Spain thump Italy 4-0 in Euro final

by AP on Jul 02, 2012

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Certainly the best in the world and maybe the best ever. Definitely not boring.

Spain opened a fresh debate on their place in world football history after sweeping to a majestic 4-0 victory over Italy in the European Championship final on Sunday.

For the third consecutive major tournament, Spain's outstanding goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas was there at the end to lift the trophy.

After Euro 2008 in Vienna and the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg, Casillas and Spain completed an unprecedented hat-trick for a European nation.

"To win three titles is almost impossible. Congratulations to the players," said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who followed Luis Aragones as coach after Euro 2008.

And this was the same team that critics had called boring at Euro 2012?

Spain emphatically shut down that discussion, providing the perfect response with the most one-sided final in European Championship history.

No team has ever won a World Cup final by four clear goals, either. Even Pele's Brazil only managed a three-goal margin a couple of times.

"It was more difficult when people didn't believe in us," Spain playmaker Xavi Hernandez said.

"The bar was very high, but they are nice challenges."

Pity poor Italy, who leave Euro 2012 showered with popular acclaim as the most watchable team in some years from a country renowned for defensive tactics.

Playing Spain with 11 players is tough enough. Trying it with 10 for much of the second half is almost impossible.

With all three substitutes used, Thiago Motta was injured and unable to continue after the 64th minute, and an exhausted Italian side limped through to the end.

"This was a great European Championship for us," Italy coach 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 aeroplane it will be painful, but tomorrow we'll have a new outlook. We have shown that you can lose with dignity."

Goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba in the first half gave Spain a convincing lead at the Olympic Stadium.

Fernando Torres and fellow substitute Juan Mata scored in the last six minutes to turn victory into a rout.

When the final whistle was blown, Spain's players rushed to each other and huddled in a circle, jumping and spinning in celebration.

There were more hugs later in the dressing room, this time with Crown Prince Felipe of Spain.

Critics of Spain's style said the world and European champions had become tedious - keeping possession with endless back-and-forth passes to stifle games, not to win them.

But Spain answered by playing its best and slickest football at Euro 2012 when most was at stake.

Along with some sublime football, it also delivered the most comprehensive victory in a European Championship final, beating West Germany's 3-0 win over the Soviet Union in 1972.

"We won being true to our playing style, and by moving the ball the we way we moved it we knew how to take charge of the match," Casillas said.

"What we do is difficult but we make it look easy."