Spain's ascension to the footballing heavens is complete. By winning a historic third successive major tournament at Euro 2012, Spain put their argument as the greatest international team in history.
They could barely have stated their case more convincingly. Vicente Del Bosque's pass masters overwhelmed and outclassed Italy, 4-0, and touched on their mesmerizing best during a one-sided contest that served as their latest coronation.
All those who have been sickened by Spain's "boring" and "negative" play on their route to the Euro 2012 final were delivered the antidote. From the kickoff, hungry and imaginative red shirts scampered forward in attack—passes fizzing between them—and Spain saw an early reward when David Silva headed home Cesc Fabregas' cross.
A second goal followed just before halftime. Xavi's deftly-weighted pass married the stride pattern of Jordi Alba—making a thundering run from the left-back position—and the young Barcelona-bound player calmly slotted past Gianluigi Buffon.
Spain took a 2-0 lead into the break, and the game felt as good as over. This is the team who haven't conceded in a knockout match since 2006, remember. And one who had not lost in the last 70 matches in which they'd gone ahead.
Italy needed help, but instead, they found hindrance when Thiago Motta succumbed to injury just minutes after arriving in the game as a substitute. With an hour on the clock and Motta the last of Cesare Prandelli's allotted changes, the Italians were left to play out the match with 10 men.
An improbable task had become an impossible one. And with that, Spain were left to bask in a celebratory clinic that would showcase the very brand of tiki-taka torture they have been so clinical in inflicting these past four years.
Fernando Torres, the man who scored Spain's winner in the Euro 2008 final, inevitably came off the bench to score their third. The striker then played provider for his Chelsea teammate, Juan Mata, to make it 4-0. Italy had suffered a brutal pass-assination, and one they seemingly had no power of stopping.
The celebrations for Spain are sure to be long. They should also be well coordinated when you consider this is the third time in four years the Spanish have ended a footballing quest with a trophy.
Euro 2008 was where it all began for the Spanish dynasty we see before us today. Luis Aragones' Spain entered that tournament without a success since the 1964 European Championship, but won all six games in style to finally cast off the label of being international football's perennial underachievers.
The next stop was South Africa, where Spain—now under Del Bosque—yet again proved themselves a cut above the opposition to bring home their first World Cup.
Despite arriving as reigning world and European champions, some suggested Spain's run would come to an end at Euro 2012. With key players Carles Puyol and David Villa injured, and a weariness expected from the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta after long seasons in La Liga and Europe, there was a consensus that this Spain would not live up to those we'd seen in 2008 and 2010.
On the balance of the entire tournament, that may well be true. But in the final of Euro 2012, Spain put on a performance as good as any we've seen from them. And one that suggests they'll be very much among the favorites to win World Cup 2014 in Brazil.
Moreover, their feat in winning a third successive major tournament will have everybody asking the most flattering question in all of sports. Are Spain the greatest of all time?
When it comes to international teams, there can only be one to stand comparison to this ruling Spanish dynasty—the legendary 1970 World Cup-winning Brazil team of Pele, Carlos Alberto and Rivelino.
Who's better? It's an impossible question to answer without having one of the teams travel through time and play the game out before our eyes. But the very fact Spain are being mentioned in the same breath as that team tells us everything we need to know.
When we watch Spain, we're watching an iconic team making history before our eyes. And we should savor every moment of their success, because the names of Xavi, Iniesta and Co. will be among those we're telling our grandchildren.
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