Final, 4-0 Spain: It’s all over, and Spain has made history by becoming the first team to succesfully defend its European Championship. Spain cruised past Italy 4-0 in as one-sided a final as we’ve seen at a major tournament in some time.
There will be plenty of time to extol this current Spanish national team. Italy knocked it out of the 2006 World Cup, and it has gone on to win every major tournament since then. Few teams in the history of the game can claim to equal that run of dominance. It’s possible that no team will match it.
Italy shocked the world by beating Germany to reach the final, but it was overmatched in the final. It’s vaunted midfield quartet of Pirlo, De Rossi, Montolivo and Marchisio were mere spectators. Balotelli and Cassano had little to no service. The Italian defense cracked after the first goal. It broke when Chiellini went out.
Congrats to Spain — worthy winner of the 2012 UEFA European Championship.
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88th minute, 4-0 Spain: Spain is not easing up on the Italians. The substitute Mata scores the fourth goal in what has become a rout.
Torres generously provided the assist to his Chelsea teammate. Mata has only played sparingly in the six games at Euro 2012. It says something about this Spanish team that the most dynamic forward for the UEFA Champions League winner cannot get on the field for his country.
84th minute, 3-0 Spain: We thought both teams were playing out the final minutes at a sleepwalk, but nobody told Torres.
He comes off the bench and scores the third goal that was a long time coming.
75th minute, 2-0 Spain: It’s garbage time. Torres is coming on for Fabregas.
The Chelsea striker is famously struggling with form and confidence, yet he continues to pick up winners’ medals.
69th minute, 2-0 Spain: Motta’s injury has deflated the game a bit. Italy seems resigned to its fate as runner-up, while Spain continues to control the proceedings.
It is even threatening to score the third, which would be simultaneously cruel and fair (if that makes any sense).
61st minute, 2-0 Spain: The Italian tragedy continues. Motta has to leave the game just four minutes after entering it.
He fell to the ground clutching his hamstring and had to be stretchered off the field. Italy will play the remainder of the game with 10 men, as it has used all three substitutes.
57th minute, 2-0 Spain: Montolivo is coming off with Motta replacing him. The Fiorentina star was excellent against Germany (perhaps because of his split allegiences), but anonymous in the final against Spain.
51st minute, 2-0 Spain: Di Natale has had two good scoring chances within six minutes of entering.
The 35-year-old is a relatively green on the international stage, but his goal scoring ability (and compassion) is unquestioned.
49th minute, 2-0 Spain: Ramos attempted a diving header, and it hit the arm of Bonucci (inside of the penalty area).
Spain wanted a penalty kick, but there was no intent.
46th minute, 2-0 Spain: Cassano has been replaced by Di Natale. Italy needs more than that to overturn this deficit.
Halftime, 2-0 Spain: Rookie journalists, write Spain off at your own peril. The group of players that has won so much for club and country in recent years takes an emphatic lead into the break.
Many games are won and lost in the midfield and this one is no different. Xavi, Alonso, Busquets, Iniesta and Silva are simply running rings around their Italian counterparts.
They are not allowing Pirlo to play any part of this, swarming the Italian maestro whenever he gets the ball. De Rossi has been pinned back, and Marchisio is doing a lot of aimless running. The Italian strikers are marooned, while the defense is under seige. It’s hard to imagine any way back for Italy, but there is still 45 minutes left to play.
41st minute, 2-0 Spain: Spain doubles its lead thanks to a goal from Alba.
Italy was looking vulnerable to the counter attack, and Spain delivered the punishment that we thought was coming.
Xavi delivered the perfect through-ball that sent the racing Alba behind the defense.
The fullback, who will join Barcelona next year, beat Buffon with a tidy finish.
33rd minute, 1-0 Spain: Cassano and Balotelli are just starting to come into the game.
It was only when the two Italian strikers started to click that the Azzuri took control of the game against Germany. Perhaps it will have the same effect against Spain.
25th minute, 1-0 Spain: Pique is the first player booked in the final. He slid through Cassano from behind. Or was it from the side? It was close, but contact was made, and the Italian striker made the most of it.
21st minute, 1-0 Spain: It gets worse for Italy. Chiellini limps off. It looks like he’s aggrevated the hamstring injury that kept him out of the quarterfinal victory over England.
Missing out on 120 tense minutes allowed him to play in Thursday’s semifinal, but the quick turnaround was probably too much for his balky leg to take. Balzaretti takes his place at left back.
18th minute, 1-0 Spain: Silva’s presence has been somewhat muted during Euro 2012, but he is a star in his own right — especially during the warm weather months.
He was a key part of Manchester City’s Premier League title-winning team. He’s now put Spain in great position to make history.
14th minute, 1-0 Spain: Silva scores to give Spain an early and deserved lead.
Iniesta played a delightful through-ball into the area for Fabregas. The former Arsenal man crossed it from the by-line and Silva arrived with perfect timing to thump his header past Buffon.
10th minute, 0-0: Spain has the early advantage in possession and territory, and create the game’s first couple of scoring chances.
Ramos headed a corner kick over the bar in the seventh minute, and now Xavi blasts a shot over the bar.
Fourth minute, 0-0: The game is off to a fast start, and both teams are pressing and harassing the opponent.
Spain has been critical for hogging the ball and taking away from the spectacle.
When the Spanish finally managed to string five or six passes together, the Italian fans began whistling in ironic disgust … loud.
Kickoff: One of the enduring images in the modern era is the sight of Buffon belting out the Italian national anthem. It’s obvious that he means every word of the song.
The veteran goalkeeper has played 119 games for his country. He spoke proudly about playing for Italy in the lead-up to the game.
His counterpart in the Spanish goal, Casillas, is three years younger. But the Real Madrid and Spain custodian has played just 137 games for his country.
Pregame: Both managers, Italy’s Cesare Prandelli and Spain’s Vicente del Bosque, elected to make one change from their semifinal starting lineups.
Negredo was ineffective against Portugal, so Fabregas returns as one of Spain’s three forwards. He brings class and plenty of big-game experience. Good things seem to happen when he’s on the field for Spain in a final, as we saw at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
For Italy, Abate will start at right back. He takes the place of Balzaretti. The AC Milan man recovered from a muscle injury to appear in this final.
Balotelli will be one of the centers of attention. If he scores, he will win the “Golden Boot” as the top scorer in the tournament. He has three so far, and he’s looking for more.
2 p.m.: Here are the lineups:
Gianluigi Buffon (1), goalkeeper
Ignazio Abate (7), right back
Andrea Barzagli (15), center back
Leonardo Bonucci (19), center back
Giorgio Chiellini (3), left back
Daniele De Rossi (16), midfielder
Andrea Pirlo (21), midfielder
Claudio Marchisio (8), midfielder
Ricardo Montolivo (18), midfielder
Antonio Cassano (10), striker
Mario Balotelli (9), striker
Salvatore Sirigu (12), goalkeeper
Morgan De Sanctis (14), goalkeeper
Angelo Ogbonna (4), defender
Federico Balzaretti (6), defender
Thiago Motta (5), midfielder
Emanuele Giaccherini (13), midfielder
Antonio Nocerino (23), midfielder
Alessandro Diamanti (22), midfielder
Fabio Borini (17), forward
Sebastian Giovinco (20), forward
Antonio Di Natale (11), striker
Spain Iker Casillas (1), goalkeeper
Alvaro Arbeloa (17), right back
Sergio Ramos (15), center back
Gerard Pique (3), center back
Jordi Alba (18), left back
Sergio Busquets (16), midfielder
Xabi Alonso (14), midfielder
Xavi (8), midfielder
Andres Iniesta (6), forward
David Silva (21), forward
Cesc Fabregas (10), forward
Victor Valdes (12), goalkeeper
Pepe Reina (23), goalkeeper
Raul Albiol (2), defender
Javi Martinez (4), defender
Juanfran (5), defender
Santi Cazorla (20), midfielder
Jesus Navas (22), midfielder
Pedro (7), foward
Juan Mata (13), forward
Fernando Torres (9), striker
Alvara Negredo (11), striker
Fernando Llorente (19), striker
9 a.m. ET: Who could have expected two teams to exude such peace and serenity on the eve of a final? That is the case with Spain and Italy as the two face off for the title of European champion.
While Euro 2012 has sprung a number of surprises on the sporting public, it is only fitting that the tournament finale features two traditional powers. Some teams melted down before the tournament began (the Netherlands). Others wilted under the pressure of the intense scrutiny (France and Russia). Spain and Italy remained calm, stuck to their principles and blocked out the noise that can derail a team on its journey to glory.
Spain looks to make history by becoming the first team to defend its European Championship title. The Euro 2008 winner has dominated possession in typical, Spanish style. That hasn’t led to the expected flurry of goals, but produced the stingiest defense at Euro 2012 instead. Spain has conceded just one goal (in the 1-1 draw against Italy) in five games at the tournament. Opponents France and Portugal registered one, solitary shot on goal in Spain’s last two games.
Italy pulled off twin shocks with which the world is still struggling to come to grips. The first is that it has made it to this point (defeating mighty Germany and plucky England along the way). The second is that it has abandoned stereotypes of a bygone era and taken an assertive and open approach on the field. This Italy team has taken more shots (99) and picked up more bookings (15) than any other team at Euro 2012 — a reflection of its newfound aggression. It has also never trailed at any point in the five games leading up to the final.
Spain has won every major tournament since 2008, displaying character, commitment, poise and focus that matches its technical brilliance. If it beats Italy, Spain will have a legitimate claim as the greatest national team in history. But Italy is undaunted by the group of Spanish champions. It downed Spain in a friendly last August and has not lost in its last 15 competitive games. Italy was the last team to lift a major international trophy — the 2006 FIFA World Cup. It hopes to become the next one to do so and win its first European Championship since 1968.
Join us right here for all the action between Spain and Italy starting at 2 p.m.