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Majestic Spain reign once again

Majestic Spain reign once again
Spain celebrate with the trophy following victory in Kyiv ©Getty Images

Talk about saving the best for last. Spain's progress to the UEFA EURO 2012 final was at times functional rather than flashy; even "boring" to some commentators who, having grown fat on the prize cuts of the Roja's previous four years, refused to accept leaner pickings. In the final, though, Spain treated the watching world to a feast.

Vicente del Bosque's side never showed signs of buckling under the weight of expectation as they sought an unprecedented third successive major tournament win. However, robbed of the injured David Villa, the most prolific striker in Spain's history, and with opponents apparently wising up to their style, this was never going to be easy.

That was immediately apparent as they were held 1-1 by Italy in their opening game, and though they made light work of the Republic of Ireland, they endured a nerve-shredding meeting with Croatia in their final group outing. Defeat would have eliminated them, and how close they came to it before Jesús Navas's 88th-minute winner dragged them through.

A misfiring France side proved easier opposition in the quarter-finals but there was little time for well-bitten nails to grow back before their last-four tie with Portugal, their Iberian rivals. Paulo Bento's men, inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo, had come into their own – there was a sense that if they could finish moves as well as they started them they could triumph.

The semi-final was all about defence, though, and after 120 goalless minutes came a penalty shoot-out that flowed one way then the other before Cesc Fàbregas sealed it. Many felt Sergio Ramos' contribution was just as telling, however, his chip (audacious at the best of times) exuding confidence when doubts could have restrained them.

Three days earlier the application had been even better when Andrea Pirlo capped a superhuman performance with a Panenka-style penalty as Italy overcame England in their quarter-final shoot-out. Pirlo was outstanding all tournament, his wise head and sage feet hypnotising opponents into submission. For once, in the last four, he was edged out of the spotlight, Mario Balotelli striking twice to extinguish Germany's high hopes.

Italy's thrilling knockout campaign looked to have caught up with them, though, and in the final their tiredness coincided with Spain's new lease of life. The holders were in control from the moment David Silva opened the scoring with a rare header on 14 minutes. A barnstorming second with half-time approaching from the indefatigable Jordi Alba, his first international goal, left the Azzurri with a mountain to climb.

The sight of Thiago Motta, their third substitute, being carried off ended all ambitions, causing Italy to play out the last 28 minutes with ten men – Fernando Torres and Juan Mata capitalised, sealing a record 4-0 win. It was Spain's first competitive victory over 90 minutes against the Azzurri in 92 years and sealed an unprecedented hat-trick of major tournament wins. Yet this feast was as much about quality as quantity.

Last updated: 11/06/14 17.20CET




The final - 01/07/2012

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History maker

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Team of the Tournament



  • Iker Casillas (Spain)
    Iker Casillas (Spain)
  • Mario Balotelli (Italy) & Manuel Neuer (Germany)
    Mario Balotelli (Italy) & Manuel Neuer (Germany)
  • Cesc Fàbregas (Spain)
    Cesc Fàbregas (Spain)
  • Alessandro Diamanti (Italy)
    Alessandro Diamanti (Italy)
  • Xabi Alonso (Spain)
    Xabi Alonso (Spain)
  • Philipp Lahm (Germany)
    Philipp Lahm (Germany)
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
    Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
  • Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden)
    Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden)
  • Wayne Rooney (England)
    Wayne Rooney (England)
  • Antonio Cassano & Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
    Antonio Cassano & Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
  • Jesús Navas (Spain)
    Jesús Navas (Spain)
  • Lars Bender (Germany)
    Lars Bender (Germany)
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) & Maarten Stekelenburg (Netherlands)
    Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) & Maarten Stekelenburg (Netherlands)
  • Kostas Katsouranis & Grigoris Makos (Greece)
    Kostas Katsouranis & Grigoris Makos (Greece)
  • Petr Jiráček (Czech Republic)
    Petr Jiráček (Czech Republic)
  • Theo Walcott (England)
    Theo Walcott (England)
  • Yohan Cabaye &  Karim Benzema (France)
    Yohan Cabaye & Karim Benzema (France)
  • Fernando Torres (Spain)
    Fernando Torres (Spain)
  • Mario Mandžukić (Croatia) & Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
    Mario Mandžukić (Croatia) & Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
  • Mario Gomez (Germany) & Maarten Stekelenburg (Netherlands)
    Mario Gomez (Germany) & Maarten Stekelenburg (Netherlands)
  • Silvestre Varela (Portugal)
    Silvestre Varela (Portugal)
  • Andrey Arshavin (Russia) & Jakub Błaszczykowski (Poland)
    Andrey Arshavin (Russia) & Jakub Błaszczykowski (Poland)
  • Václav Pilař (Czech Republic)
    Václav Pilař (Czech Republic)
  • Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine)
    Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine)
  • Joe Hart (England) & Karim Benzema (France)
    Joe Hart (England) & Karim Benzema (France)
  • Mario Mandžukić (Croatia)
    Mario Mandžukić (Croatia)
  • David Silva (Spain) & Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
    David Silva (Spain) & Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
  • Michael Krohn-Dehli (Denmark)
    Michael Krohn-Dehli (Denmark)
  • Mario Gomez (Germany)
    Mario Gomez (Germany)
  • Alan Dzagoev (Russia)
    Alan Dzagoev (Russia)
  • Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
    Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
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Also in this year

European Cup winners: Chelsea FC (1-1 aet, 4-3 pens v FC Bayern München)

FIFA Ballon d'Or winner: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

ESM Golden Shoe winner: Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Eurovision Song Contest winner: Loreen (Sweden) singing Euphoria

Sebastian Vettel (2012)

Nobel Peace Prize winner: European Union (for the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe)

Men's Olympic 100m champion: Usain Bolt (Jamaica) running 9.63

Formula One world champion: Sebastian Vettel (Germany) driving a Red Bull-Renault

Oscar for Best Picture: The Artist

Queen Elizabeth II (2012)

Key events
6 February – Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years since her accession to the throne in the United Kingdom

2 May – A pastel version of Edvard Munch's The Scream sells for $120m (€93m), a record for an auctioned work of art

4 July – The discovery of a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson is announced after experiments at the Large Hadron Collider