Euro 2012 Final
For the Euro 2012 Final I headed out to the George and Dragon, a soccer bar I had heard about when I listened to World Soccer/Football Daily. We showed up at 10:15, 90 minutes before game and the place was already buzzing. By kickoff, the bar, patio and outdoor area were completely full. The crowd was pro-Spain so I was hoping for a favorable result.
The movement and passing of the Spanish team was fantastic and their great start was rewarded with Fabregas squeezing past Chiellini and then squaring the ball for Silva to head home. Italy came back into the match and were very patient in attack, actually earning more possession in the first half. Eventually the Spaniards regained control, and Xavi released Alba who produced a clinical finish. Balzaretti came in for the injured Chiellini got involved and created width for the Azzurri, which helped the Italians to stay in the match. The problem in the first half was that Balotelli was receiving the ball in the channels and not in the middle where he could do more damage.
The opening of the second half was the most intense five minutes I’ve ever seen. End to end, tons of chances and wonderful play. The Italians had to score early to give them a lifeline, which Di Natale almost did, but the goal didn’t come, Thiago Motta came on for Montolivo and promptly pulled his hamstring. Down 2-0, down to 10 men, the game was up. The Spanish finally stepped on their throat as Torres took advantage of a turnover and then Mata came on and scored to seal the victory.
After the game Bob Ley had to ask Alexi Lalas and Michael Fantastic Ballack if La Furia Roja were the greatest team ever. Who knows? Let’s just enjoy this team. Yes they struggled during this tournament, but from the extra time of the Portugal game through the final against Italy, this team was truly special and history will let us know where they fit in the pantheon of teams. What a game and what a tournament. Too bad UEFA is going to 24 teams in 2014 and a possible pan-European option in 2020. Can’t just leave well enough alone.
Zonal Marking examined the midfield battle which shaped the contest. In the end, the speed and quickness of the Spanish plus the involvement of the outside backs undid the Italians. This was his conclusion:
Spain narrowed their wide midfielders to win the numbers game in the centre, then advanced the full-backs to stretch the play. That’s what they usually do, of course, but here it was combined with rapid passing and constant runs in behind the defence. It was almost unstoppable, and the beauty of their first two goals (when the game was proper contest, at 11 v 11) was the difference in style. Silva’s goal came after 14 passes, Alba’s after only 4. Silva’s goal arrived after 36 seconds of possession, Alba’s after just 13. Spain finally found the right balance, mixing possession with penetration.
Sid Lowe recapped a final in which Spain went from “boring” to exceptional, with several players fulfilling key roles in the destruction of old enemy Italy.
Finally Roger Bennett wrote a short post in the aftermath for Soccernet, rattling off the ridiculous stats that Spain has complied over the last four years, especially defensively. Both coaches pointed to the fitness of the squads as a key component of the game, with Motta’s injury proving too much to overcome for the Italians. As for the greatest ever argument:
Debates will now rage as to whether this Spanish team is the best national side to ever take the field. The vast difference in footbaling eras should make the arguments about their relationship to Brazil’s magnificent 1970 as empty as debating if Viking warriors could battle U.S. Marines.