Reaction from Spain
The Spanish media has been lavish in their praise of the national side following Spain’s 4-0 victory over Italy.
El Mundo acclaimed their country’s “Legendary Champions,” describing Vincente Del Bosque’s side as the “Dream Team”, going on to say that Spain “outclassed a rejuvenated Italy” and “gave an effective, deep, elegant, superb performance.”
“Spain is now a legend in world football,” enthused Marca, as Spain set a record of not only “a triple crown, unprecedented in history,” but also the biggest winning margin in a European final.
Barcelona-based El Mundo Deportivo also hailed the national side “Legends,” but couldn’t resist the temptation to remind the world that this was a Spanish triumph with its roots in Barcelona.
“Red with a touch of Barca,” it said, before adding that it was no coincidence that we are seeing “the best Barcelona team in history and the best Spanish team.”
Reaction from Italy
In Italy, reaction to the 4-0 defeat was mixed. Although the press conceded that the better team won, there was pride in the performance of Cesare Prandelli’s players and a hint of criticism in the way he handled them.
La Gazetto dello Sport spoke of how an “invinsible army” downed their Italian side who also deserve “applause” for their efforts in the tournament.
Corriere dello Sport was less forgiving, describing the defeat as “embarrassing”.
“Prandelli, but what have you done?” asked the newspaper.
Corriere questioned his tactical changes, especially the first at half time when Prandelli replaced Antonio Cassano with Antonio Di Natale and said “Cassano was our best player on the pitch”.
La Repubblica’s view was that the Italians were in bad “physical condition” and could not compete as well as they had done in previous matches, perhaps due to their tough schedule. It should be noted that this was the third high intenstity match Italy had played in the space of 8 days.
Tutto Sport stated: “Legendary Spain, but we return with our heads held high”.
One player whose head was drooping towards the end of last night’s game was Mario Balotelli. The striker stormed off the pitch at the end of the game but made a tearful reappearance to collect his loser’s medal.
Prandelli, who at times in his dealings with the mercurial Balotelli, must have wondered whether he was acting as a foster parent or a football coach, said the striker would be stronger for the experience.
“I told Mario that these are experiences you have to deal with and have to accept,” said Prandelli. “You have to hold your hands up and say the opponents were better, accept defeat.
“But you also have to make sure this helps you going forward and you can grow from the experience. This has happened to a number of players, and will happen again, but this is what sport is all about.”
One person who could not fail to see the commercial potential of Balotelli’s heightened profile as a result of Euro 2012, was his agent, Mino Raiola.
“I have always said that Mario Balotelli is one player that could become the strongest in the world,” Raiola told Sky Italia. “He is probably amongst the strongest in Europe.”
At first I thought that was a typo and Raiola meant ‘amongst the strangest in Europe,’ but no, he rates him really highly. Absurdly so, when you consider that Balotelli put in one decent performance in six matches and who was outscored by everyone’s favourite misfiring striker, Fernando Torres.
“How much is he worth? He is worth what the market says, he is one that can make a difference,” Raiola continued.
“In the actual market I don’t think there is a value for him but if I had to give a price I would say he is worth 250million (euros).”
Raiola added that he could see no immediate return to Italy for Balotelli.
“I’m 200 per cent certain that Mario will not return to Italy at least while I’m his agent.”
Listen, at 200 million euros, he won’t be going to Italy or anywhere else while you’re his agent
Quote of the day
“There were times, when I was not quite certain whether I would continue,” the 54-year-old said. “But this project has to continue. You can never be happy after a defeat, but as time goes on, you realise we’ve had an extraordinary tournament. When I fly over Kiev and I see the stadium lights, I will be disappointed, but we’ve had a fantastic tournament and I will soon feel better.”
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, who hinted last week that he might leave his position after Euro 2012, confirms that he is in it for the long run.
Players of the tournament
Spain’s Andres Iniesta has been named the player of the Euro 2012 tournament.
No great surprise there, although a stronger showing in the final and Andrea Pirlo would surely have run him very close.
Iniesta’s award coincides with UEFA’s official squad of the tournament being named. Unsurprisingly, it’s a squad dominated by Spanish players, although spare a thought for Alvaro Arbeloa, who was the only regular Spain starter not to make the list.
UEFA’s 23-man squad of the tournament:
Goalkeepers Buffon (Italy), Casillas (Spain), Neuer (Germany).
Defenders Piqué (Spain), Coentrao (Portugal), Lahm (Germany), Pepe (Portugal), Ramos (Spain), Alba (Spain).
Midfielders De Rossi (Italy), Gerrard (England), Xavi (Spain), Iniesta (Spain), Khedira (Germany), Busquets (Spain), Ozil (Germany), Pirlo (Italy), Xabi Alonso (Spain).
Forwards Balotelli (Italy), Fábregas (Spain), Ronaldo (Portugal), Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Silva (Spain).
While Iniesta takes the official title, UEFA’s own ranking index has determined that Sergio Ramos is the player of the tournament.
The Castrol EDGE Index which monitored the form of every player in Poland and Ukraine, deemed that Ramos was the most consistently excellent player at Euro 2012. The Real Madrid man finished just ahead of his club-mate, Cristiano Ronaldo, who had led the rankings since the group stages.
The upper reaches of the index are dominated by Spanish players, with 7 of the top 10 ranked players coming from Vicente del Bosque’s side. Apart from Ronaldo, the only non-Spaniards are Portugal’s Pepe (8th) and Italy’s Claudio Marchisio (10th).
The full list of all the players can be found here.
Goals of the day
Hard to single out one from the four scored by Spain in Sunday’s rout of Italy, so here’s all four of them.
The best ever?
The question on many people’s lips in the wake of Spain’s historic third title in a row, is no longer how good is the the current team, but are they the greatest ever?
Well, subjective as these conversations inevitably are, there’s certainly a case to be made for them to be considered the greatest international team of all time.
They are the first European side to win three consecutive major tournaments – Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Uruguay won 2 Olympic titles and a World Cup between 1924-30, but this was in an age when only amateurs could compete at the Olympics.
Vicente del Bosque’s side have not conceded a goal in their last five European Championship matches, a new competition record. They have not conceded a goal in a knockout round of a major tournament since 2006. That’s ten matches now and almost 17 hours of pitch time.
Spain’s winning margin of four goals is the biggest ever recorded in a World Cup or European Championship final.
Brazil 1970 is the most commonly cited ‘best international team ever’ but when one looks at that side, for all it’s attacking prowess, there was a vulnerability at the back. The West Germany aide of 1972-76 almost matched Spain’s achievement, winning a World Cup, a European Championship before losing another European final on penalties.
The most impressive aspect of Spain’s treble triumph was the evident hunger that permeates the squad. This is a serious group of footballers with serious ambitions and Brazil 2014 lies next on the horizon. It is that which sets this side apart and which could ultimately confer the status of ‘greatest ever’ upon them.
Ultimately, though, history will be the judge of how good this team is.
Trawling through the European press reaction to last night’s game, Sweden’s Expressen, perhaps best captures the magnitude of Spain’s achievements thus far.
It wrote: “When Iker Casillas lifted the trophy afterwards in a rain of confetti, it weighed next to nothing. But wait a few years. Wait ten years. Twenty. The more time passes, the heavier this trophy will feel. It will be a long time before we fully realise how great Spain’s achievement really is.”
Sing when you’re winning
A novel theory to explain Germany’s surprise semi-final exit: the players didn’t sing the national anthem with enough fervour.
Conservative politician Hans-Peter Uhl told Bild it was ”shameful that not all our players sing along with our anthem.”
That’s the kind of rabble rousing nonsense you’d expect from a politician, but from a respected coach and tactician you’d expect a more nuanced response.
But no, Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath wrote in a weekend newspaper column that ”those who saw how fervently the Italians sang, even screamed, their anthem could sense the will with which they would approach the following 95 minutes.”
Imagine how good Spain would be if their players sang along to the national anthem. Nigh on unbeatable, I’d have thought
Much has been made of the ability of the current generation of Spanish players to not let their historic, political and geographical differences undermine the unity of the team.
Here’s Athletic Bilbao’s Javi Martinez being shoved aside as he tries to gatecrash the Real Madrid players’ private photo op.
That’s it for Euro 2012 folks The best team won and no one came home in a coffin. Reading the alarmist pre-match predictions, this constitutes a success. Savour the moment, though, because if Michel Platini gets his way this could be the final tournament to adopt the current format.
Not content with increasing the number of finalists from 16 to 24 in four years time, Platini is now threatening to expand the number of tournament host cities to 12 or 13.
“It is just an idea I came up with a while ago,” he stated. “It would be to have the European Championship not in one country, but all over Europe. The majority of the executive committee believe it’s a good idea, and they spoke to the administration and said we should work on this idea, so we will meet with all the national federations in December.
“The tournament could either be in one country with 12 stadiums, or one stadium in 12 or 13 cities, with each venue getting four games. We have talked about 12 or 13 host cities because it could be a tournament of 24 or 32 nations. In these days of cheap air travel, anything is possible. It is easier to go from London to Paris or Berlin than Cardiff to Gdansk. We will discuss it very seriously – it’s an idea I feel really passionate about, and it would be a lot easier from a financial perspective. It is not easy to build airports and 10 stadiums in a country. This would be an easier arrangement, especially when we are in the middle of an economic crisis. But it is just an idea.”
UEFA’s motto is the benign, ‘We care about football’. I think in this age of the rebrand they’re long overdue a new one. How about, ‘If it ain’t broke, we will fix it’?