KIEV – Imperious Spain took their place among the game’s greats in vintage style by thrashing Italy 4-0 to become the first team to win successive European Championship titles on Sunday (Monday, PHL time).
Goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata gave the world champions an easy victory over an Italian team down to 10 men through injury for the last half-hour.
Spain’s emphatic triumph means they 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 diminutive Silva scored with a rare header after a Cesc Fabregas pull-back in the 14th minute before a superb sprint finish from left-back Alba following a pinpoint Xavi pass doubled their lead four minutes before halftime.
Torres, who scored the winner in the final when they won the title in 2008, struck their third goal in the 84th minute before setting up fellow substitute Mata who calmly rounded off
the scoring with a simple finish in the 88th.
The result was the highest margin of victory recorded in either a European Championship or World Cup final and Torres is the first player to score in two Euro finals.
Spain’s triumph means Vicente Del Bosque is only the second coach to win a European Championship and a World Cup, joining Helmut Schoen who did so with West Germany in 1972 and 1974.
Spain’s third Euro success also brings them level with Germany’s record after the Spanish also won the trophy in 1964.
“This match was great for our players, they controlled the game,” he said. “After the first goal the Italians became more dangerous but we kept the pressure, the depth, we are very happy. This success of Spanish football is something historic.”
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli was gracious in defeat adding: “They made history and deservedly – they have a lot of players tried and tested at this level and even though they don’t play with a classic striker they cause you plenty of problems.”
Italy had more possession than Spain in the opening half but when they did have a sniff of goal goalkeeper Iker Casillas maintained his astonishing record of not conceding a goal in the knockout stage of a tournament for the 10th successive match.
Spain, which 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 semifinal 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.
Italy’s Prandelli said he only wished his team had got more time to rest after their semifinal win over Germany, played a day later than Spain’s shootout victory against Portugal.
“Against a team like Spain I think you really need to be good in the tackle and fit. They totally dominated this evening, we have to congratulate a great side for their victory.”
The only other team to win three successive major titles was Argentina who lifted the Copa America in 1945, 1946 and 1947 but at a time when that tournament was held annually.
Despite Spain’s remarkable achievement on Sunday, their 61-year-old coach Del Bosque has already turned his attention to winning more silverware and yet more records could tumble.
“There will be more challenges, the qualification for the World Cup (in Brazil), the Confederations Cup where we will represent Europe – and we want to do it well.”