Man of the Match: Even without his two assists, Xavi Hernández would have been the game’s best player, providing his typical, metronomic, tempo-setting performance. He was the impetus behind a team that showed an uncommon assertiveness from the opening whistle, staking an early claim to their third European title. The two assists were mere symptoms of the constant probing and stretching he used to unlock Italy’s defense.
NBC Sports: Spain reigns once again, winning Euro 2012 title
Packaged for takeaway:
It didn’t take long for Spain to break through. Int he 14th minute, Iniesta hit Cesc Fabregas with a long through ball as Spain’s false nine ran into the right of the box. Fabregas made for the line and chipped a ball back to the edge of the six, with David Silva heading the opening goal high into the left of net.
It was the first time in the tournament the Italians had trailed.
Spain maintained their intensity for a few more minutes before (surprisingly) ceding the ball to Italy. At halftime, the Italians held a 52-48 possession edge (per UEFA), though they’d generated no real chances. Aside from an early sequence that won three corner kicks in the span of a couple of minutes, Spain was largely untroubled.
Iker Casillas deserves most of the credit for that. Whenever Italy played a ball into his area, he was there with a small push, a one-handed punch, a slap or an outright block (when needed). It didn’t look especially pretty, but it was effective. Casillas often chose the less dramatic, more controlled option rather than do something to take himself out of position.
Toward halftime, after Italy had been dictating much of the game’s tempo, Spain caught them. A long ball out of the back was chested down to Jordi Alba, who went on a run after giving to Xavi. Hernández put a perfect through ball into the left of the area, where Alba was able to easily beat an oncoming Buffon.
Prandelli starting tweaking immediately after halftime. Antonio Cassano came off for Toto Di Natale. Ten minutes later, Thiago Motta was on for Ricardo Montolivo, a move that would quickly bring an end to Italy’s chances.
In the first half, Giorgio Chiellini had to be brought off with an injured left leg, making the Motto sub Italy’s last. Just past the hour, Motta’s hamstring appeared to give out. He was stretched from the pitch, eventually hobbling to te locker room. For the last half hour, Italy played with 10 men.
With his team down two goals, Cesare Prandelli will get a lot of sympathy after his third sub blew up in his face. It was still a risky, probably misguided, move.
From there forward, the match was typical Spain, the champions hogging the ball until the final whistle. Along the way, Fernando Torres scored (84′, from Xavi), Juan Mata scored (88′, from Torres), and Spain put up the most lopsided score in European Championships’ finals history.
And with the assist, Torres improbably won the Golden Boot. What? Yes: Among the handful of players who had three goals, only he and Mario Gómez had an assist (the first tiebreaker). Torres wins the award, having played fewer minutes than Gómez.
Not that they needed it, but the match played out as a statement game for Spain. With the determination they showed at the start of the match, it was as if La Roja wanted to answer everybody who’d complained about the way they won games. The way Italy played (not cowering into a shell) may have helped, but with a four-goal win, Spain provided a retort to those choosing to nit-pick at their style.
It was also a claim to being the best team of all time. The debates can never be settled – discussions of which team, across time, is superior – but by giving a resounding performance in a major competition final, Spain may have provided the trump card that can sway those barstool debates.
That makes two Euros and a World Cup in succession, the first time a European nation has won three straight major titles. It beg the question: How long will it last? It’s a question that will have to wait until Monday. Tonight, Spain gets one day to bask in the glow of their shockingly easy championship-clinching performance.
- From the get go it was clear: This wasn’t the same Spain team we’d seen through most of the championship. Perhaps it was the occasion. Perhaps it was the knowledge they’d gained in their first 90 minutes against Italy. Perhaps it was Italy’s tactics. Regardless, Spain was much more energetic and direct than they’d been throughout the tournament.
- Two symptoms of that assertiveness:
Spain was taking an uncommonly high number of shots from 20-24 yards. Xavi and Andres Iniesta each had multiple cracks from distance, and while most of them were blocked before reaching Gigi Buffon, the tried hinted at a markedly more aggressive approach – one that was willing to give the ball back to Italy.
That same view was evident in the team’s willingness to try low-percentage through balls. Again it was Iniesta and Xavi, and again the strategy had limited early success. But these were noticeably more direct choices that Spain had made throughout the tournament.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.
Leaving Manchester City is proving difficult for longtime backstop Joe Hart.
The English No. 1 is heading out on loan to Torino after dropping down Pep Guardiola‘s depth chart at the Etihad Stadium after 348 appearances for City.
[ MORE: Deadline Day’s done deals ]
Hart needed to play, as he’s still in Sam Allardyce’s plans for England, and couldn’t wait around for a chance in Manchester.
That didn’t stop the 6-foot-5 keeper from a very emotional goodbye in his last City start, last week’s win over Steaua Bucharest in the UEFA Champions League.
Days later, the goalkeeper is trying to put it all into words, saying in a Facebook post that he will miss Manchester:
I am very grateful that Torino has given me this opportunity to play for their great club. But the feelings I felt during the recent Steaua Bucharest game will live with me forever. You can’t buy that and I will struggle to replicate them. So thank you for that and all the amazing memories.
Hart joins a Torino side with European aims, and is not the only big name loan on the books. Leandro Castan and Iago Falque have joined the Turin side from AS Roma.
AFC Bournemouth have secured the biggest signing in club history on Transfer Deadline Day.
Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere, 24, has signed for Bournemouth on a season-long loan deal at the Vitality Stadium.
Put your jaw back in its correct position.
[ LIVE: Every Deadline Day deal ]
Wilshere only became available on Tuesday after holding talks with Arsene Wenger and the outcome was that he wouldn’t get regular minutes with the Gunners this season.
The England international is a star talent and as soon as he became available over 22 teams registered their interest in taking him on loan. Three front-runners emerged early on Wednesday with Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and AS Roma all keen on Wilshere.
However, tiny Bournemouth won the race in the Wilshere stakes to dish up the biggest shock of the transfer window so far.
This is a massive transfer coup for Bournemouth.
In only their second-ever season in the Premier League they have landed a star midfielder with vast UEFA Champions League and international experience.
Yes, Wilshere has a history of injuries but now he has the chance to prove everyone wrong and play in a sustained run of games for the Cherries (he was likely fifth or sixth on the depth chart in Arsenal’s midfield this season) as he aims to get his career back on track after several injury-hit seasons.
It is thought that Wilshere preferred playing for Bournemouth over the likes of Palace and Roma due to the style of play of Eddie Howe‘s side as the Arsenal academy product loves to pass and move the ball. He will fit in very nicely for the Cherries on the south coast and will become an instant hit with the Bournemouth faithful as his signing gives them a massive boost after a tough start to the season.
Nobody could’ve predict this move. The madness of Deadline Day lives on.
Tipped for several Premier League destinations, Islam Slimani has joined Algeria teammate Riyad Mahrez at Leicester City.
Slimani, 28, spent the last four seasons as Portuguese powerhouse Sporting Lisbon, scoring a career-best 31 goals last year.
[ MORE: Sissoko to Everton for medical]
He scored two his 23 international goals at the 2014 World Cup, netting against both South Korea and Russia.
Slimani said Mahrez helped with his decision:
He added: “My friend Riyad Mahrez spoke to me about the Club and about the atmosphere the Leicester fans create at King Power Stadium. I will give absolutely everything I have on the pitch for them and for my team-mates and I hope that together we can achieve something special.”
Get the jersey ready. Slimani, Mahrez, Vardy, and Musa could be a deadly bit of depth as Leicester strives to strike hard in the UEFA Champions League.
West Ham United has strengthened their flanks with the addition of two-time UEFA Champions League winner Alvaro Arbeloa.
The 33-year-old back played in the Premier League with Liverpool from 2006-09 before skipping town for Real Madrid.
[ MORE: Sissoko off to Everton for medical ]
Arbeloa has been with Real since, scoring six goals and making 233 total appearances. His appearance dipped to just nine last season, and he’ll finish his time at the Bernabeu with
He also was a part of Spain’s EURO-World Cup-EURO sandwich between 2008-2012.