Spanish maestros find their rhythm at last to waltz past Italy for third successive trophy
22:36 GMT, 1 July 2012
A clear blue summer’s day and a deep red evening sunset prefaced the final of Euro 2012 in glorious Kiev. With Italy and Spain in the final here, even the weather gods did their best to make it perfect.
Spain did their bit to make it perfect, too, as they belatedly found the key to their magic box to present themselves as a team for whom the preceding five games had merely been a rehearsal, a way of tuning the orchestra in advance of a night when history was theirs to fashion.
Part of Spain’s art is how they play when they don’t have the ball. They are drawn to the man in possession like flies. To play against them — even when you do have the ball — must be utterly draining from first minute to last.
Catch me if you can: Andres Iniesta was instrumental in Spain's success
On Sunday night though Spain brought their A game to the Olympic Stadium. They were mesmerising, clinical and thoroughly deserving winners.
Italy presented them with an admirable challenge for a while and should return home encouraged.
With more attacking precision during a first half that saw them enjoy greater possession, they may have equalised before Spain’s killer second.
In the second half, Italian injuries drained their challenge and sucked the life from the game.
Italy certainly didn’t deserve to lose so heavily, even if the gifted Andrea Pirlo was muted by the superb Sergio Busquets. Pirlo — who we are unlikely to see in Brazil — was red-eyed at full-time and in the latter stages of the night it was rather uncomfortable to witness Italian pain. Ultimately, though, we have the right kings of Europe once again.
Dry your eyes, mate: Andrea Pirlo (right) was dejected at full time
After the question marks of the last two weeks, this was a night when football’s most gifted modern artists emerged to find the rhythm and the understanding that most who have tried to play this game will never fathom.
Once again the Spanish took to the field without a striker. Whether that is the way forward for European football is a debate for another day.
Nevertheless, this was not an evening to argue with the system. This, after all, was a night the first goal was created in part by Cesc Fabregas — the so-called ‘false No 9’ — and a night when the second was converted by a left back.
In short, things went right for a team delivered perfectly to the start line by a fine coach who understands his players and by a tournament that encourages excellence and real competition. The second half of this point should not be lost on us.
False No 9: Cesc Fabregas played a pivotal role for Spain in the final
Part of the beauty of the last three weeks here has been the competition’s simplicity. Thirty-one matches between 16 deserving nations. The quality — and the intrigue — has been high.
Euro 2012 has delivered exactly what the football world expects and we shouldn’t forget this as in France in four years’ time it could be different. UEFA have decreed that there will be eight extra teams then.
This will, of course, bring in more money. But what it fundamentally threatens to do is decrease the quality of the sport. Spain lifted a trophy seven inches taller than the original. Why Because UEFA changed it four years ago.
One of the abiding lessons of Euro 2012 should be that bigger is not necessarily better.