x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Euro 2012: Spain 4 Italy 0

Spain, the pass masters, continue their domination to lift an unprecedented third consecutive major trophy.

Spain's Xabi Alonso, left, and Italy's Claudio Marchisio go for a header. KERIM OKTEN / EPA
Spain's Xabi Alonso, left, and Italy's Claudio Marchisio go for a header. KERIM OKTEN / EPA

KIEV // Another tournament, another title. This is starting to get far too predictable. Boring, boring Spain.

How anyone could ever have doubted their method now seems laughable. This Spanish team could not beautify football any more if they doused it in platinum, sprinkled hundreds and thousands on top, and served it with a flake.

Vicente del Bosque, the manager who added the European crown to a World Cup title by way of this win over Italy, always refers to his side as being a family.

Last night this band of brothers became the History Boys, setting the seal on an unprecedented third consecutive major title by becoming the first nation to successfully defend the European crown.

After the rout in Ukraine, Xavi, Spain's gladiator general, would have been within his rights to commandeer the field and ask of his audience: "Were you not entertained?"

He would have been granted a thumbs up by the whole of Europe, or anyone who appreciates football anywhere in the world. The Brazilians of 1970 could not have done it better. The history makers are purely magnificent. Case closed.

This stadium is located on the side of Cherepanov Hill in central Kiev, and at the start it seemed as though Spain were playing with a substantial slope advantage.

The world champions have been oddly criticised for the way they have played at this tournament.

Even though they have all commented to the contrary, their players have probably been hurt by the critiques of their morale-high-ground passing game.

They certainly started the final like they had a point to prove. In particular, Xavi and Andres Iniesta thrust their way to the foreground, at the culmination of a tournament in which each of the Barcelona players has betrayed signs of fatigue.

With those two at the hub, the Spaniards went on the attack from the off. Despite again starting without a recognised striker – or perhaps because of it – they were incisive, and gained reward for their endeavours when David Silva scored in the 14th minute.

The goal was a mini-masterpiece in its conception. Cesc Fabregas – the vaunted "False 9" – beat Giorgio Chiellini and cut back a gorgeous cross which Silva headed in with all the assuredness of a target-man centre forward rather than an elfin playmaker.

Italy are not short on mental fortitude, though, and the goal sparked them into life, with Iker Casillas, Spain's goalkeeper, needing to be alert to deal with a stream of crosses.

However, it felt like they had their finger blocking the leak. And the longer Andrea Pirlo, Italy's playmaker, was shackled, the more likely it seemed the dam was going to burst.

Sure enough, the defending champions doubled their advantage just before the intermission. Jordi Alba, their stunningly talented left-back, was the somewhat unlikely contributor.

He charged up the flank, exchanged passes with the ubiquitous Xavi, then drilled the ball past Gianluigi Buffon in the Italy goal. Who needs strikers anyway, when your full-backs can score goals like that?

Italy's effort to rally foundered. A rash of injuries conspired against them, but this was all about the coronation of the Spaniards. Italy's role in the drama became that of a non-speaking extra in the second-half.

As if to prove Spain can do strikers, too, Del Bosque introduced Fernando Torres, the Chelsea centre-forward, when the clock was ticking down. Obviously, he scored, slipping the third goal past a by-now beleaguered Buffon in the 84th minute.

Not long after that, Torres went and set up the fourth for his clubmate, Juan Mata, who had just entered the fray as a late substitute for Iniesta.

By that point, it had become such a Chelsea love-in, you half expected John Terry to pop up wearing a La Roja shirt, shorts and shin-pads to give Xavi a hand lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy.

Not that the little Barcelona maestro needed any help with that. As the leader of this Spain side, he is well used to raising trophies.

pradley@thenational.ae

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