By Ria Novosti
Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final on Sunday, securing the Spaniards’ place in history as the first country to win three successive major finals.
David Silva put Spain ahead on 14 minutes with a close-range header from Cesc Fabregas’ cross.
Left-back Jordi Alba made it two just four minutes before half time, slotting past Gianluigi Buffon on Xavi’s through pass.
Xavi then fed Fernando Torres, who had replaced Fabregas with 15 minutes to go, to slot into the corner for 3-0; before Torres set up another substitute, Juan Mata, to score into an open net.
Italy went closest with Antonio Di Natale’s second-half shot on the turn that was saved by Iker Casillas.
The Italians, winners in 1968, had to play the final half hour with ten men after third substitute Thiago Motta limped off with a hamstring strain.
Spain, criticized for decades as football’s nearly men, become the world’s first nation to claim three European championship or World Cup titles on the trot.
They beat Germany 1-0 in Vienna to win Euro 2008; and took their maiden World Cup title two years ago in Johannesburg, edging the Netherlands 1-0 on Andres Iniesta’s extra-time strike.
Spain entered the tournament as favorites but kicked off their title defense with uncertainty as Fabregas rescued a 1-1 draw with the very same Italians.
They thrashed Ireland 4-0 and edged Croatia 1-0 to win Group C ahead of Italy.
Two goals from Xabi Alonso dispatched France in the quarterfinals before a closely fought semifinal with Portugal, with Spain needing penalties to advance after 120 goal-less minutes.
The Italians depart as runners-up, a lot better than most expected them to fare coming into the tournament on the back of three friendly defeats and a match-fixing scandal that could yet ravage the domestic game.
Andrea Pirlo, their inspiration and chief architect of their exploits throughout the competition, shanked an early shot wide as he attempted to calibrate his sights.
Sergio Ramos went a little closer from a free kick at the other end.
The Real Madrid center-back towered over Giorgrio Chiellini to head Xavi’s corner just over moments later.
A burst through the center from Andres Iniesta initiated the Spaniards’ feared “tiki-taka” quick-passing game.
Barcelona teammates Cesc Fabregas and Xavi penetrated the Italian defense with a simple one-two that ended with Xavi rifling a shot just over.
But the miss wouldn’t matter.
Iniesta picked out Fabregas’ run through the right channel with a pinpoint ball, the former Arsenal man outmuscled Chiellini and pulled a cross back that Silva headed into the far corner, outjumping defender Andrea Barzagli.
The Italians bit back, earning three corners in quick succession that showed the Spaniards to be beatable on set pieces but were ultimately fruitless.
The game stretched slightly as Italy opted for fast breaks down the channels. One cross barely evaded the onrushing head of Mario Balotelli as Iker Casillas flapped at the ball.
Then Antonio Cassano cut inside Alvaro Arbeloa from the right on 28 minutes but could only shoot straight at Casillas.
Cassano, who only returned to the side before the competition after suffering a stroke last year, collected the ball from Pirlo and stung Casillas’ gloves with a low drive the Spanish goalkeeper could only deflect away.
Riccardo Montolivo turned from the edge of the area and fired a shot that Casillas punched away.
But despite the pressure, Spain went about their fizzing passing game unperturbed.
And all too easily were Prandelli’s side unlocked again at the back.
Xavi roamed into the Italy half with only Alba making a run between two Italy fullbacks. Xavi’s slide-rule pass found Ignazio Abate napping, Alba beat the offside trap and side-footed past the helpless Buffon to make it 2-0.
Cesare Prandelli brought Antonio Di Natale on for Cassano in the second half, and the Udinese striker nearly pulled one back with his first touch, heading narrowly over from a corner.
The Spaniards replied instantly as Fabregas flashed a shot just wide.
Fabregas nearly walked the ball in seconds later, storming in from the right and jinking past two defenders before Abate made a last-ditch clearance.
Di Natale then missed his second chance in three minutes when he latched onto Pirlo’s reverse pass, hitting his shot blind on the turn, and straight at Casillas.
The action was breathless, neither team allowing the other to settle and forcing the play forward.
Casillas again flapped at a free kick on 55 minutes as Pirlo’s outswinger veered past everybody.
As if they didn’t already have a mountain to climb, luck turned against the Italians on the hour when Thiago Motta limped off with a hamstring strain five minutes after coming on.
He was Prandelli’s third substitution, forcing his side to play the final half hour with ten men and putting paid to any hopes the Italians had of clawing their way back into the game.
The Italians admirably withstood wave after wave of Spanish attacks, at the same time perishing as a threat themselves.
Vicente Del Bosque brought off the brilliant Fabregas on 75 minutes to give Fernando Torres a final run out.
Torres, who scored the winning goal against the Germans to win Euro 2008 for his country, didn’t take long to make his mark.
The Chelsea man latched on to yet another inch-perfect pass from Xavi, passing coolly around Buffon to
Torres then turned provider for substitute Mata to hit into an open net when he could just as easily scored himself, rounding off an emphatic scoreline that was equally deserved as it was harsh on the battling Itailans.
Italy: Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgrio Chiellini (Frederico Balzaretti, 21), Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Claudio Marchisio, Daniele De Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo (Thiago Motta, 57), Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano (Antonio Di Natale, 46).
Spain: Iker Casillas, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta (Juan Mata, 86), Xavi, Cesc Fàbregas (Fernando Torres, 75), Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, David Silva (Pedro Rodriguez, 59).