It’s all over. Spain 4, Italy 0 in the final. Spain 3, Germany 3 in European Cup history. Fernando Torres, winner of the Golden Boot award, also made individual history by becoming the first player to score in two European Cup finals.
Torres’s winners in Vienna in 2008 against hosts Germany had given Spain their first-ever major success in 44 years. In 2012, Torres scored one and set up another for Juan Mata to win the award.
Torres finished tied with five other players on three goals for the tournament. Germany’s Mario Gomez and Torres had one assist apiece. The Spain striker was given the award for he played only a total of 189 minutes at the finals compared to Gomez, who was on for 282 minutes.
But all this might not have happened, in hindsight, had the Italian coach Cesare Prandelli not tinkered with his defensive line-up. All through the tournament leading to their wonderful run-up to the final, Prandelli had Andrea Barzagli on the right wing and Ignazio Abate on the left while the tough nuts Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci functioned in the central.
The two were towers of strength and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had little to worry. On the rare occasions, they were beaten, Buffon covered up to frustrate all opposition.
But in the final, Prandelli had Chiellini functioning as the left wing back. He does not have the speed and the agility needed for that position.
He is also extremely good in the air and makes for a perfect stopper. Forced to do a lot of running to cover up vacant areas or chase the now-here, gone-there Spanish midfielders, the burly Chiellini was found wanting.
The speed, the constant covering up in midfield, the tenacity in defence and the quick counters they forced were never in evidence in the final.
Mario Balotelli only dropped at the slightest touch as Italy hit the ground with him and La Furia Roja rose in delight.