by ‘Ifreke Inyang
We eagerly anticipated a tight football encounter. What we got was ninety minutes of tiki taka. And at the end, Spain, were crowned the champions of Europe for the second consecutive time. You might be quick to remind me that the current crop that makes up La Roja is built around the intelligence of Barcelona players. But no one expected them to recover remarkably from a sluggish start to brush the formidable Azzurris with incredible ease. Spain saved the best for last.
Vicente Del Bosque started with his beloved formation, with former Arsenal captain, Cesc Fabregas, taking up the ‘false nine’ role. Having flirted with this tactic all through the tournament, including the group game against Prandelli’s men, this one time it proved to be a masterstroke. the Italians were starved of the ball for long periods and the Spaniards floated around them, stroking their passes between bodies and through spaces. When they didn’t have the ball, they hassled and pressed, denying Andrea Pirlo of time to dictate play.
The whitewash started as early as the 14th minute. Iniesta’s eye-of-the-needle pass freed Fabregas, who skipped past Chiellini and crossed for David Silva – only 5’7 – to head into the corner. They doubled the lead shortly before the break. This time around, Xavi split the Italian defence, which had been solid before yesterday, with a measured pass. Jordi Alba galloped latched onto it and produced a composed finish.
Thiago Motta’s hamstring injury in the 60th minute, only added clarity to what was already obvious. Spain tore into them at will, attacking from all angles. Fernando Torres grabbed the third and there was still time for Juan Mata, who only played five minutes of the entire tournament to rub in salt with a fourth. By the time the fourth official indicated that there were three extra minutes, the Italians were out on their legs, close to pleading for an end to the rout.
It is instructive to note that apart from the pass masters, Iker Casillas kept the Italians at bay. His brilliant reaction saves kept out Antonio Cassano, and at a point, he practically took the ball off Mario Balotelli’s head, as the Manchester City man prepared to pounce. It was only just that the Spanish captain was the man who lifted the trophy – their third in five years and an emphatic confirmation that Spain is the new Brazil.