UEFA Euro 2012 Final
Match programme cover
|Event||UEFA Euro 2012|
|Date||1 July 2012|
|Venue||Olympic Stadium, Kiev|
|Man of the Match||Andrés Iniesta (Spain)|
|Referee||Pedro Proença (Portugal)|
26 °C (79 °F)
The UEFA Euro 2012 Final was a football match that took place on 1 July 2012 at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, to determine the winner of UEFA Euro 2012. Spain, who had won Euro 2008, successfully defended their title with a 4–0 win over Italy, becoming the first team to win two consecutive European Championships, and the first team to win three consecutive major tournaments – Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. It was the greatest margin of victory in the history of the European Championship finals, and the fourth time that teams who played each other in the group stage played each other again in the final (1988, 1996 and 2004).
Usually, the winner of the European Championship gains entry to the Confederations Cup, which was played in Brazil in 2013. However, since Spain already qualified as the 2010 World Cup champions, Italy qualified automatically as the UEFA representative, with their win in the semi-final against Germany, despite losing in the final to Spain.
Prior to the tournament, the two sides had previously met each other 30 times, with Italy winning ten games and Spain eight. Italy won the last meeting, a 2–1 friendly on 10 August 2011 at the Stadio San Nicola in Bari. Italy had won the European Championship once – in 1968 against Yugoslavia – while Spain had won it twice – in 1964 against the Soviet Union and in 2008 against Germany. In 2000, Italy reached the final for a second time, losing 2–1 in extra time against France, while Spain also reached it in 1984, losing to France 2–0. Spain, who began the tournament as one of the favorites, ranked highest in the FIFA World Rankings, while Italy ranked twelfth overall, and eighth among UEFA teams.
Route to the final
|Republic of Ireland||4–0||Match 2||Croatia||1–1|
|Croatia||1–0||Match 3||Republic of Ireland||2–0|
|Group C winner
|Final standings||Group C runner-up
|France||2–0||Quarter-finals||England||0–0 (aet) (4–2 pen.)|
|Portugal||0–0 (aet) (4–2 pen.)||Semi-finals||Germany||2–1|
Spain were drawn in Group C alongside Italy, Croatia, and Republic of Ireland, opening against Italy on 10 June 2012. Italy took the lead through striker Antonio Di Natale in the 61st minute, who had come on for Mario Balotelli. Three minutes later Spain found an equaliser with midfielder Andrés Iniesta assisting Cesc Fàbregas, who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. In their next match on 14 June against Republic of Ireland, striker Fernando Torres opened the scoring early in the fourth minute, retaining the ball after Republic of Ireland defender Richard Dunne's unsuccessful tackle, before scoring from ten yards past defenceless goalkeeper Shay Given. In the 49th minute, after Given had blocked an Iniesta shot, David Silva collected the rebound and extended the Spanish lead, after nutmegging three defenders. With 20 minutes remaining, Torres scored his second goal, taking a pass from Silva and chipping the ball over Given. Fabregas scored the final goal after receiving a Silva corner and shooting from a difficult angle. Their third and final group stage match against Croatia on 18 June, proved to be more difficult, and Croatia had several goalscoring chances, notably from Ivan Strinić and Ivan Perišić, which Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas had no problems dealing with. The match looked like it was heading for a draw, until the 88th minute, when substitute Jesús Navas struck the winning goal, from an Iniesta assist. Spain exploited their depth of talent, often starting games with international stars like Torres, Fabregas and Pedro on the bench, and bringing them on for tactical reasons, to great success.
In the quarter-finals, on 23 June 2012, Spain took on France. Spain opened the goalscoring, with defender Jordi Alba running to the touchline under pressure and sending a pinpoint cross to unmarked midfielder Xabi Alonso, who drove a powerful header past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Spain completed their win late in the second half with Alonso's penalty kick after France defender Anthony Réveillère brought down Pedro inside the penalty area. In the semi-finals on 27 June, Spain faced Portugal, who had previously beaten the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals, courtesy of a late Cristiano Ronaldo goal. The match was hotly contested, with Portugal pressuring the Spanish "tiki-taka" possession game high up the pitch, and creating numerous goalscoring chances. However, Spain managed to hold on, which required the match to go into extra time. Spain began to take control of the match with the introduction of Pedro and Fabregas, but failed to score over both halves, leading to a penalty shoot-out. Alonso, who had previously taken a penalty kick against France, had his spot kick saved by Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patrício. Portugal looked to take the advantage, with midfielder João Moutinho as the next penalty taker. However, Casillas produced a tremendous diving save. Iniesta took his penalty with precision. Portuguese defender Pepe struck the ball just past Casillas' fingertips. Defender Gerard Piqué calmly scored in the same corner of the goal as Pepe. Another defender, Bruno Alves stepped up to take the third penalty for Portugal, however, midfielder Nani encouraged Alves to let him take the penalty, which Nani struck high in the left corner of the goal after sending Casillas the wrong way. The fourth Spanish penalty was taken by defender Sergio Ramos, who chipped the ball past Rui Patrício, in the style of former Czech footballer Antonín Panenka. At this point, star striker Cristiano Ronaldo was yet to shoot for Portugal, but their fourth penalty was taken by defender Bruno Alves, who struck the crossbar with a sharp rising shot. Spain's final penalty taker was Fàbregas, who scored Spain's fifth goal, as the ball went in via the left post. Spain emerged victorious, and headed to the UEFA European Championship final for the fourth time, since 1964, 1984 and 2008.
As well as Spain, Italy were placed in Group C in the group stage, starting their group stage match against Spain on 10 June 2012. Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo provided the assist to Di Natale, who opened the goalscoring, as he pipped Piqué and Ramos to the ball, before striking it inside the right corner of the goal. It took just three minutes, before Spain found an equaliser through Fàbregas. Italy's next fixture was against Croatia on 14 June. Italy were dominant in the first half of the match, and had numerous chances to score. A foul from Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitić on Balotelli, meant Italy were awarded a free kick. Pirlo stepped up, and struck the free kick, which went past Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, inside the left side of the goal. However, just minutes before the end of the second half, Croatia striker Mario Mandžukić headed in an equalising goal, after an assist from Strinić. Their third and final match against Republic of Ireland was on 18 June. Striker Antonio Cassano struck the first goal, from a Pirlo corner, which Republic of Ireland defender Damien Duff failed to clear. Near the end of the match, centre midfielder Keith Andrews was booked for the second time, after committing a foul on Pirlo, resulting in a sending off by Turkey referee Cüneyt Çakır. As the match headed its way into the 90 minutes, in injury time, Balotelli struck a volley past Given, assisted by attacking midfielder Alessandro Diamanti.
In the quarter-finals, Italy faced England. Both sides were dominant and had possession in the first half. Italy players, such as midfielders Riccardo Montolivo, Pirlo, Balotelli, and Cassano had chances to score, but failed to do so. England players also rounded off chances, through England strikers Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, midfielders Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker, and defenders Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole. In the second half, Italy proved to be the more dominant side. However, both of the sides failed to produce a goal, during both halves, and the match was taken into extra time. Diamanti had the best chance to score in the first half, with the ball hitting the outside of the left post. Both sides, however, still failed to take the plaudits, as the match headed into a penalty shoot-out. Balotelli was the first penalty taker for Italy, as he struck the penalty kick into the left corner, past England goalkeeper and Manchester City club teammate Joe Hart. Gerrard did not hesitate, and scored into the same left corner. Montolivo became the second player for Italy to take the penalty kick. He made an attempt to slot the ball, past into the same corner, but missed the penalty wide, outside the goal. Pirlo became Italy's third penalty taker, as well as Ramos, produced a penalty, similar to Panenka. Midfielder Ashley Young stepped up to take England's third penalty, but failed to convert his goal, and instead hit the crossbar. Italy now had the advantage, as Antonio Nocerino stepped up, and successfully scored the fourth penalty. The pressure was now on England, and it proved to be decisive for Italy, as defender Ashley Cole stepped up to take the fourth penalty for England, which Buffon saved. In the semi-finals, Italy faced Germany. Italy dominated possession early, and after receiving the ball from Cassano, Balotelli opening the goalscoring in the 20th minute of the first half in the left corner inside the goal, heading past German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. It only took a few minutes, before Balotelli struck again, this time blasted into the top right corner on a one-on-one with Neuer, assisted by a Montolivo lob over the German defence. In the second half, Germany improved, and were awarded a penalty during the late minutes, after Federico Balzaretti was penalised for handball. Germany midfielder Mesut Özil struck the penalty kick into the right corner. Despite this, Italy managed to hold on their lead, and were victorious at the end, as they progressed into the final, having won the competition last in 1968.
The official match ball for the final was the Adidas Tango 12 Finale, a silver-coloured variation of the Adidas Tango 12, and part of the Adidas Tango family. The Tango 12 was used as the official match ball throughout the tournament, provided by German sports equipment company Adidas. It is designed to be easier to dribble and control than the reportedly unpredictable Adidas Jabulani used at the 2010 World Cup.
Pedro Proença, representing the Portuguese Football Federation, was chosen by UEFA as the official referee of the final. He first became an international referee in 2003, and the same year in June, Proença officiated an 2003 Intertoto Cup first round match between Žalgiris and Örgryte. Proença had previously been in charge of two UEFA finals, the 2004 UEFA Under-19 Championship Final between Turkey and Spain, and the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich. He has also refereed nine other Champions League matches, and 18 UEFA Cup and Europa League matches.
Proença was accompanied by assistant referees Bertino Miranda, Ricardo Santos, Jorge Sousa and Duarte Gomes, who had earlier worked with him in the Group C match between Spain and Republic of Ireland, the Group D match between Sweden and France, and the quarter-final between England and Italy. The fourth official was Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakır, who had been part of the same refereeing team for the quarter-final between England and Italy.
Prior to the start of the match, the closing ceremonies were held, featuring a live performance by six hundred volunteer performers, performing a field march of a football match. Also featured was a performance by German pop singer Oceana, performing the official theme to Euro 2012, "Endless Summer".
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque picked the same eleven players for the final as had played in the group match between the two sides and their quarter-final against France, played ostensibly in a 4–3–3 formation. The only debate was over whether Cesc Fàbregas, a natural midfielder, would start up front (as he had against Italy and France), or if Del Bosque would pick one of Fernando Torres (who had started against Republic of Ireland and Croatia), Álvaro Negredo (who played up front in the semi-final against Portugal), Pedro (a substitute against France and Portugal) or the as-yet unused Fernando Llorente. Spain's defence consisted largely of Real Madrid players – Iker Casillas in goal, Álvaro Arbeloa on the right side of defence and Sergio Ramos in the centre. Barcelona's Gerard Piqué joined Ramos in the centre and Jordi Alba of Valencia – played on the left. The central midfield featured Xavi and Sergio Busquets of Barcelona and Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso, with the flanks patrolled by Andrés Iniesta (also of Barcelona) on the left and David Silva of Manchester City. Silva and Alba were the only two players to not play for Real Madrid or Barcelona in the starting line-up.
In contrast with Spain's tactical stability, Italy had used a number of different line-ups throughout the tournament, brought about by both injury and suspension. However, after the first two group games, coach Cesare Prandelli appeared to develop a distinct preference for a 4–1–3–2 formation, with playmaker Andrea Pirlo occupying the deep midfield role. He also tended to favour a forward pairing of Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli. Midfielder Daniele De Rossi had occupied a sweeper role in the first two group games, but was later used as a left-sided attacking midfielder. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, left-back Giorgio Chiellini, and centre-backs Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci formed a strong Juventus core to the defence, having gone the entire 2011–12 Serie A season unbeaten. They were supported on the right by Milan's Ignazio Abate, who returned to the team after missing the semi-final through injury, replacing Federico Balzaretti of Palermo. Andrea Pirlo, also of Juventus, again played the deep-lying playmaker role behind his club-mate Claudio Marchisio on the right wing, Milan's Riccardo Montolivo in the centre and Daniele De Rossi of Roma on the left. Cassano, who plays for Milan, and Balotelli (Manchester City) again played up front.
Despite accusations of playing negative, defensive football, Spain took control early in the game, as a characteristically long spell of possession ended with a Xavi shot that went just over. They took the lead in the 14th minute, though, when Andrés Iniesta played a through-ball to Cesc Fàbregas, who drove past Giorgio Chiellini to the by-line before pulling back a cross for David Silva to head into the net from six yards. Chiellini was clearly struggling with a thigh injury he had picked up in the earlier rounds, and he was replaced by Federico Balzaretti after 20 minutes. Italy responded with a couple of shots from Antonio Cassano that were saved by Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, but Spain doubled their lead before half-time, when Xavi picked out left-back Jordi Alba, who capped a long forward run with a precise finish past Gianluigi Buffon in the Italy goal.
Antonio Di Natale came on for Cassano at half-time and twice went close to scoring, the second effort forcing a save from the onrushing Casillas. Italy's final substitution saw Thiago Motta replace Riccardo Montolivo, but he soon suffered a hamstring injury; with all of their substitutes used, Italy had to play the last 30 minutes of the match a man down. Fernando Torres replaced Fàbregas with 15 minutes left to play, and scored in the 84th minute – assisted by Xavi – to become the first man to score in two European Championship finals. Torres then turned provider four minutes later, cutting the ball back with the outside of his boot for fellow substitute and Chelsea forward Juan Mata to sweep into an empty net for a final score of 4–0, the widest margin of victory in any European Championship final. Spain became the first team to retain the European Championship title and also the first European team to win three major international competitions in a row.
After the match, the Henri Delaunay Trophy was handed to the Spanish captain Iker Casillas by UEFA president Michel Platini. As the trophy was lifted, the song "Heart of Courage" by American music company Two Steps from Hell was played on the stadium's loud-speaker system.
During the press conference, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque was pleased with his team's performance, describing their triumph as a "great era for Spanish football", but praised opponents Italy's work effort, despite the defeat, stating that they lacked "luck", and added that "the game ended then", after mourning their decision to take injured midfielder Thiago Motta off and play with ten men. Italy manager Cesare Prandelli commented that he would leave Kiev both proud and disappointed of his side: "When we fly over Kyiv and see the stadium lights I will have pangs of disappointment but I leave proud". He continued by describing that his players lacked "fitness" and were "tired", and added that Italy "were up against a great side, the world champions. and as soon as we went down to ten men it was game over. We had a couple of chances at the start of the second half but didn't take them and when Thiago Motta went off we had nothing left in the tank".
As a result of Spain's win, Del Bosque also became the second manager, after Germany manager Helmut Schön, to lead a national side to a UEFA European Football Championship and a FIFA World Cup trophy, and the first to have also won the UEFA Champions League.
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