Viva Espana. Three-times European champion, twice consecutively, World Cup holder, the team's place in history cemented. And what a privilege it was to watch this glorious coronation unfold first hand.
It was as if all of the criticism Spain had received pre-match, the ‘boring’ jibes that had jabbed away at the group's pride, stung this squad into producing the kind of performance few sides are capable of producing come the showpiece occasion.
Spain's stunning feats
|1||Vicente del Bosque is the first coach to win the European Championship, the World Cup and the Champions League|
|2||Fernando Torres has now scored in the final of two European Championships|
|3||La Roja are the first team to win three consecutive major international tournaments|
|4||The 4-0 scoreline against Italy is the biggest winning margin in any World Cup or European Championship final|
|29||The team has gone 29 European Championship qualifying and finals games without losing. Its last defeat was in June 2004|
|100||Iker Casillas is the first footballer to win a century of international matches|
It is easy to delight in the mastery of the technical aspects of the sport, the geometric passing, an ability to create everything from nothing, but the real beauty of this team is that it is exactly that – a team.
In no way is this side akin to the largely Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo dependent machines Barcelona and Real Madrid threaten to become. This was as close to the Dutch interpretation of Total Football. This was something special.
Spain played, as has been the case for the majority of the tournament, without a genuine center forward. It’s not for some, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger included, and they are entitled to their opinion.
But the deployment of the increasingly fashionable ‘false nine’ - one, who in Cesc Fabregas, would at first glance appear wholly unsuitable to the role, - only adds to the uniqueness, the team's majesty and its beauty.
The confidence and color on the pitch was neatly mirrored in the stands by the traveling band of Spaniards, who had decorated and delighted in the streets of Kiev all day long.
The Ole chants started as early as the 13th minute. It hardly relented all night as Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Xabi Alonso passed Italy into oblivion. A player as eloquent and rarefied as Andre Pirlo, who himself would look comfortable in Spanish red, was confused as he searched for answers to unsolvable questions.
Similarly, Daniele De Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo and Claudio Marchisio, the men who comprised the Italian engine room that had outwitted Germany and overrun England, were casualties of a Spanish blitz that spared nobody.
To concentrate on the attacking brilliance does a disservice to the protective wall, without which no side can prosper. It is now 10 consecutive tournament knockout matches without conceding a goal for goalkeeper supreme Iker Casillas.
No Carles Puyol? No problem. Need a left back? How does Jordi Alba, an attack-minded full back of Roberto Carlos-esque proportions, suit you?
And if you get through that barrier, if you are afforded an opportunity to string a succession of passes together, have a go at beating Casillas, if you can. Antonio Di Natale couldn’t when he had the opportunity to haul Italy back into unlikely contention from point-blank range shortly after the interval.
Everywhere you looked at this team, at this display, there was a stylish perfection, even down the way it was gold plated late on with a Chelsea double from Fernando Torres and Juan Mata - a player who has seen so little playing action this tournament - it all just seems so unfair.
As Mario Balotelli sank to his knees at the site of Spain’s fourth beautifully crafted goal of the night, even the stoic Vicente del Bosque afforded himself a wry smile. He knew all along. Why produce your Sunday best for anything other than this? Nobody who witnessed it will ever forget it. Viva Espana, indeed.
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