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Euro 2012 Final - Spain vs Italy

Updated on June 26, 2015
Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan has been an avid fan of the English Premier League and European football for more than 20 years.

Iker Casillas celebrates as Spain win Euro 2012.
Iker Casillas celebrates as Spain win Euro 2012.

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.

Italy played very narrow in their 4-3-1-2 formation, but their attacking pair were too far upfield. Spain utilised the flanks, freeing up space for their midfield.
Italy played very narrow in their 4-3-1-2 formation, but their attacking pair were too far upfield. Spain utilised the flanks, freeing up space for their midfield.

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.

Xavi was the star man for Spain.
Xavi was the star man for Spain.

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.

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    • internpete profile image

      Peter V 5 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

      Incredible performance by Spain. And well said, Pirlo was missing! Voted up!

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Good analysis of the match. I am doing a happy dance right now. Spain really did answer their critics!

    • CCahill profile image

      CCahill 5 years ago from England

      Great analysis, love the picture, needed someone to sum this one up for me because i couldn't hear any commentary and was too drunk to follow the game heh

      Voted up and Shared via Hubpages and Twitter

    • Thomas Swan profile image
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      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Cheers internpete and CCahill, happy to have described this one for ya! It's a pleasure to write about great matches like this. I hope the hangover isn't too bad!

    • Thomas Swan profile image
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      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks North Wind! I'm very happy for Spain too. So called pundits were calling them boring. I think Cesc Fabregas said it best "people that think we play boring, in my opinion, they don't understand the game".

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      Richard-Murray 5 years ago

      No team is the best ever, no team. Spain is not the best ever. Brazil would have won 5 straight if not for France in France captained by Zidane, 8 year span. Spain is the best now on a 4 year run. Can they make it to 6?

      Italy actually had the right formation but played the wrong players. Strategy is important but PRandelli forgot one thing. Fitness matters. Cassano and Chiellini didn't look crisp, di Natale and Balzaretti should have started.

      It can be argued that Italy should have played its 352 from the first game which would have made the center defense area more congested and favored Pirlo in. But, Prandelli didn't think Italy had the speed for it for him not to play it.

      People call Spain's style boring but their style is not meant to score goals, they possess. The only time spain score many goals is against teams with technically poor players like ireland and teams that are down men, which happened to be Italy in the final. Italy were still going for the counter down 10 men against a possession style.

      That is why Spain's possession style is so dangerous. they don't play with forwards so against the 442 with a deep 44 they essentially have no way to score unless the 44 has a concentration error. Spain's players can pass the ball well for a 46 but they are not physically the fastest team or the strongest or the best dribblers individually. So they will not score goals aplenty, which people measure excitement with.

      Unfortunate final with Italy down 10 men but Balotelli's sportsmanship reaction to me was very good, for a player who has a temper when his team doesn't win, and has fire in the belly.

    • Thomas Swan profile image
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      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Its difficult to judge fitness, but perhaps Prandelli got that wrong. I felt their tactics were clearly wrong though, and they would have lost regardless of fitness. The more I think about the 352, the more I see it as perfect to beat Spain with. They get their congested defense (which they tried with their narrow 4312), but they also get protection on the wings. To top it off the 352 frees up Pirlo because he isn't needed defensively. When they took Montelivo off for Motta, I think that's what Italy were trying to do - move Pirlo into an attacking role. Even with Motta getting injured, it was far too late anyway.

      People are just getting bored of tic-a-tac football. I'm not, so I think it's just a matter of taste. It depends if you want to see goals or technical brilliance, I'm happy with either. They only conceeded one goal in the whole tournament I think, so it seems to work.

      I didn't notice Balotelli afterwards, but as he's not in the headlines for having a strop, I believe you when you say he did well!

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      Richard-Murray 5 years ago

      We are of the same mind, Italy went into the 352 but when Motta got injured that killed it. I don't think it was too late, though. I think we all too often take soccer too easily. Without Motta injured and the way Italy still ran around down ten men even with spain having the extra pass, their was time. Italy came to play and never once looked stunned at Spain.

      The media sells Spain wrong. They sell spain like a goalscoring machine. Spain isn't. They are a possession based team who can score a plenty on low quality sides or down to ten mens ides, but against quality 11 men sides, Spain are a 1 to 2 goal team, plain and simple. They possess so much the opportunities are sparse, that is the key to their defense. Midfield pressure and midfield possession. I love tactics so I have no problem but the media speaks of their style like a goal scoring machine. And it just isn't and never will be. To be a potent scoring machine you need forwards, but forwards hurt the midfield pressure and possession of spain, so spain make the trade off. Silva misses that header 20 times. But, forexample, in the cope liberatadores final, with Corinthians Paulista and Boca (boca juniors for those that may not know, not you Thomas) Corinthians went up 2-0. But, Boca could have still won that game. They didn't have enough midfield speed or strength in numbers, to retain the ball. but, the point is, Italy had time with the 352 with a healthy motta.

      Balotelli did well in that, I think about MArcelo for Real. A great player, excellent, one of the few brazilians who actually play with Joga bonita, but he doesn't handle situations right at times, and Balotelli has that same fire. There is always another game, calm down, accept the media saying you are lower quality and get them th enext game.

    • Thomas Swan profile image
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      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      You're right about Spain. They had those 4-0's which make them look good, but their other games were 1-1, 1-0, 0-0 and a 2-0 against France where they got a last minute penalty.

      I do think the game was up though. I draw on your own comments... Spain are so difficult to score against because they possess the ball so well. Alonso, Xavi and Iniesta leave nothing for the over-rated Pique and Ramos to do.

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      Richard-Murray 5 years ago

      Thomas, fair enough. I didn't say it would be easy for Italy but Italy had time. In the final they did have most possession over the half and in the first match, Di Natale's goal wasn't on the counter but was by a good selection of passes forward. I am not saying Italy would have won the game without question. bUt, i say Italy gets one and makes the last 5 minutes with extra time interesting.

    • Thomas Swan profile image
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      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      That's certainly possible. Di Natale's goal was all Pirlo for me. That dribble and pass were perfect. He needed to be in that attacking position in the Euro 2012 final. I'm surprised by how much possession Italy had. It never seemed to count for much though. All I remember is Spain attacking.

    • profile image

      Richard-Murray 5 years ago

      @thomas,

      I remember Italy's attack during the final. I would say, Italy made the mistake of not possessing longer in the first half when Spain bunkered in and tested the strength of their midfielders to press beyond the midfield zone and stretch spain's legs.

      But, of course that is retrospect. Great game.

    • Thomas Swan profile image
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      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      The Euro 2012 final was indeed a great game. Thanks for the comments Richard.

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