Spain coast to three in a rowPosted: July 1, 2012
Spain went in to this sporting their unorthodox 4-6-0 formation fielding a team without a recognized centre-forward. The ‘eyebrow raising’ formation had been introduced by Spain in this tournament and had been working to their success until now. The Italians on the other hand only made one change to their team that beat Germany 2-1 in the quarter-final which saw the rather unfortunate Balzaretti, who had a world beating performance lose his place to Abate.
In the opening frames of the game both teams were working extremely hard to obtain command. Inevitably it was the Spanish, who once got their typical passing game going were always going to be hard to hinder. However, to Italy’s credit they were no push-overs and did not allow themselves to become besieged by Spain. They got frequent, although brief spells of possession and they looked to gain an advantage by pushing full-back Chielini high up the by-line and to get some deliveries in to Balotelli who displayed his areal potential against the Germans.
It was always going to be the Spanish however who’d look the most threatening on the ball. There are no other players like Xavi and Iniesta when it comes to moving the ball so fast and accurately, and not least their determination and relentlessness when it comes to closing down opposition midfielders when they’re in possession. Spain’s midfield dominance came to fruition when Iniesta successfully slipped Fabregas in around the blind-side of the Italian full-back and was able to compose himself to place a powerful rising cross on the noggin of the onrushing Silva who directed it across Buffon and in to the corner of the net.
Awakened, Italy gained some momentum and began to press and won a succession of corners and free-kicks in dangerous positions around the Spanish penalty area. Although Pirlo’s deliveries were of high quality, Spain managed to weather them comfortably enough and gradually began to reinstate their foothold of the game. Xavi and Iniesta were synonymous in midfield and were continuously probing with through-balls attempting to pick Silva and Fábregas out, only be to halted by strong individual Italian tackles, reading the game very well.
To Italy’s credit, they remained resilient and kept on working to make sure that the game didn’t become a Spain training session. Balotelli was doing well and his hold-up play was excellent, and from it came two long-range efforts which were well hit, but Casillas was able to deal them both. Just before half time, from a Casillas kick-out which seemed innocuous, fell to Silva who controlled well and played it to Iniesta 45 yards out from goal. Iniesta was able to gather some momentum as he carried the ball towards goal unchallenged and he picked out Alba who had made a darting run from the left-back postion. Alba found himself one-on-one with Buffon and slotted it home with a tidy finish to make it 2-0 before the break.
Italy were now right up against it and faced a seemingly impossible task. Right from the restart Cassano was worked into a good crossing position out wide and he fantastically picked out the newly introduced Di Natale. He however was unable to capitalise on a good opportunity and he spurned his header over the bar. Italy’s rethink of their approach nearly paid off again when Montilivo slotted in Di Natale who found himself 12 yards out and all he had to do was turn and get his effort away on his left foot. He got away his shot, but with no real direction and Casillas was able to get down quick enough and made a solid parry away.
Spain once again took the impetus of the game by means of their technical expertise and quick passing which left the Italians chasing shadows. To make matters worse and turn an already difficult task in to an even harder one, Motta who had come on four minutes earlier and was Italy’s final substitution pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury and had to leave the field. With ten men on the pitch, two goals behind, 53 minutes on the clock and the opposition being probably the best team ever to play the game, the fat lady had begun to sing.
As expected, Italy’s presence in the game vanished and they became spectators rather than competitors. Fábregas who had been fantastic all game continued to orchestrate the Spanish attacks, making dangerous runs from the right and giving the Italian full back a torrid evening. A vulnerable and forever wearying Italy defence stood strong until the 83rd minute when Torres, who had come on for Cesc, bagged himself his second goal in as many European Championships finals with a tidy finish after a spell of relentless Spain possession. It was to be the night of the substitutes when Torres received yet another slick through ball from Alonso, squared it to Mata, who was faced with the easy task of slotting the ball past Buffon for the fourth time and to break the record for highest margin victory in a EC final.
Overall, a combination of Spain’s famous technical class and superiority and Italy’s poor misfortune was to decide the European Championship final 2012. Italy will walk off the pitch knowing that there is not much that they could have done, with ten or eleven men on the pitch. Unsurprisingly Spanish dominance in European and world football continues and it’s hard to see where it’s going to end. My man of the match on the night; Cesc Fábregas.