On this day, 1 July 2012 (Exactly 7 years ago), Spain made history in magical fashion as they outclassed Italy and claimed a successive European crown to add to their 2010 World Cup triumph.
Vicente del Bosque’s side staged a compelling claim to be the greatest international side of all time as the Euro 2012 final was transformed into an exhibition with Italy – who performed creditably for long periods – passed brutally into submission.
David Silva’s header was reward for Spain’s early supremacy and new Barcelona recruit Jordi Alba doubled the lead just before half-time with a blistering run and finish.
The scoreline was emphatic at the conclusion but Italy performed with great resolve. Once they were reduced to 10 men after losing third substitute Thiago Motta to injury, however, they were ruthlessly exposed by masters of the passing art.
Fernando Torres emerged as a late substitute to make a powerful impact; steering home Spain’s third then setting up Chelsea team-mate Juan Mata to inflict the final wound on a bedraggled Italy.
Spain’s virtuoso performance was a decisive answer to a growing band of critics who had forced coach Del Bosque and his players to defend themselves against allegations that they had been “boring” throughout Euro 2012 at the pre-match media conference.
And even former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, in an ill-timed contribution, wrote that Spain “have betrayed their philosophy and turned it into something more negative”.
Not on this night.
Every quality that has led to them dominating world football since they won Euro 2008 and the World Cup in South Africa two years later was brought to bear.
It was a heartbreaking night for Italy and coach Cesare Prandelli but there was no shame in being beaten by a team of such quality. They can reflect with satisfaction on their work before this chastening evening.
Spain, perhaps stung by the words of criticism aimed in their direction, started with a pace and tempo of passing that the Italians found impossible to live with.
The warning signs were posted for Italy when a long spell of possession ended with Xavi shooting just over – but it was not long before they were ahead.
Cesc Fabregas was employed in the so-called “False Nine” role as Del Bosque played without a conventional striker. Fabregas proved the tactic is a positive force rather than a negative one.
He collected the masterly Andres Iniesta’s pass and outflanked Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini before delivering perfectly for Silva to head beyond keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
It was Chiellini’s final contribution as he swiftly succumbed to the thigh injury that has been troubling him in the later stages of the tournament and was replaced by Federico Balzaretti.
Italy’s response to Silva’s goal and the early Spanish onslaught was commendable as Antonio Cassano twice had shots saved by keeper Iker Casillas but a goal of brilliance in creation and execution made their task mountainous.
Alba demonstrated exactly why Barcelona were so keen to bring the graduate of their famous La Masia youth academy back to the Nou Camp from Valencia when he finished a blurring run on to Xavi’s perfect pass with a composed finish past Buffon.
Prandelli acted during the interval, sending on Antonio Di Natale for Cassano. Twice he almost got the goal that could have halted Spain, heading just over before bringing a fine save out of Casillas.
Italy’s third and final change came when Motta replaced Riccardo Montolivo but Italy’s luck was summed up when he suffered a hamstring injury within minutes and the Azzurri were reduced to 10 men.
Spain were now winning with something to spare and Del Bosque took the opportunity to remove the outstanding Fabregas and introduce then Chelsea striker Torres for the closing stages.
It was an opportunity he took, adding the final flourishes by steering home Spain’s third and unselfishly setting up Mata’s finish to round off a spectacular performance.
Venue : Olympic Stadium – Kiev
Score : Spain 4-0 Italy
David Silva (14)
Jordi Alba (41)
Fernando Torres (84)
Juan Mata (88)
Referee : Pedro Proenca (Portugal)
Spain : Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernández, Andres Iniesta (Juan Mata 87), Cesc Fabregas (Fernando Torres 75), David Silva (Pedro Rodriguez 59)
Coach : Vicente Del Bosque
Italy : Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini(Federico Balzaretti 21),Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Ignacio Abate, Claudio Marchisio, Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano (Antonio Di Natale 46),
Daniele De Rossi, Ricardo Montolivio (Thiago Motta 57), Andrea Pirlo
Coach : Cesare Prandelli
On this day 1 July 1997 (Exactly 22 years ago) The Nevada Athletic Commission suspended Mike Tyson indefinitely and withheld $20m purse for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear during their heavyweight title fight on 28 June 1997.
On this day, 1 July 2018 (Exactly a year ago ) NBA star LeBron James agreed to four-year, $154-million contract with Los Angeles Lakers
On this day 1 July 1977 (Exactly 42 years ago) Hometown favourite Virginia Wade beat Betty Stove of the Netherlands 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 for her first and only Wimbledon singles title; the tournament’s centenary year, and the year of the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (the Queen attended Wimbledon for the first time since 1962 to watch the final).
Wade was the last British tennis player to have won a Grand Slam singles tournament until Andy Murray won the US Open in 2012. She remains the most recent British woman to have won a Grand Slam singles title.
STORY: GEORGE MAHAMAH