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Defending World Cup champion Spain became the first country to win a second consecutive European Championship, humbling a shorthanded Italy, 4-0, in the 2012 final in Kiev.
The triumph made Spain, which won its first Euro crown in 1964, the second three-time winner of Europe’s biggest prize after West Germany/Germany (1972, 1980, 1996).
David Silva got the rout underway in the 14th minute when he headed in Cesc Fabrigas’ short cross. Jordi Alba latched onto a pass by Xavi to beat Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon four minutes before halftime to put the match out of reach.
Substitute Fernando Torres, who also scored against Germany in Spain’s 1-0 victory in the 2008 final, scored in the 84th minute, and Juan Mata, set up by Torres, applied the finishing touch at 88 minutes. Italy lost Thiago Motta to injury in the 62nd minute after coach Cesare Prandelli had used his three substitutions–the last of them Motta in the 57th–and appeared nearly helpless on the Torres and Mata goals. [July 1]
Comment: Spain’s dominating performance put a much-needed shine on a tournament that for the most part was downright dull. But those quick to brand this team as the best of all time need to take a deep breath.
Is Spain the best? Those who disagree might start with the West German team that won the 1972 European Championship and the ’74 World Cup. That team also lost the ’76 Euro final to Czechoslovakia on penalty kicks before winning its second Euro four years later. Others would point to Brazil’s Pele-led 1970 World Cup champs. And so on.
So are the Spaniards the best ever over an extended period? Various media reports branded coach Vicente del Bosque’s ball-possession magicians as the first to win three consecutive major titles. ESPN, which televised Euro 2012, was among them. But the first was Uruguay, winners of the 1924 Olympics in Paris and the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam–back when Olympic soccer was the sport’s de facto world championship. The Uruguayans so dazzled the Continent on those occasions that they fueled the drive to create the World Cup in 1930, which that year was hosted and won by Uruguay. De facto or no, that was three world titles in a row over a half-dozen years.
Too long ago, when soccer wasn’t quite the global game it is today? Then for hardware in the modern era, go with another South American team, Brazil, just a decade ago. Except for an interruption by Colombia at the 2001 Copa America, the Brazilians, three years removed from their win at USA ’94, won the next two South American championships, in 1997 and ’99, finished second at the 1998 World Cup to host France, then won their fifth world championship at Korea/Japan 2002, followed by another Copa in 2004.
But then, when it comes to soccer and other matters, we live in a Eurocentric world.