Spain thrash hapless Italy in historic Euro win
Spain confirmed their status as one of the greatest national teams in football history by overwhelming Italy 4-0 in Sunday's Euro 2012 final in Kiev to retain their European crown.
Vicente del Bosque's team became the first side to successfully defend a European Championship title, as well as the first to win three consecutive major tournaments after their triumphs at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
Accused in some quarters of having lost their ability to excite, Spain produced a thrilling demonstration of attacking football to confirm beyond doubt that this remains a golden age for Spanish football.
Andres Iniesta and Xavi were the architects of victory at the Olympic Stadium, playing key roles in goals by David Silva, Jordi Alba and Fernando Torres, who teed up fellow substitute Juan Mata for Spain's fourth.
"After we scored the first goal, Italy were dangerous, but we reacted well," said Spain coach Del Bosque.
"We had possession of the ball, we put pressure on them, and there was depth to our play. So we're very happy.
"This success in Spanish football is something historic, and now we have to look to the future and try to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil."
The match-winner in the Euro 2008 decider against Germany, Torres became the first player to score in two European Championship finals, while it was the most handsome winning margin in a final in the tournament's history.
"We have to savour this victory," said Iniesta, who was voted the official man of the match.
"It's unique, it's magical; something that can't be repeated. I think we still haven't absorbed how great this is."
Italy played the last half an hour with 10 men after third substitute Thiago Motta was forced off by injury moments after coming on, as the momentum that had taken the Azzurri past Germany and England in the knockout rounds disappeared.
"We came up against a terrific side," admitted Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.
"They're world champions. Obviously, when you go down to 10 men, the game's over."
The star of the semi-final win over the Germans, Mario Balotelli endured a fruitless evening, while Andrea Pirlo was upstaged by the pass masters in the Spanish midfield.
"Against Spain, you accept losing more easily," said Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon. "It was a great adventure. In a final, you have to win but today we played against a team of incredible quality."
Dropped for the semi-final against Portugal, Cesc Fabregas returned to Spain's starting line-up to occupy the 'false nine' role he had taken up against Italy in the 1-1 draw between the sides in Group C on June 10.
Prandelli also made one change to his starting XI, with Ignazio Abate replacing Federico Balzaretti at right-back after missing the semi-final win over Germany due to muscle fatigue.
It was quickly apparent that Spain had a point to prove and in the 10th minute there was a glimpse of the pin-sharp attacking football that had eluded them in recent matches, as Xavi exchanged passes with Fabregas before rifling a shot narrowly over.