Spain cement place in history with performance to define an era
Published: 02.07.12 / Written by: David Gold
They were meant to be tired. Boring. And also, not that good anymore.
90 minutes later, and the world is hailing Spain as possibly the greatest team in the history of the sport. Certainly in statistics that claim is backed up, with Spain now the only team to have won three major tournaments in a row. And though the Copa America takes some winning, the Euros and the World Cup are the toughest two to triumph at.
A 4-0 win over a previously impressive Italy was some way to mark your name in history. Each goal was beautiful, in its majestic artistry and comparable with that 4-1 win by Brazil in 1970 over the same opponents in the World Cup final. That day Brazil too, strolled around the field, with the glorious strike from Carlos Alberto typifying their performance. Comparatively, though they have been accused of being slow at times, Spain last night played a higher pace and still scored wonderful goals. The first was glorious, a flowing move, Andres Iniestaís perfect through ball, Cesc Fabregasís intelligent acceleration in front of Giorgio Chiellini and the inch perfect cross to David Silva, heading the ball in.
It was a goal to mark the Spanish era.
There was then the brilliant strike by Jordi Alba, taken with the composure to show that Vincente del Bosque had a reason not to select a striker, followed by goals from Fernando Torres and Juan Mata. Both Torres and Mata scored to take advantage of a brilliant team move, and the game was basically dead by then anyway, Italy reduced to 10 men in unfortunate circumstances. For once the commentator got it spot on, saying that the neutral would want Spain to score more, but not for Italy to suffer further.
Cesare Prandelliís side were dignified in defeat. This was a new Italy. Not only did they play with style, pressing high and attacking well on their way to a deserved place in the final, but they lost with their pride intact. Italian sides can sometimes go to pieces and lose their discipline. Not this team, and Mario Balotelli symbolised that best. The immature Balotelli seen for Manchester City may have lost his cool and tried to go it alone to bring Italy back into the game, but he retained composure throughout. He played for the team, and no one let Italy down on the night .They were simply shattered. Spainís performance was undoubtedly aided by a tired Italy, but that should take nothing away from their achievement.
In many ways, this Spain are more similar to the Holland side which lost the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals in the way they play, than the Brazil team of 1970. That Brazil team were all flair, technical brilliance and the ability of the individuals was just so much greater than their rivals. Spain have all of that but are less about tricks, more about passing and movement. They close the space down out of possession and make the pitch small, like Holland did. Then with the ball, they pass at speed until they pull their opponents out of position and look to find the man free rather than go it alone.
But unlike Holland, Spain win. This must have been what it would have been like had Holland won the World Cup final in 1974. But they did not. History takes more than simply being able to play like the best. It takes a certain mentality. Spain had been accused of being boring for not scoring enough, arrogant for not playing a striker and not as good as Germany. They have proved all of those things wrong. And they have proved so much more. Whether they are the greatest is a debate for another day. But anyone watching in Kiev last night witnessed history, and a crowning moment of one of the most glorious teams in the sportís history.