Euro 2012: Iker Casillas and Spain Are Kings of Europe

Spain beat Italy 4-0 in the finals of the Euro championship to claim their third European crown in Kiev. Spain started with the formation they had played throughout this tournament, "the false no 9", which is without a specialized striker. Cesc Fabregas was deployed deep into the Italian defense and he did well to set up the first goal for David Silva. He ran in deep till the touchline only to release a nicely lofted ball that Silva put it beyond Gianluigi Buffon without much problems.

Italy pressed hard, with Riccardo Montolivo and Danielle de Rossi, who often found a way to drive past the Spanish defenders, only to be denied by "Saint" Iker Casillas, who was magnificent at the Spanish goal. Italy suffered their second setback when Juventus defender Giorgio Chielini, was injured. Federico Balzaretti had to come in his place. Balzaretti did well on the left, often producing menacing runs.

The Spanish produced another masterpiece, when their midfield general Xavi Hernandez, released Jordi Alba, who broke past the off side trap and beat Buffon, to score the first goal of this career. It was an excellently timed run, which even well established centre forwards would have found it difficult to anticipate. It came at a perfect time, just before the first half, which forced the Italians to come up with something special after the break.

Mario Balotelli, who had an excellent match against the Germans, looked a pale shadow of himself, as he did not look to threaten at all. In a bid to score quickly, Cesare Prandelli introduced his most experienced striker, Antonio Di Natale in place of Antonio Cassano. His change almost payed off immediately as Di Natale directed a header just above the crossbar, within the first 60 seconds into the second half. His next shot forced a superb close range save by Casillas. Italy looked rejuvenated. This was short-lived.

The next change from Prandell, cost him the match. He brought in Montolivo and replaced him with the Brazilian born, ex-Barca mid fielder, Thiago Motta. The only logic in promoting Motta ahead of Allesandro Diamanti, was that Motta is used to playing among the Spanish and would prove decisive in reading the game better. This proved very costly for Italy as Motta, just a couple of minutes after his substitution, had a hamstring strain and had to be carried off the pitch. Italy were reduced to 10 men, as Prandelli had used up all his three substitutions. The Italians were completely down at this juncture. With a little more than 30 minutes to play, against a rampaging Spanish side, with 10 men was too much to ask for.

The one man disadvantage proved too costly for the Italians as all their passes were intercepted easily by the Spaniards. Fernando Torres was introduced late in the second half and he responded quickly by finding the net and putting the result beyond doubt. Juan Mata, too got a few minutes of European action and he finished off in style, after Chelsea team mate Torres cleverly set him up for the fourth. It was a relief when the Portuguese refree ended a horrific night for the Italians.

Both teams, deservedly reached the finals. There were questions about Spain's "boring" tactical approach before the final. They silenced all their critics with a sublime display of artistic football, which had them crowned the European champions of 2012. This definitely is the golden era of Spanish football with them winning three major competitions in a row and captain Iker Casillas has played an influential role in continuing the winning spirit.

Hopefully fans will see more amazing action at the next European championships, in France, where there will be 24 teams instead of the current 16.

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