Kiev, Jul 2: Spain showed no mercy against their Euro 2012 final opponents Italy as they scored four goals to win three successive international trophies.
Spain became the only team to retain the European championship after thrashing Italy 4-0 at the Euro 2012 finals here in Kiev on Sunday. La Furia Roja have earned the title of 'greatest team ever' to play by winning three successive major tournament finals.
Prior to the finals, a lot was expected from Cesare Prandelli's rejuvenated side. Having beaten Germany in the semi-final, the Azzurri gained more confidence coming into the final facing a heavily criticised Spanish side.
Despite all the criticism, Spain showed more urgency to score in the finals than in any other match of the tournament. Vicente Del Bosque's 'False Nine' tactics worked perfectly and reaped the rewards as his side went ahead in the 14th minute through David Silva's header.
Immediately after Silva's opener, the Azzurri fought back with threatening long balls and dominated possession. But nothing seemed to be working for Cesare Prandelli's men as their most experienced defender Giorgio Chiellini, who was playing at left-back instead of centre-back pulled a hamstring injury in the 20 minute.
However, with the introduction of Federico Balzaretti, Italy began to look more threatening on the left flank with Balzaretti's bursting forward runs. But all that possession went in vain after Jordi Alba stole the ball near the half-line and his forward run was met with Xavi Hernandez inch-perfect through ball and Alba, who was signed by Barcelona in a fee worth 14 million Euros, scored his first international goal for Spain with a cool finish past Gianluigi Buffon.
The highly anticipated game was well and truly over for the Italians after going two goals down in the first half. Spain, who were branded for playing boring football, showed more intent and desire in front of goal. La Roja played to win instead of just passing the ball and toying around the Italian defence.
Spain's philosophy, the tiki-taka style, which was criticised for being used in a negative way, was rightly displayed in the second half. Prandelli brought in striker Antonio Di Natale, who scored against Spain in the Group opener, for Antonio Cassano. While his decision to substitute Riccardo Montolivo for Thiago Motta was the turning point in the match.
Spanish goalkeeper 'Saint' Iker Casillas made four important blocks during the match but the Italians were blank in front of goal despite creating sufficient number of chances. The Azzurri's influential playmaker Andrea Pirlo was too deep to kick-start Italy's break. Xavi, who was given the task of covering Pirlo, did not let the Juventus star make simple passes but was forced to hit long towards forwards, eventually losing possession to Pique or Sergio Ramos.
With all three substitutions completed, Italy took the risk with injury prone Motta. Only four minutes after coming on, Motta suffered a hamstring injury and had to be stretchered off. Prandelli was devastated as his side had to continue with only 10 men on the field.
Spain were edging closer to victory against the hapless and tired Italians. The game was being played at walking pace as the Spanish looked to increase their lead in the dying minutes.
On came Fernando Torres for Fabregas, with 15 minutes left, the Chelsea striker had got a chance to create history. No other player has scored in two successive winning finals. Italy lost possession in the middle while pass maestro Xavi found Torres in acres of space outside the penalty area. A trademark through pass from the little master met Torres who calmly slotted home passed Gigi Buffon to the far corner.
Four minutes later, Torres, who won the Golder Boot award, created the pass for his Chelsea teammate Juan Mata. Spain became the only side to have scored four goals in a European championship final match while Fernando Torres and Juan Mata are the only two players to win the UEFA Champions League trophy and Euro 2012 in one season.
The Italian fans and players were devastated with the result. Even though Spain have never beaten Italy in a competitive fixture apart from a penalty shoot-out, the Azzurri, were mercilessly tortured by their passing ability and attacking instincts.
Spain beat Italy back in the 1920 Olympics. But since 2004, Spain have been unbeaten in 29 games at the European Championships. With so many records in the bag and the best generation of footballers in their history can Spain be called the 'greatest' team to have ever played the beautiful game.