Spain crush Italy to claim Euro 2012 crown
Spain's Ramos Jordi Alba (second left) celebrates scoring their second goal of the game with team-mates
La Roja became the first team to successfully defend the European Championships and joined Germany as three-time winners of the competition as goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata saw them easily trump the Azzurri, who played a third of the match with 10 men due to an injury to Thiago Motta.
The first opening for the Spaniards arrived in the 10th minute after a long spell of possession, as Fabregas teed up Xavi Hernandez for a shot from the edge of the penalty area, but the midfielder put his effort just over the crossbar.
Four minutes later La Roja surged ahead with a superbly crafted goal. Andres Iniesta put Fabregas into space in the box with a fantastic through ball which allowed Spain’s no.10 to pull a cross back from the by-line that was headed home by David Silva.
Italy responded well to going behind and effectively matched their opponents in the possession stakes, though they had to wait until a few minutes after the half hour mark to create a scoring chance, which saw Antonio Cassano’s shot well saved by Iker Casillas.
But Spain increased their lead four minutes before the interval through a first international goal for left-back Jordi Alba. The Valencia man sprinted onto a defence-splitting pass from Xavi before tucking the ball past a helpless Gigi Buffon.
The Azzurri threw on striker Antonio Di Natale at the start of the second half and he had two good chances within five minutes of the restart, the second of which forced Casillas into an excellent save at close range.
If things weren’t tough enough already for Italy, they were dealt a cruel blow on the hour mark when, having used all three substitutions, Thiago Motta pulled up with a hamstring injury and was stretchered off the field just a few minutes after coming off the bench, leaving the team in blue with just 10 men.
It seemed inevitable that Spain would add to their advantage against the beleaguered Italians and the third goal arrived in the 84th minute when Fernando Torres, who provided the decisive moment in the 2008 Euros final against Germany, coolly slid a low shot past Buffon’s left hand.
Torres then turned provider a few minutes later to give fellow substitute Juan Mata a tap-in that made it 4-0 and saw Spain surpass West Germany’s record margin of victory in a final of the European Championships (3-0 over the USSR in 1972).