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Magical Spain tops Italy 4-0 for Euro title and history

Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas holds up the trophy

Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas holds up the trophy at the end of during the Euro 2012 soccer championship final between Spain and Italy. (July 1, 2012) Credit: AP

KIEV, Ukraine — Spain rediscovered its magic on Sunday to beat ailing Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final and with it became the first nation to win three big football trophies in a row.

David Silva (14th), Jordi Alba (41st), Fernando Torres (84th) and Juan Mata (88th) were on target as Barcelona midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta pulled the strings in midfield in their usual commanding style after some slightly below-par performances earlier in the tournament.

Spain became the first team to get a big-event hat-trick following titles at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, they are the first to win back-to-back Euro titles and they matched Germany’s record three continental titles, the first being in 1964.

Captain Iker Casillas was to lift the Henri Delauney trophy in what was also a milestone for the Real Madrid goalkeeper who became the first footballer to win 100 internationals and has not conceded a goal in the last 10 knockout stage games.

Italy, who had held Spain 1-1 in their opening group match and made a surprise run to the final with a 2-1 victory over Germany in the semis, failed to end a 44-year drought since their only Euro trophy in 1968.

The Azzurri was down to 10 men for the final half hour as Thiago Motta was stretchered off injured four minutes after coming on and coach Cesare Prandelli had already made all three substitutions.

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque fielded a line-up without a recognized striker, with Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas in a strengthened midfield just as in the group game with Italy on June 10.

Italy saw Ignazio Abate back from injury at right-back in place of Federico Balzaretti for the final which started after a short closing ceremony in front of 64,000 fans in Kiev — with Spain’s crown prince Felipe in attendance along with the prime ministers from both finalist countries, Mariano Rajoy and Mario Monti, and President Bronislaw Komorowski from Euro co-hosts Poland.

Spain’s famed passing game swiftly shaped up, and it took the lead in the 14th minute after Sergio Ramos and Xavi had aimed high.

Iniesta sent a surgical pass into the back of the Italian defense into the path of Fabregas, who shook off Giorgio Chiellini and crossed shortly before the touchline for Silva to send a thumping header into the roof of the net.

Italy responded with a series of corner kicks to their first deficit of the tournament but their mood didn’t get better when Chiellini had to limp out injured in the 20th and was replaced by Balzaretti.

Spain sat back a little bit and Iker Casillas just got his hand on a cross with Mario Balotelli lurking right behind him. The keeper was also on his guard against two shots from Antonio Cassano as Italy forced their way back into the game.

But just as Italy and their playmaker Andrea Pirlo semed to have found their rhythm Spain struck again in the 41st. The left-back Alba fed Xaxi in midfield, raced down the pitch and got a perfect pass back to beat Gianluigi Buffon with a deft left-footer.

Prandelli brought Antonio di Natale for Cassano in the second half and the Udinese captain headed inches high less than a minute after the restart.

Fabregas came close twice on the other end and Spain appealed in vain to Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca for a penalty in the 48th when replays showed that Leonardo Bonucci handled the ball off Ramos’ header.

Prandelli tried to contain Spain with Thiago Motta in midfield for Riccardo Montolivo but the idea was short-lived as Motta seemingly injured his hamstring and had to be taken off on a stretcher.

With Pirlo and Balotelli, the two-goal hero against Germany, well marked, and being one man up, Spain had no further trouble seeing out the game which now lacked the class and flair of its first hour.

But there was time for two more goals, in the 84th when Torres, on for Fabregas, put away another super pass from Xavi, and Torres then fed the final substitute Mata in the 88th as Spain also got the biggest winning margin in a Euro final — beating West Germany’s 3-0 victory over the Soviet Union from 1972.

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