Spain 4 (Silva 14, Alba 41, Torres 84, Mata 88) – Italy 0
Man of the Match – Andres Iniesta (Spain)
It was fate. It was destiny, but in the end it was kind of farcical as Spain romped to their third successive international trophy, a feat that will surely have earned them immortality in the annals of football.
Italy, however, will find it hard to take, after they played out the closing half an hour with just 10 men. Visibly exhausted, they could barely cover ground in the dying moments, but the Spaniards were ruthless in the least.
Much of the pre match talk was surrounded by one man, Italy’s Mario Balotelli. After his fantastic performance in the semifinals, against Germany, Italians around the world were hoping the maverick young striker would do the same against the world champions. Spain, on the other hand, were looking to close down on another international title. 1 trophy in a century, and now they have 3 trophies in the bag.
There were no surprises in the starting lineup, as Alvaro Negredo lost his place to Cesc Fabgregas. There weren’t any changes in the Italian lineup either, with Ignazio Abate taking his right-back place from Federico Balzaretti.
Spain started like they always do, pressing high and attacking the opposition with some slick passing. Sergio Ramos had a header over the bar. Then, Xavi and Fabregas worked a one-two situation, but could only manage sending the ball over the bar. Spain’s wave of attacks continued. Andres Iniesta played in Fabregas, who played in a delicious pass to Silva, who had the easy job of tapping in the ball.
Italy showed some urgency briefly when midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo’s free kick a bit too high. The Italians won a round of corners, all of which proved to be dangerous but unsuccessful. Italy were forced to make an early substitution when Giorgio Chiellini limped off, to be replace by Palermo full back Federico Balzaretti.
There was a period of end to end football, however, with little to show in terms of chances. A Balzaretti cross was saved by Casillas before it could reach the head of Balotelli. Casillas was forced to make further saves from Balzaretti and Cassano. Italy managed to control play for some time, with Spain having to resort to quick counters.
It was the Spaniards, however, who took a seemingly unassailable lead on 41 minutes, when a beautiful Xavi through ball allowed left-back Jordi Alba to shoot past Buffon. Italy were visibly disheartened with the goal, but immediately looked to pull one back when Ricardo Montolivo’s effort was parried by Casillas.
Coach Cesare Prandelli, made some changes during the interval bringing on Udinese striker Antonio di Natale in place of Antonio Cassano. And, he nearly made the difference, when he headed over an Abate cross over the bar.
On the other hand, a Fabregas shot went wide and Iniesta’s efforts were blocked by Abate and Buffon. A Sergio Ramos low header struck the arm of Leonardo Bonucci, but the referee waved play on. di Natale then found himself in a great position to score when he was played in, but Casillas was in the way.
Italy made their last substitution when Ricardo Montolivo made for former Barcelona midfielder Thiago Motta. And to add too Italy’s woes, Motto strained his hamstring, just 3 minutes into his stint, and had to be stretchered off. The seemingly tough task now looked impossible, with the Italian’s body language reading that they had consigned to defeat.
Spain, however, showed no signs of letting up as they wore down the Italians with large periods of possession. By the 75th minute, the Italians were barely able to walk, and could be seen trudging along heavily. Vicente del Bosque sensed the opportunity to seal an emphatic win, sending on Fernando Torres, in place of Cesc Fabregas.
Torres obliged, latching on to a Xavi cross, to score a goal in a second successive Euro final. To add to the gloss, his Chelsea teammate, Juan Mata, who too came on as a sub, scored in the 88th minute.
Ramos could have made it 5-0 when his backheel almost ended in the back of the net. The Italians just wanted the ref to blow for the whistle. And, he did so, soon after.
Mario Balotelli furiously walked off the pitch, only to return minutes later, having calmed himself down, even as the Spanish were revelling in a party.
The closing moments of the night, were UEFA president Michel Plaitini handing over the Henry Delauney trophy to Iker Casillas, as Andrea Pirlo, Leonardo Bonnucci and Mario Balotelli looked on inconsolably.
Match Ratings – Spain
Casillas (7.5) – Never looked troubled enough.
Arbeloa (7.5) – A good performance. Bombed down the flank very often, but did allow a few Italian attacks to stem out from the left.
Ramos (8) – Another strong showing at cenre-back. Could have helped himself to a few goals as well.
Pique (8) – Dominant all around.
Alba (8.5) – A brilliant game for the young left-back. Barely gave any space to the Italians, and looked very good going forward. Took his goal like a striker would.
Busquets (8) – Helped the Spaniards win the midfield battle.
Alonso (8) – A fine performance, yet again.
Xavi (8) – The thorn in Italy’s flesh. Constantly caused trouble with his array of passes.
Iniesta (9) – Man of the Match performance. In the thick of everything good for the Spanish.
Silva (8) – A lively performance.
Fabregas (8.5) – Caused the Italians too many problems. Assisted for the opening goal, and created several other chances.
Pedro (7.5) – Replaced Silva well.
Torres (8) – Came on to frustrate the Italians and returned home with the Golden Boot.
Mata – No Rating
Match Ratings – Italy
Buffon (7) – Sadly for him, his defence let him down.
Abate (7) – Was given a torrid time from Alba and Iniesta.
Bonnucci (6.5) – Looked so uncomfortable against the slick Spanish passing movements.
Barzagli (6.5) – Had a rough night too.
Chiellini – No Rating
de Rossi (7) – Tried his best to stamp his authority in midfield, but to no avail.
Marchisio (7) – Looked lively in the opening minutes, but eventually fizzled out.
Montolivo (7) – I thought taking him off was a mistake, as he was having a decent game.
Pirlo (7.5) – Let down by his teammates. Spain had him covered well.
Cassano (6.5) – Apart from a couple of chances, he was largely anonymous.
Balotelli (7) – Had a couple of efforts at goal, but never really got the service on the night.
Balzaretti (6.5) – Was roughed up by Silva and Arbeloa, and later by Pedro.
di Natale (7) – Quickly livened up the Italian attacks, but with little to show for.
Motta – No Rating
Spain – 8.03
Italy – 6.87