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.

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