The UEFA Euro 2012 tournament witnessed several significant events in world football. With Poland and Ukraine hosting the tournament for the first time, Republic of Ireland returned to the European fold after an absence of 24 years. Italy fought hard, being unbeaten in all the matches till the final. But, It was Spain who overpowered them in the final with a 4-0 score, lifting the title. The Spanish midfield dominated each game with the brilliance of Fabregas, Xavi and most importantly, Andres Iniesta drove Del Bosque’s men to the way in the final.
Spain’s Squad: UEFA Euro 2012 squad
The Spanish golden era of football ranged from 2008 to 2014. The players of the golden generation of Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia ruled club football at that time. Players like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergi Ramos, Gerard Pique, Iker Casillas and David Villa were part of an iconic team which went on to win laurels for club football and the national team. Spain went on to dominate and win the 2008 European Championship under the management of Luis Aragones. Spain won the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa under manager Vicente Del Bosque.
The 2012 Euro Cup saw the likes of Valdes, Pique, Fabregas, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Pedro and David Villa get selected from the Barcelona team in the 23-man squad. The Real Madrid men of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Arbeloa, Raul Albiol and Xabi Alonso were selected. Despite important players from both the rival-houses of Spanish football, the squad wasn’t disharmonized at all, thanks to the management and leaders such as Puyol and Casillas in the dressing room. Coach Vicente Del Bosque started off where he had left in the final of 2010 World Cup.
The Spanish squad was one of the best in the tournament as they dominated opponents in a pure-footballing style, Tiki-Taka, which awed supporters and made life miserable for the opponents. With David Villa out injured and Fernando Torres going out of favour during the tournament, Del Bosque completely relied on his midfield as Fabregas played in a false-9 position. Jordi Alba burst into the limelight as he made a major improvement in the left-back position and Puyol’s injury meant Sergio Ramos had to play in the centre-back position.
Iker Casillas, the captain of the Spanish national team returns to action as the shot-stopper after putting a stellar performance against the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup final. San Iker has been a part of a FIFA FIFPro XI for a consecutive 5 times from 2008 to 2012 and was important as a composed presence between the sticks. The captain of such a high-profile team, Casillas was one of the best goalkeepers of all time. Iker put in a great performance in the finals of Euro 2012, saving a crucial goal from Di Natale. Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes were great understudies to Iker Casillas.
Despite suffering a blow from the injury of Carles Puyol before Euro 2012, Spain didn’t look in a hint of trouble. Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos played as a centre-back alongside Barcelona man Gerard Pique for the Euro 2012. The addition of Valencia left-back Jordi Alba injected a wing-back who could charge up and down relentlessly. Right-back Arbeloa filled up the right-back spot in place of Sergio Ramos.
Arguably one of the best midfield of all time, Spain had players in the squad who could walk into any midfield of the world. The likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso were greats of the game. With forwards David Villa injured and Fernando Torres out of favour, 2012 saw Del Bosque move into the formation which had 6 midfielders at a time. The names of Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets and David Silva could shoulder the responsibility with utmost reliability and this midfield was one of the reasons, Spain sailed to glory quite comfortably.
David Villa’s injury was a major setback to the Spanish at the beginning of the tournament. Fernando Torres scored 3 goals in the tournament, appearing for a shorter span of time throughout the tournament. The Chelsea forward was quiet in crucial games, which made him lose his position in the starting XI in the course of the tournament. Pedro, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo were also part of the squad for impressive performances in the Spanish League and Cup games.
Spain as Champions: The Champion’s run
Spain’s football always looked like they were running the show, despite missing key figures such as David Villa and Puyol in the tournament. Spain ended up as the leaders of a group which consisted of Croatia, Republic of Ireland and Italy. Vicente Del Bosque’s side set up their base camp in Gniewino, North Poland where they trained and resided. The class of Xavi, Iniesta took the opponents on a toll as the opponents struggled to find a solution to their football. Spain was the only European team to win consecutive 3 international titles, Spain rose to dominance with the world-class players around the globe. An era of breathtaking possessional and positional football, The Champion’s run saw Spain defeat oppositions on an advantage. Coach Vicente Del Bosque had a great goalkeeper and an array of penalty-specialists which saw his team ace penalty-shootouts as well.
Spain started off their campaign with a draw against Italy. Italy dominated in the first half against Spain as Casillas had to make a few important saves. Substitute Antonio Di Natale took the lead on the hour mark on a lobbed pass off Pirlo. Spain, lethargic in the first half, responded instantly with a goal off Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas. Spain could have sealed the 3 points, but substitute Fernando Torres missed 3 chances.
The following match against the Republic of Ireland saw Spain putting up a goal-feast against the Irish. Forward Fernando Torres, who replaced Fabregas in the starting line-up found the net twice past Given. The Spaniard had registered his first competitive international goals since September 2010. David Silva found the net early in the second-half and it was Fabregas who made it 4 as a second-half substitute.
The final group game against Croatia was a nervy, unconvincing affair. The defence of Slaven Bilic’s men stood firm to resist the beauty of the Spanish possessional football. Luka Modric, the Spurs midfielder put on a show in the midfield which was filled by Spanish maestros. But, the Spanish kept it late until 2 minutes from normal time as substitute Jesus Navas found the net off a clever pass off Andres Iniesta. Spain qualified into the quarters as leaders from Group C.
Spain comfortably saw out a one-sided game against France, who looked out of conviction. France displayed a defensive approach against Spain, who, on their part, fielded a team without strikers, placing Cesc Fabregas as a false-9. The fullbacks Arbeloa and Jordi Alba were causing problems for the French, and Iniesta and Xavi dictating the terms in the midfield. Alba whipped in a cross for holding midfielder, Xabi Alonso who found the net in a header on the far post. Alonso playing in his 100th international match looked impressive as he found Cesc Fabregas clean through who was brought down by a Gael Clichy challenge. France didn’t look as they wanted to challenge the Spain defence as striker Karim Benzema looked clueless. As the game went into injury time, Anthony Reveillere brought down Spain substitute Pedro to concede a penalty that Alonso drove in to complete France’s miserable evening.
It had been labelled as a clash of Ronaldo, the ultimate individualist, and Vicente Del Bosque’s finely tuned orchestra – the Spanish national team. Ronaldo was a constant danger in the Portugal attack. As a surprise, Spain never tried to man-mark him, but kept the ball away from Portugal in their possession, making the Portuguese superstar impotent. Ronaldo looked in the mood right from the start, as he put question marks over Pique and Ramos’s defence. Spain looked out of comfort but was dangerous when they attacked. Fabregas and Navas were brought after an hour, as Spain started to take control from Portugal, who relied on set-pieces for chances. In extra-time, Sevilla winger Navas got a few opportunities and Fabregas put Pedro clean through on goal, but Portugal managed to keep the scores level as the game went into the shootout.
Rui Patricio saved the first penalty from Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas denied Moutinho in the first kick. Iniesta broke the deadlock for Spain as Pepe, Pique and Nani followed to make it 2-2. Sergio Ramos nonchalantly chipped his penalty beyond Patricio and as Alves hit the bar for Portugal, it was left to Fabregas to send Spain into the final and spark memories of 2008. The Barcelona midfielder put Spain into the Euro 2012 final, drilling his penalty in off the left-hand post to spark scenes of jubilation, leaving a frustrated Cristiano Ronaldo as the fifth designated penalty-taker.
The Final vs Italy
The final at Kyiv saw the replay of the first group game being played, with Spain fielding an identical XI of the group game. They lined up in 4-3-3 formation with Iniesta, Fabregas and Silva as the front-3. Spain took the charge of the game early, as David Silva found the back of the net when Iniesta laid off a through ball to Fabregas who set it up for Silva to head it into the net. Chiellini was replaced in the 20th minute with an injury, as bad fate continued for Italy as Xavi picked out Jordi Alba on an overlapping run, who made it 2-0 for the Spanish. It was Jordi Alba’s first goal in the national colours, who has been one of the finds of the tournament.
The Udinese forward, Antonio Di Natale came on as a substitute and was denied a goal from captain Casillas. Torres, after a disappointing tournament, came on as a substitute for Fabregas. He ended up scoring in the 84th minute, to become the first man to score in two European Championship finals. Torres turned a provider and laid off Juan Mata in an empty net to make the scoreline 4-0 in favour of Spain. Spain had completely outplayed Italy, who was forced to play in 10-men on an injury after using up all their substitutions early. Spain had become European champions once again, as Del Bosque continued Spain’s dream run in international football.
One of the greatest footballing dynasties of the era, Spain ended the UEFA Euro 2012 as worthy champions. Vicente Del Bosque was the charge of one of the greatest midfield of all time, as the class-apart Spanish players from different leagues dominated world football from 2008 to 2014. It was the time when managers across the world found it difficult to figure out the football played by Barcelona and Spain. Spain showed that having a target man isn’t necessary as Del Bosque employed a 4-6-0 formation in the final against the Italians.
The decade of Spanish domination in football, Vicente Del Bosque oversaw a side brimming with quality and resilience which was the first team in world football to win 2 consecutive European championships. Injuries to David Villa and Carles Puyol didn’t worry the Spain squad as it had excellent squad depth coming up the ranks.
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