THE EURO 2012 CHAMPIONS
The Spanish Armada is soaring high. Winning three international titles consecutively they have proved to be arguably the greatest team of all time. They won the Euro 2008, the world cup 2010 and now the Euro 2012 champs. Spain displayed football of amazing flair and charisma which the critics say could only be compared to the Brazilian team of 1970’s. Spain has always been tagged as underachievers in world football by the critics but since the beginning of the 21st century they have slowly and steadily changed their destiny to greatness. Unlike Brazil ,the five time world champions, Spain haven’t had managed to win a world cup until 2010 in South Africa. Starting with the Euro 2008 and in the course of four years they completely changed what they faced in the past with a deep pool of talents, looking strong and favourites on the paper but unable to win any international titles frequently like Brazil, Germany and Italy.
This change could be arguably said was brought about by the La Liga teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid. Real Madrid has undoubtedly been the most successful of all club teams across the globe with nine Champions League titles to their name while Barcelona with a rich blend of young Spanish players who play the passing game with great accuracy and precision. This has lead to the development of the Spanish national team to play as one i.e., as a unit. Coaches like Vicente Del Bosque and Pep Guardiola have adopted this particular method of passing the ball until they wear out the opposition.
In this year’s Euro the Spanish squad had players playing together in Barcelona and also a few from Real Madrid. The Man of the Tournament Andre Iniesta, an attacking midfielder comes from Barcelona and the Captain who is also the goalkeeper Iker Casillas belongs to Real Madrid.
Spain confirmed their place as one of the greatest team of all time with a 4-0 win over Italy in the Final. Throughout the tournament Spain was up against teams like Germany , holders of most number of European titles Netherlands – the 2010 world cup runners up, Portugal whose captain being one of the best players of the world-Christiano Ronaldo and Italy, also former champions ,the pressure from all quarters of football enthusiast Spain and the tag of to be deemed as one of the greatest footballing nations but Spain lived up to the expectations of being the favourites and current champions of Europe. The played football which not only won them the championships but won hearts of people around the world.
The triumph in the final meant Spain became the first team to retain the Championships.Vicente del Bosque reverted back to the team that had drawn 1-1 with Italy in the group stages, with Cesc Fabregas reinstated in his first-team at the expense of Alvaro Negredo. Cesare Prandelli made one change from the team that had dispatched Germany in the semi-finals, with Ignazio Abate restored at right-back in place ofFederico Balzaretti. Ahead of the game a close encounter was predicted due to the Azzurri’s exceptional performance in their last game, but in truth the match was a one-sided affair from the first whistle. The Spaniards, eager to prove their critics and doubters wrong, came out of the blocks with purpose and energy, and their possession game was evident from the off. It only took the world champions 12 minutes to drive home their dominance, with David Silva rounding off a wonderful team goal early in the match. After probing for an opening in the Azzurri final third, a masterful through-ball found Cesc Fabregas on the right of the Italians’ penalty box, who outstripped Giorgio Chiellini to centre the ball,with the onrushing Silva able to head the holders into the lead. It was a double blow for Prandelli’s men soon after, as Chiellini limped off, replaced by Balzaretti at left-back. Despite this Italy tried to get back into the game, with Daniele De Rossi looking to break up the incessant Spanish close-knit passing in the centre of the park. The Azzurri’s main threat looked like forward Mario Balotelli, but the temperamental frontman was limited to efforts from range that did not trouble Spanish captain Iker Casillas With half-time approaching Spain delivered a hammer blow to their opponents, with Jordi Alba doubling their advantage on 41 minutes. With Spain keeping the ball in their own half, Del Bosque’s men made inroads down their left flank, with the ball falling to midfield dynamo Xavi. Adelightful and perfectly waited through-ball to the newly-signed Barcelona man saw the defender one-on-one with Gianluiggi Buffon, with Alba opening up his body and sliding the ball past the Azzurri goalkeeper. Spain looked happy to play out time and at no point during the final half-hour did they seem under any pressure. Passing triangles continued, with the Italians looking out on their feet and chasing shadows. Del Bosque showed the dearth of talent in his contingent by swapping Fabregas, Iniesta and Silva for Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and Pedro, and two of the substitutes but a gloss on the dominant Spanish win.
Firstly, after the Italians gave the ball away in their own half, Torres was played through on goal by the
impressive Xavi and the Chelsea man converted past Buffon. Finally, El Nino found himself through on goal once more four minutes later, but unselfishly played the ball inside to his Chelsea team-mate Mata, who scored the fourth despite only being on the pitch for the final stages. In fairness to Italy, any team in the world would have ended up on the losing side against that Spanish performance. The likes of Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas looked right on their game from the first whistle, and any hopes of stifling Azzurri tactics prohibiting these talented superstars faded quickly. Cesare Prandelli should be applauded for getting Italy to the final, in what the Azzurri fans should look at as a positive step in the side’s evolution. Looking back over the tournament, Spain have only conceded one goal and really have not been put under any concerted periods of pressure or looked vulnerable at any time. Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos in the Spanish rearguard have been dominant when called up but have largely been able to remain in cruise mode due to the security in front of them and the minority of possession that Spain’s opponents get.Ahead of that the midfield six of Iniesta, Xavi, Silva, Fabregas, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets have been nothing short of masterful. The deployment of Fabregas in the false nine role has not been without its critics, but one must remember that the side were robbed of their main forward David Villa ahead of the tournament. Del Bosque hasused his squad as he has seen fit, with Negredo and Torres also starting when called upon.
They have proved themselves to be the number one teamto beat in run up to the 2014 world cup in Brazil. The sheer quality of their individuals shines through, but in the end the exceptional way they play together as a team with and without the ball has led them to yet another glorious campaign. This side will thus go down in history as one of the greatest teams of all time and can be compared to the teams of Brazil,Argentina and the Netherlands of yesteryears.