Spain beats Italy easily in Euro 2012 final

KIEV, Ukraine -- Like clockwork, Spain's "tiki taka" passing game tore Italy apart.

The World Cup champions controlled play Sunday in the European Championship final, as they usually do. They moved the ball up the field with short pass after short pass, as they usually do.

They also managed to score a whopping four goals, something they don't usually do. It added up to a 4-0 win over Italy and a third straight major soccer title for Spain.

"We won being true to our playing style, and by moving the ball the way we moved it, we knew how to take charge of the match," said Iker Casillas, Spain's goalkeeper and team captain. "What we do is difficult, but we make it look easy."

Casillas and striker Fernando Torres also made their own histories. Torres became the first to score in two European Championship finals, and Casillas played in his record 100th victory in international soccer.

Spain's other goals at Olympic Stadium were by David Silva, Jordi Alba and Juan Mata.

"We were superior to Italy," said midfielder Xavi Hernandez, perhaps Spain's most influential player over the last four years. "We played a complete game and perhaps the best of the entire European Championship. We made history."

Four years ago, Spain ended a 44-year drought of major titles, beating Germany, 1-0, in the Euro final to start a run that has been unmatched by any other team in history.

Since the Spanish lost to the United States in a Confederations Cup semifinal in 2009, snapping a record 15-game winning streak, they have been nearly impossible to beat.

Spain opened the 2010 World Cup with a loss to Switzerland before going on a tear. It won its next six games to finally claim a World Cup title and undoubtedly shed for good the "underachiever" tag.

Since Euro 2008, Spain has won with flair, using its short passing game to dazzle scrambling opponents.

"Tonight, there was no contest," Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. "They were too superior, so the bitterness at losing this final is only relative."

Against Italy, Spain was the favorite despite having been held to a 1-1 draw by the Italians in their opening Group C match. Spain, which has been experimenting with a lineup that excludes a recognized striker, needed a penalty shootout to reach the final after a 0-0 tie with Portugal in the semifinals.

"They've been playing at a very high level for years," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. "And even though they didn't use a traditional striker, they were able to give weight to their attack."

Coach Vicente del Bosque's controversial lineup got the job done with the midfielders and defenders. Silva headed in a high shot in the 14th minute off a pass by Cesc Fabregas. Alba scored in the 41st, picking up a beautiful through ball from Xavi and shooting past Buffon.

"The game was ours after the first goal, but the truth is that we played one heck of a game," Fabregas said.

Italy's task was tough enough with 11 players, and it became impossible with only 10 after the 64th minute. All its substitutes were used when midfielder Thiago Motta, who had been on the field for only seven minutes, was taken off with an injury.

Torres, who replaced Fabregas in the 75th minute, added the third goal with a relatively easy finish.

"The second goal by Jordi hurt them,'' Casillas said, "and the third finished them off."

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