2012 when most was at stake.
Sergio Ramos and Xavi Hernandez had already threatened Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s goal when Spain took the lead in the 14th minute.
Andres Iniesta’s incisive forward pass to find Cesc Fabregas was superb. Fabregas drifted behind defender Giorgio Chiellini and surged to the byline, drawing Buffon to his near post.
Silva waited eight yards (meters) out to head a crisp chip back from Fabregas into the net.
Spain then increased its lead just four minutes before the break.
Hernandez had been below his usual high standard at Euro 2012, but he put a weighted pass into Alba’s stride as the left-back burst past four Italian defenders to slip his shot past Buffon.
The great Italian ‘keeper also witnessed a master class from his friend and opposite number Casillas, who was on a winning Spanish side for the 100th time.
Casillas has not conceded a goal in a knockout match since Zinedine Zidane scored for France in a 3-1 win, which knocked Spain out of the 2006 World Cup in the second round. At 1-0, Casillas twice stretched to tip crossed balls to safety, as Daniele De Rossi and then Mario Balotelli seemed poised to head goalwards.
Casillas also twice went low to save shots from Antonio Cassano before Alba’s goal put Spain into its comfort zone.
Cassano was replaced at halftime by Antonio Di Natale, who has scored the only goal Spain conceded at Euro 2012 - a 1-1 draw to open its Group C campaign in Gdansk, Poland.
Di Natale quickly unsettled Spain, heading just over before forcing Casillas into a double save when released into space by Andrea Pirlo’s clever pass.
However, Motta lasted just five minutes before he appeared to pull his right hamstring and left in obvious pain.
Spain cruised through the second half, to cries of “Ole” from its fans, before inflicting further agony on Italy.
When Italy surrendered the ball in its half, Xavi collected and quickly found Torres to slide his shot past Buffon and inside the far post in the 84th minute.
Minutes later, Juan Mata came off the bench like Torres, and took his Chelsea teammate’s pass to score into an Italian goal left unguarded yet again. It was his first shot of the tournament, and Spain’s final goal.
Spain: Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta (Juan Mata, 86), David Silva (Pedro Rodriguez, 59), Cesc Fabregas (Fernando Torres, 75).
Italy: Gianluigi Buffon, Ignazio Abate, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini (Federico Balzaretti, 21), Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo (Thiago Motta, 57), Antonio Cassano (Antonio Di Natale, 46), Mario Balotelli.