Spain start with Silva and end with gold
Spain, too, can reflect that their wonderful four years of world domination has continued on where it started, namely with Italy.
Spain’s quarter-final, penalty shoot-out win over Italy in Vienna in these championships four years ago was arguably a turning point in their history.
The Spanish went on from that win, against the then reigning World Champions, to win not only that tournament but also the 2010 World Cup, in the process playing some splendid football.
More importantly, however, the fabulous four years of Spanish football at international level has been paralleled by an equally fabulous period at club level when Barcelona have regularly played the elite of Europe off the park.
When Barcelona untypically stuttered in the Champions League this spring, there were many who wondered if, just perhaps, this great Spanish cycle was coming to an end. We need not have worried.
In winning last night, Spain also defied a poor track record against the Italians, who were playing in their eighth World or European final. Until last night, in 11 competitive games against Italy since 1920, Spain had only managed two wins.
Few football “schools” – perhaps the Hungary of Puskas in the 1950s or the Brazil of Pele in the 1970s – have proved as dominant as the current Spanish school.
Then, too, whilst historical precedents are oriented around a Puskas or a Pele, this side, in the words of beaten Italian coach Prandelli, is a team that does not need a central target man in attack. Their real attacking genius is the collective strength of an entire squad that “attacks the empty spaces” like few othes, says Prandelli. He has a point.
As for the Italians, their apparent ability to apparently turn a serious football scandal back home into tournament winning motivation finally came to an end. The Italians, down to 10 men for the last half hour, were emphatically beaten last night but Euro 2012 has not been a disappointment for them. Given the quality of the football they played on the way to the final, Prandelli’s team could have a serious future, with or without Prandelli.
That is for the future. For now, sit back and bask in the glory of a truly superb football machine. We may not see its like again for some time.