Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Spain Lifts Euro Football Championship 2012: Country Creates History, Wins 3rd Consecutive Major Titles

World Champions Spain took their place among the game's greats when they outclassed Italy 4-0 to become the first team to win successive European Championship titles at Kiev (Ukraine) on July 2. This was so much more than a stunning score line conjured up by one of the most magical collection in the annals of football. This was a statement by Spain, a thrilling 90-minute advertisement to the world over how the game should be played, with skill, movement, bursts of unstoppable pace, with pass after pass after pass. This was simplicity and beauty, golden football leading to silverware.

This was also history in the making. Spain made it an unprecedented three trophies in a row, playing with a panache that allows these footballing fireflies in red to stand legitimate comparison with those great 1970 Brazilian artists called Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Rivelinho and Gerson.
The quartet of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi and Andres Iniesta is now compared to Pele’s kings, while their colleagues proved no less in energetically covering the length and breadth of the field, in attack and in defense.

In fact, no other country has defended the European championships or won three major international tournaments on the trot; it can safely be assumed that these feats will not be matched in the foreseeable future. But beyond the results and the mountain of statistical firsts, it is del Bosque and Spain’s unflinching commitment to their style of play — the “tiki-taka,” a game built on absolute control of the ball and demanding fiendish levels of skill — that deserves to be lauded.
A treble coronation of two Euros and a World Cup spells unprecedented success in a monopoly of major titles since Spain was crowned European champions in Vienna four years ago.

Spanish Hat-Trick
Spain have become the first European side to win three major tournaments following their success in Euro 2008 and the World Cup two years ago. The only other team to win three successive major titles was Argentina who lifted the Copa America in 1945, 1946 and 1947 when that tournament was held annually.

Spain, who started without a recognized striker, were all artistry and guile in midfield while Italy, whose own creator Andrea Pirlo failed to shine, were handicapped by having only 10 men from the hour mark after using up all three substitutes.

The third of them, Thiago Motta, only lasted four minutes after replacing Riccardo Montolivo in the 57th before limping off with a hamstring injury. Italy went close twice through second half substitute Antonio Di Natale but Mario Balotelli, the two-goal hero of their 2-1 semi-final win over Germany, rarely looked like scoring. The opening goal came when Andres Iniesta split the Italy defense with an incisive pass to Fabregas who outpaced Giorgio Chiellini to get to the byline where he pulled the ball back to Silva who flashed his header past the helpless Buffon.

The second came when Alba tore past the static Leonardo Bonucci and planted a perfect left foot shot past Gianluigi Buffon. Torres then ran through to score the third after another Xavi through ball before setting up Mata with a deft flick.

In the end, the game statistics were quite even, despite the unbalanced score line, which proves that Spain created goals out of nowhere. Spain had a 14-11 lead in shots at goal, and 6-4 lead in shots on target. They led 57–43 percent on ball possession and 88–83 percent on pass completion. These figures got skewed in Spain favor after Italy were reduced to 10 men.

Personal Milestone for Iker Casillas
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas managed his own personal milestone when his team defeated Italy in the final. The 31-year-old goalkeeper became the first player to ever record 100 wins for his national team.

Instead of embracing his fiance journalist as he did after Spain’s 2010 World Cup victory in South Africa, Casillas celebrated by giving her a peck on each cheek before running back onto the Olympic Stadium’s field to celebrate the unprecedented milestone with his teammates.

Casillas, making his 137th appearance for Spain, ensured his team stayed in control of the match during a few dips, including just after the 14th minute opener from David Silva. Spain’s captain got a hand to a cross destined for Daniele De Rossi in the 17th, before also getting a tip to a cross meant for Balotelli 10 minutes later.

After lifting the Euro 2012 trophy to make history as the skipper of the first team to win three consecutive major finals, Casillas said the past four years had been a 'wonderful' journey. The 31-year-old Real Madrid shot stopper was on hand to keep out the relatively little that Italy managed to throw at him as La Furia Roja ran out 4-0 victors for the biggest winning margin in the tournament's history, allowing Spain to become the first nation to retain the trophy.

Bad Luck for Italy
As far as Italy is concerned, there is no humiliation in defeat. The team has demolished clich├ęs by playing fine attacking football, and undoubtedly deserved to be in the final. Were it not for the quality of the opposition, another journey that began with scandal in the backdrop could have ended in a trophy. Coach Cesare Prandelli must take a lot of the credit for the turnaround. He picked the side up from the depths of the 2010 World Cup campaign and set out to “make people fall in love with the Azzurri again.” He will take pride in the outcome. Euro 2012 will be remembered as one of the better international competitions of recent times, and with more thrilling encounters in the knock-out rounds could have gone down as one of the great ones.

Spain’s Euro 2012 victory was not so much a victory as an emphatic statement of creative football. Derided by the cognoscenti as a boring “tiki-taka” team that kept passing the ball without the drive to score goals, Spain ripped Italy apart 4-0 with astounding breakaway moves, excellent passes and attacking soccer of an open and free-flowing variety that would have done Pele’s 1970 Brazil side proud.

The term “tiki-taka” has followed Spain since its Euro 2008 triumph in Vienna four years ago and Spain used its attractive passing game to keep the ball and phase their opponents out of the game.

Players of the Tournament
Spanish forward Fernando Torres has won the Golden Boot as top scorer at the European Championship, getting three goals in just 189 minutes played while left winger Andres Iniesta was named player of Euro 2012 by European football governing body–Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Torres came off the bench to score Spain’s third, and his third of the tournament, in the 84th minute in the final. He also scored twice in a 4-0 group stage win over Ireland. Six players scored three goals at Euro 2012, and the tiebreaker was who provided most assists. Torres duly delivered four minutes after scoring by squaring the ball for Juan Mata, another substitute, to score.

Twenty-eight-year-old Iniesta — who was also the man of the match — was selected by a technical committee made up of 11 people. Whilst the Barcelona star failed to score and set up just one of the Spaniards goals through the tournament he won the award for his overall influence and effect on the Spanish attacking play.

Fernando Torres (Spain), Mario Gomez (Germany), Alan Dzagoyev (Russia), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia), Mario Balotelli (Italy), and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) were top scorers of the 2012 Euro Championship.

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