Euro 2012 Final - Spain vs Italy
How Did Spain Beat Italy?
Spain's 4-0 victory over Italy in the Euro 2012 final was a tactical masterclass by manager, Vicente Del Bosque. Italy started the match with a 4-3-1-2 formation, replicating the tactics that saw them neutralize Germany in the previous round. On paper, it appeared that Italian manager, Cesare Prandelli, was making the right decision. Spain and Germany are tactically similar, with both teams looking to play through the middle with intricate through balls. Unfortunately for Italy, Del Bosque predicted Prandelli's approach. Germany had failed to defeat Italy in the semi finals by sticking to their plan of trying to break through the middle. Del Bosque told his team to do the opposite; he told them to utilize the flanks, and this is what won them the game.
Jordi Alba and Alvaro Arbeloa routinely burst down the wings, giving Spain much needed width. David Silva and Cesc Fabregas also took up wide positions at numerous opportune moments. This forced the Italian midfielders out of position, freeing up space in the middle for Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and Xavi. Contributing to this vacuous hole in the Italian team was Prandelli's decision to leave Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano far up the pitch. Neither of them tracked back to threaten Xavi and Alonso when they were in possession. The picture below demonstrates this peculiar setup. Perhaps Prandelli was hoping for Andrea Pirlo to play long balls up to Italy's forwards in the hope that Spain had pushed too far forward. Whatever was in his mind, it failed miserably.
Andrea Pirlo Went Missing
The common opinion is that Spain neutralised Pirlo, but few people have remarked on how they accomplished this. As previously mentioned, Alonso, Xavi and Iniesta were given far too much space, and as a result, Pirlo was relegated to a defensive midfield role. Claudio Marchisio, who should have been on defensive duty in the middle, was occupied on the flank by the runs of Jordi Alba. This left Pirlo to defend against the trickery of Iniesta, which was clearly not something he was happy doing. To top it off, when Pirlo got on the ball, he was quickly closed down by the Spanish players.
How Did Spain Score?
As expected, Spain's goals came from the flanks. Andres Iniesta slid a beautiful pass down the right channel for Fabregas who got to the byline and fired an inch perfect cross onto the head of David Silva. Silva merely had to aim the ball into the goal to give Spain a 1-0 lead. Five minutes before half time, Jordi Alba burst down the opposite flank and gave the ball to the masterful Xavi, who had all the time and space he needed to pick a perfect return pass. Alba continued his powerful run all the way into the box, and finished coolly to make it 2-0. At half time, the game was up.
Cesare Prandelli changed his tactics after the break, clearly telling his full backs to bomb down the wings, abandoning their narrow shape. There was an immediate improvement with newly introduced Antonio Di Natale coming close to scoring on a couple of occasions. Their revival was short-lived as Tiago Motta pulled his hamstring and Italy were unable to replace him, having made their three substitutions. Italy looked a beaten side, and Spain added to their tally with goals from substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata. The magnificent Xavi provided the defense splitting pass for Torres, with Busquets providing the crucial pass for Mata's goal.
Man of the Match Xavi
With all the space that Italy gave him, Xavi had every opportunity to put in a first class performance. Under par throughout most of the tournament, Xavi was not about to miss his moment to shine. With assists for Alba and Torres, his passes effectively won the game for Spain. His pass completion rate was an incredible 93%, and like many greats before him, he brought his best game to the biggest stage.
Record Breaking Spain
Spain become the first national team in history to win three major international tournaments back-to-back, having won Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and now Euro 2012. This Spanish team is the greatest to have ever played the game, and it is a pleasure to watch them in action.
The story of this Euro 2012 final was the manner in which Spain answered their critics. Labelled boring and past their best, the team scored four perfect goals and outgunned Italy in terms of individual ability and tactical organisation. Spain have won Euro 2012 in emphatic fashion, and have given the world a wonderful demonstration of the beautiful game.
- Euro Cup 2012 Final - Spain Win 4-0 Over Italy
Match facts and information about the teams.