DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 27: David Silva of Spain in action during the UEFA EURO 2012 semi final match between Portugal and Spain at Donbass Arena on June 27, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: La Roja Are The Champions Of Europe

Spain thrashed Italy, 4-0, to win Euro 2012 and make their case for the best team ever with their third consecutive major tournament title.

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The Passgoal And The 'Punch': Two Moments Which Define Spain 2012

Spain are brilliant, but not lovable.


Euro 2012 Power Rankings: Spain Reign Supreme, Duh

31 matches in three weeks told us one thing -- Spain are really good. It also told us a bunch of other things about 15 other teams too so for one last time, let's rank the Euro 2012 teams.


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012: Final Score, La Roja Champions Again With 4-0 Victory

Italy were always fighting an uphill battle in the Euro 2012 final against Spain, but La Roja were allowed to coast to their third consecutive major title with a 4-0 victory over the Azzurri. Third and final Italy substitute Thiago Motta picked up a very bad leg injury in the 60th minute of the match, sending Italy down to 10 men when they trailed by two goals, effectively ending the game. It wasn't the way anyone wanted to see Spain win their record-setting third consecutive major championship, but they were the much better side for the opening 60 minutes of the match and their victory is well-deserved.

Spain got off to a brilliant start, and their pretty passing was rewarded with an opening goal in the 14th minute. They had been doing a fair bit of just keeping the ball in the middle of the pitch up until that point, but they cut open the Azzurri defense with a brilliant Andres Iniesta through ball. Cesc Fabregas ran onto it and cut the ball back for David Silva, who headed into the back of the net.

The Italians picked up the pace when they went down a goal and looked very good for most of the first half, but their defense was taken apart just before halftime. Xavi provided the assist on Jordi Alba's brilliant 41st minute goal, with Andrea Barzagli aiding the goal with some poor defending. He failed to make a decision to either attempt to catch Alba offside or back up, instead standing still as Alba blew by him on Xavi's through ball, then finished off the move to give his side a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.

Italy were forced to make a change due to injury in the first half with Federico Balzaretti replacing Giorgio Chiellini shortly after the Silva goal. Cesare Prandelli made another substitution at halftime, bringing on Antonio Di Natale for a very tired Antonio Cassano. That move paid off immediately in the 46th minute, when Di Natale headed a cross just over the bar. Five minutes later, he forced Iker Casillas into an excellent save.

In between those two shots, Leonardo Bonucci got away with a handball in the box that kept Italy's hopes of coming back alive, if only briefly. The ball bounced up into his raised hand following a free kick, and the Azzurri were lucky that a penalty was not granted.

It didn't take long at all for their luck to run out completely. In the 56th minute, Prandelli made his fourth and final substitution by bringing on Thiago Motta for Riccardo Montolivo. Four minutes later, Motta went down in a heap on a run forward with the ball, appearing to tear his hamstring. He was obviously unable to continue, forcing Italy, while 2-0 down, to finish the last 30 minutes of the match with 10 men. This was essentially the end of the game and completely took away any chance of an Italy comeback.

Spain did a lot of passing the ball in circles, showing a bit of mercy and understanding for their opponents' situation, but they still managed to get a goal for their much-maligned former superstar. Fernando Torres came on as a substitute and bagged a goal in the 84th minute, finishing calmly off of a brilliant through ball by Xavi. Juan Mata also came on as a substitute and was set up for a goal by Torres, his club teammate, who gifted him a tap-in with a great pass.

The finish was an anti-climactic one and Italy were robbed of a chance to fight their way back into the match by a freak injury, but there's no taking anything away from Spain. They were well on top for the entire match, and it would have been very surprising if the Azzurri managed to fight their way back into the game. Vicente del Bosque's side were fantastic on Sunday night and have cemented their place as one of the greatest international sides of all time.

You can find all of our previous coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: Spain's Chelsea Contingent Notch 3rd And 4th Goals

Fernando Torres has now scored in back-to-back European Championship finals, which is not something I was expecting to have to write ever. The Chelsea striker came on for Cesc Fabregas a little while ago, and his movement looked positive but rather pointless in a match which Spain had basically already won. But Xavi decided to take advantage of it anyway, threading in a through ball through a flat Italy defence. Torres might have been expected to do nothing at all with the pass, but instead he opened up his body and slotted expertly past Gianluigi Buffon to make it 3-0.

Poor Italy -- that's a really painful scoreline and they're being blown off the pitch with ten men in the second half. Spain are so secure that Juan Mata's been allowed to make a cameo, his first minutes of the tournament. And still there's no Fernando Llorente.

Oh, and then Torres sets up Mata for the fourth goal. This is fair.

(This is not fair.)

We have live coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: Halftime Score, La Roja Comfortably In Front 2-0

Update: Spain 4-0 Italy, Final Score

Italy held their own for most of the first 45 minutes of the Euro 2012 final against Spain, but the half belonged to La Roja. The reigning European champions scored a quick opener and reverted to a slow possession game, but they turned on the style with some quick counter-attacking at the end of the half. They're well in control at the moment with a 2-0 halftime lead.

On one particular early move, Spain looked like they might be content to just sit on the ball as per usual, and it might have lulled the Italians into a false sense of security. In the 10th minute, they ended what felt like a minute-long, 40-pass move with a shot by Xavi, which went screaming over the bar. Italy didn't close down at any point during the move, content to sit back and let Spain keep the ball away from the goal.

They also failed to close down Andres Iniesta four minutes later and they were made to pay for it. The Barcelona man started an attack with a brilliant through ball down the left flank for Cesc Fabregas, who beat Giorgio Chiellini to the byline and cut the ball back. David Silva made the perfect run into the box and headed the ball into the back of the net, giving Spain a 14th-minute lead.

Chiellini picked up an injury right around the time of that goal and eventually had to come out of the game. He was replaced by Federico Balzaretti, who is much more of a true left back.

Spain slowed down after their goal, looking like they were going to be content to hold onto a 1-0 lead. Italy started playing a more aggressive game, but never found a breakthrough. Iker Casillas was forced to make a punch on a cross in the 26th minute, then had to make a save on a shot by Antonio Cassano in the 29th minute. Cassano tested him again four minutes later, hitting a 25-yard rip that Casillas punched away.

With Italy playing aggressively and expecting methodical possession play from Spain, the champions struck with a fantastic quick counter. Xavi sprung left back Jordi Alba on an overlapping run and his soon-to-be Barcelona teammate torched the Azzurri defense, then finished past Gianluigi Buffon to double Spain's lead.

Italy played very well for a 25-minute spell in the first half, but their defense was cut up by spectacular Xavi and Iniesta through balls that bookended the period. This is the direct and fast Spain that the neutral viewing public has been waiting for, and their assertiveness has paid off with a two-goal lead.

We have live coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: Jordi Alba Doubles Lead

Spain had been disappointing since David Silva's opener, but there's one player who doesn't really have a lower gear - Valencia (and soon to be Barcelona) left back Jordi Alba. He picks up possession deep in his own half and feeds Xavi before setting off on a hilariously direct run through the heart of the defence. Xavi picked him out perfectly with a through ball and Alba finished calmly past Gianluigi Buffon. While at full speed and having just run seventy yards down the pitch.

Tiki-taka it was not, but it was fun. Anyway, that's game over, in case you weren't aware. Spain haven't conceded a goal in knockout international games for almost ten and a half games worth of football, and they're not going to concede two here. Sorry, Italy; y'all are done. Andrea Barzagli is cranky about turn of events and takes out his anger on Andres Iniesta, picking up a booking for his troubles. Riccardo Montolivo, however, takes out his anger on the ball, but Iker Casillas is able to stop the midfielder's long-ranger.

We have live coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: Giorgio Chiellini Injured

Italy are down 1-0 and there's worse news for the underdogs -- Giorgio Chiellini has gone down with a recurrance of the hamstring injury that kept him out earlier this tournament, and Cesare Prandelli has been forced to make a switch. Federico Balzaretti, who probably should have started anyway, comes in for the stricken defender. His first touch gives Spain a goal kick.

Chiellini's substitution is probably a good thing. He clearly wasn't one hundred percent and wasn't moving well whenever Spain attacked him. Nevertheless, this Italy defence suddenly feels far less secure. If Spain are in the mood to get more goals (which they're generally not, to be fair), this could be a very very bad day for Italy.

Meanwhile, Gerard Pique gets himself yellow carded for scything down Antonio Cassano. Silly boy. That was mean. All Cassano wants from life is to have sex and eat cake. He doesn't need flying tackles from giant lugs of defenders.

We have live coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: David Silva Gives Spain Lead

Yeah, that was coming. Actually, scratch that. David Silva headed goals are never, ever coming. And yet, here one is. Andres Iniesta threads a pass in through the right channel for an onrushing Cesc Fabregas, and he blows past Giorgio Chiellini and cuts back for Silva, lurking on the edge of the six-yard box. The Manchester City midfielder pulls off a lovely flicked header, and Gianluigi Buffon can do absolutely nothing about it as it flies into the top corner to give the defending champions a 1-0 lead.

It's been a brilliant start from Spain, who are playing their best football of the tournament so far. Italy look at sixes and sevens -- if they want to get back into this match, they'll have to score against a team who haven't conceded in over 900 minutes of knockout football. Good luck with that.

We have live coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: Lineup Analysis

After thousands of words worth of speculation from scribes worldwide, Vicente del Bosque has gone back to where he started. Cesc Fabregas will play as a 'striker', leading Spain's line with exactly the same starting eleven as faced Italy during their first match of the tournament. That's a contentious decision, but it's not necessarily a poor one - Italy's centre halves had trouble figuring out what to do in the opener, and this time Daniele di Rossi is in midfield and won't have quite as much time and space to distribute.

Spain need to answer questions about a cutting edge (or lack thereof) but it's worth pointing out that Fabregas was the one who scored the equaliser in that match. If that doesn't work, it's easy enough to introduce Fernando Torres, who caused Italy some problems with his movement when he came on against them last time out.

Italy have made one change - Federico Balzaretti has been dropped for the fit-again Ignazio Abate. It's an interesting decision on Cesare Prandelli's part, because Balzaretti had been the most in-form defender on the squad. Abate's the better call on paper, of course, but reintroducing him at a critical stage may have some adverse effects.

But it's more about the changes Prandelli didn't make. True to his word, Italy have not reverted to playing with a back three like they did in their first encounter with Spain - they're in a 4-3-1-2 this time out, which means they'll outnumber del Bosque's side in central midfield with a diamond. It's interesting that there's no place for Thiago Motta in the team, however, since Italy are going to need to work very hard chasing the ball, a task Motta is better suited for than Riccardo Montolivo, who remains in the lineup.

There's still a worrying lack of width in this Italy side. Antonio Cassano will rove down the wings, but that still leaves one flank vulnerable to a two on one overload (with Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba or the less dangerous duo of Alvaro Arbeloa and David Silva) against one of Abate and Juventus centre back Giorgio Chiellini. Sure, they don't have the likes of Fernando Llorente in the centre to exploit their advantage out wide, but Spain have been pretty good at creating from the flanks in this tournament, and that's where Italy are going to be at their most vulnerable.

We'll have features, news updates and live coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: Lineups

Italy has not reverted to three at the back as Cesare Prandelli promised, but he's not playing with a true left back either. The entire Juventus starting back three is intact even though the Azzurri are playing a back four. Ignazio Abate returns at right back while Giorgio Chiellini stays at left back. The rest of the Italy team is as expected. Spain have busted out no surprises, with Cesc Fabregas at center forward and the other 10 players unchanged.

Spain Lineup (4-3-3): Iker Casillas; Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa; Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez; Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva

Italy Lineup (4-3-1-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Ignazio Abate; Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio; Riccardo Montolivo; Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli

Kickoff is at 2:45 p.m. ET, 9:45 p.m. local time from the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine. You can catch the game on ESPN in the United States, TSN in Canada or BBC One in the United Kingdom.

We'll have features, news updates and live coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube


Balotellification: How Mario Balotelli (Might) Save Football

Mario Balotelli is on a mission: to simplify football. Tonight, he faces his biggest challenge.


Italy's No-Winger, Minimal Width Formation Actually A Massive Step Forward

Italy stopped playing with wingers mid-way through Euro 2012 qualifying, and it was the smartest move that Cesare Prandell has made as Italy manager.


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: How Spain Got Here

And so we go back to where Euro 2012 began for Spain, with a match against Italy. Whoever predicted this? Very few, I'm sure.

But before there was the tournament, there was qualification, in which Spain was unrivaled, the only side to go through with a perfect record. Sure, Holland tried, but they had one loss, and look where that got them. Of course, Spain had to deal with mere mortals, easily dispensing with the likes of Lithuania and particularly Liechtenstein. Czech Republic and Scotland proved a little bit more difficult, but in the end they were pushed aside. Is it any wonder that la roja made it through with a +20 goal difference?

On to Poland / Ukraine, where life in Group C proved to be a bit more tricky. Spain took a strikerless formation into the opening game against Italy, prompting many of us to beg never to hear the phrase "false 9" again. It seemed it would be Cesare Prandelli's tactics that won out when Antonio Di Natale scored the opening goal in the 61st minute, but that cheeky false 9, Cesc Fabregas, answered with a goal of his own three minutes later, and that's how it ended, 1-1. But, Spain, you're going to actually need a win this time around.

The next match was easy as sin, as la roja showed its furia and took down Ireland, 4-0. And when it's Fernando Torres scoring a brace for your side, you know the gods were in your favor. On to Croatia, then, where Spain refused to do the honorable thing and set up a 2-2 draw to let the Croats go through to the quarterfinals. Instead it was an 88th minute shot from Jesus Navas that sealed the deal, sending Spain on to face France.

Perhaps if France had a competent coach or was able to play like a team rather than a bunch of individuals, the match wouldn't have been so one-sided. Instead les bleus were dispatched in such a boring manner that this author was actually relieved to get on a flight for 10 hours rather than watch the second half. Xabi Alonso put one away in the 19th minute, prompting 70 minutes of cat and mouse before he sunk a penalty in extra time, giving Spain the 2-0 win.

And then, Portugal, perhaps the most interesting match we've seen Spain play. Turns out they aren't so boring when the other team isn't so afraid of defeat. Portugal pressed la roja for the entirety of the game, with Spain really only truly threatening Rui Patrício's goal in the final minutes of added extra time. The Portuguese keeper was splendid, even saving the first penalty, from Xabi Alonso. Alas, Iker Casillas also saved his first, from Moutinho, and so with a Bruno Alves miss, Spain was on to the finals.

La roja might be champions of both the world and of Europe, but the past does not help them in their present. Like Portugal, Italy won't be fearful, sitting back and hoping for a chance goal. But, past aside, Spain remains the best team in Europe, and that's what makes the final theirs to lose.

We'll have features, news updates and live coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: How Italy Got Here

We'd love to be all dramatic and say that this tournament is ending in the same way it started, with a match between Spain and Italy. But Euro 2012 actually began with Poland drawing with Greece, so let's face the facts and dial it back to when this really started: in South Africa in 2010, with Italy a laughingstock and Spain claiming all the glory.

Too far? OK, OK. Let's start with qualification for Euro 2012. Italy landed in Group C, with such heavyweights as the Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland. Its only serious competition was meant to be Serbia, but after the Serb supporters made such a ruckus in Genoa that the side had to forfeit, the group was Italy's for the taking. In the end, the azzurri claimed 26 points from a possible 30, its chance at perfection broken by draws with Serbia and (surprisingly), Northern Ireland.

So it was on to Poland and Ukraine, where Italy was grouped with Spain, Croatia and Republic of Ireland in Group B. The first challenge for the azzurri was those reigning reyes, the kings of Europe. To the surprise of many, Italy came away with a 1-1 draw against Spain, although Antonio Di Natale's goal was almost immediately neutralized by the equalizer from Cesc Fabregas.

Still, it was an unexpected point, and one that Italy needed, as Croatia turned out not to be the easy opponent they'd likely believed. Perhaps they hadn't watched Mario Mandžukić flatten Ireland? After Andrea Pirlo's stunning free kick sent the azzurri into the break with a 1-0 lead, they must've felt confident of all three points, as Croatia had barely a shot in the first 45. But a bit of tinkering at the half saw Luka Modrić suddenly burst to life, tormenting the Italians. The Croats chipped away at the Italian defense until Mandžukić sent Ivan Strinić's cross past Gianluigi Buffon for the 1-1 equalizer.

And then it was Ireland. Should've been simple stuff, really, but somehow Italy made a 2-0 win look difficult. Well, Mario Balotelli didn't, considering his superb goal in the 90th minute. But the match was not nearly as easy as it should have been -- no wonder fans of the country were worried as they went to face England in the quarterfinals.

But England, for some unfathomable reason, elected to sit back and play for penalties. Maybe it was the disappearance of Wayne Rooney's talent or their total fear of Pirlo that prompted them to believe that penalties were better than attacking in normal time, but whatever it was, the Three Lions gambled and lost. Balo's penalty was fierce, Pirlo's was a cheeky cucchiaio that will give Joe Hart nightmares for the rest of his life. Then Ashley Young missed and Grande Gigi saved Ashley Cole's shot, sending Italy through to the semifinals.

Where it met Germany -- the side that all those not betting on Spain chose to back. It was the Germans' year, we were all told, so what happened? Sloppy play at the back and a lack of willingness to change tactics on Germany's part. Unfortunately for the Germans, this was the match in which Balotelli decided to display his brilliance, opening the performance with a header and sealing the deal with a brilliant strike before the whistle blew for the half. Italy refused to hunker down and defend in the second, continuing to pour forth in search of goal. In the end, Germany pulled one back through a penalty converted by Mesut Özil, but, somewhat improbably, the azzurri were through to take on Spain.

And now for its biggest challenge -- showing the world that this wasn't all just a fluke. Or, even if it was, that the fluke can continue on through the final, and allow them to break down the side that has, thus far, proved to be unbreakable.

We'll have features, news updates and live coverage of the match in our Spain vs. Italy, Euro 2012 StoryStream. For more on Euro 2012 and the entire world of football, follow @SBNationSoccer on Twitter.


Can We Shut Up About David Villa, Please?

The reason Spain are boring is not because David Villa is injured. Stop being silly.


Can Italy Take A Page From Portugal's Book Against Spain?

Forget destroyers, passers and runners - Portugal have taught us that beating Spain needs midfield annoyers. Can Italy follow their lead?


Spain Vs. Italy, Euro 2012 Final: TV Schedule, Game Time, Streaming And Live Updates

Spain and Italy, the last two winners of the World Cup fight for European supremacy in the Euro 2012 Final in Kiev on Sunday evening.


Fernando Llorente: The Lion King

Fernando Llorente can't get off the bench for reasons nobody can explain as the Spanish saga plays out like the Disney classic "The Lion King"


Italy Are Overrated

Played five. Won two. Drawn three. The mark of a great team? Hardly. Italy have made the Euro 2012 final, but it's far from clear that they've regained their status as footballing giants.


Spain Have A Xabi Alonso Problem

Vicente del Bosque has too many world-class midfielders, and he's accommodating the wrong one.


Riccardo Montolivo: Finding His Place In Italy's Squad

Riccardo Montolivo has been a divisive figure in the Italy squad over the past two years. In Euro 2012, it seems the playmaker is finally fulfilling his potential.

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