Spain captured its second consecutive European championship by destroying Italy 4-0 on Sunday in Kiev.
The Spaniards are the best team in the world. They reaffirmed their status after annihilating Italy.
The victory, however, goes much further.
Spain won an unprecedented third straight major international title, including Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. Soccer has rarely seen — if ever — one nation dominate an era as this superior Spanish side has in the last four years.
Spain hasn't been knocked out of the European championships since 2004 when it lost in the final group match to Portugal. The Spaniards were last eliminated from the World Cup six years ago, falling to France in the quarter-finals.
During this incredible stretch, Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas hasn't allowed a goal in that 10-game span.
The Italians were simply out-classed Sunday, with the "La Roja" displaying their mastery from the outset of the match.
In their typical "tiki-taka" style, the Spaniards opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Midfielder Andres Iniesta feathered a beautiful lead pass to Cesc Fabregas down the right side. While holding off Italian forward Antonio Cassano, the Barcelona star curled a cross toward David Silva, who buried a header over goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to the near post.
The passing would only get more breathtaking, one that lead to defender Jordi Alba’s first international goal in the 41st minute.
Euro 2012 has been filled with gorgeous goals, but this one might well top them all: Alba raced between two Italian defenders, controlled a sublime feed from Xavi Hernandez and drove a shot past Buffon.
And to think, critics had labelled Spain's play boring throughout the tournament.
Knowing they had no choice but to attack, the Italians had their best chance in the first minute of the second half after substitute forward Antonio Di Natale headed a drive over the Spainish net.
But Fernando Torres and Juan Mata finished off the Italians with goals in the final 10 minutes. Remarkably, Torres won the Gold Boot as the tournament’s top scorer with three goals despite starting in only two games and playing in just 189 minutes.
Six players scored three goals at Euro 2012, but Torres received the nod by by virtue of his late assist on Mata's goal.
Torres, who scored he only goal in Spain's 1-0 win over Germany in 2008, became the first player to score in two Euro finals.
Ultimately, both teams shed labels that have plagued them for several years.
Spain, which has the reputation of attacking while disregarding its defensive responsibilities, broke a European record by not allowing a goal in 513 minutes.
Coincidently, it was Di Natale that scored the only goal against Spain when the teams played to a 1-1 draw during group play.
Italy, a nation regarded as a defence-first squad, directed more shots at the opposing net than any other team in the tournament.
What this result means
- Spain becomes the first nation to win back-to-back Euro titles and it also equals Germany’s record of three overall championships.
The winning goal
- Silva positioned himself beautifully in front of Buffon and made no mistake with his header. The goal represented how lethal the Spaniards truly are when they control the ball.
Man of the match
- At just 23, Alba was a man possessed, showing off his speed and ability to capitalize. He couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to showcase his skill to the rest of the world.
The Spanish perspective
"To win three titles is almost impossible. Congratulations to the players." — Spain coach Vicente del Bosque
The Italian perspective
- "Tonight, there was no contest, they were too superior — so the bitterness at losing this final is only relative." — Italy's captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon