01 July 2012

I didn't expect this Euro 2012 final

What I expected to see today in Kiev:

What I actually saw on the field:

By the time La Fúria Roja scored its second goal, I think Ian Darke had described its standard passing tactic as series of "little triangles" about 137 times.  That wasn't quite as often as this Spanish team actually passed the ball every 20 minutes, but it was enough to put a character from Angry Birds into my mind.  Indeed, in the first half, the Spaniards shredded Italy's normally stout defense the way Yellow Bird tears through wooden structures.  A hearty congratulations to Spain for its amazing feat!

ESPN is swearing up and down that the just-repeated European champions are the best national team ever.  To support that claim, the network claimed that Spain just became the first nation to win three major soccer titles in a row.  Far be it for me to point out that (a) Copa América, the South American continental tournament, also qualifies as "major," and (b) Brazil wrapped two Copa América titles around its 2006 World Cup victory.

In any event, there's still a case to be made that the 1970 Seleçao is still better.  With the 4-0 win today, though, Spain made the comparison a lot tighter.  I'm going to have to start tracking down video from Mexico '70.

Italy also deserves congratulations, especially coach Cesare Prandelli and Andrea Pirlo.  Keeping the team together despite yet another match-fixing scandal at home (and the presence of notorious bad-boy Mario Balotelli) was impressive by itself, but even reaching the finals constituted an incredible feat.

This just wasn't the Azurri's night.  As they fell behind 2-0, they were also losing players to serious injuries.  Giorgio Chiellini went down 21 minutes into the action, then Thiago Motta's hamstring pull forced him out of the game at the hour -- only minutes after he was inserted as Italy's final substitute.

At that point, down to ten men, the Azurri was no longer a contender; it was Wile E. Coyote, passing a massive rock as he plummets to a canyon floor after yet another botched attempt to catch the Road Runner.  The Italians hit the ground first, then, in the form of two late Spanish goals, the boulder landed on top.

Not. Italy's. Night.