Monday, July 2, 2012

Spain Reigns in Ukraine !

The Spanish national football team has once again demonstrated their dominance over Europe this past weekend, crushing Italy 4 - 0 enroute to a historic repeat as European Champions and their third consecutive major international tournament victory in a row.  This unprecedented achievement catapults Spain into the 'Greatest Team Ever' debate, without a doubt, as no other nation-- not even mighty Brazil -- has achieved three major championships in a row.

Even without standout striker David Villa and defensive captain Carles Puyol, the Spanish were imperious and unstoppable.  David Silva collected a beautiful cross by Cesc Fabregas in the 14th minute and scored the first goal.  Then, a few minutes later, Xavi Hernandez sprung the offside trap that let Jordi Alba find the back of the net, essentially putting the game away by halftime. 

The early moments of the second half saw the Italians coalesce and launch some dangerous attacks on the Spanish goal by striker Mario Balotelli, but the outstanding goalkeeping of Iker Casillas once again saved the Spanish from conceeding any goals.  At the age of 31, Iker Casillas has now won five league titles, two Champions League trophies, one Copa del Rey, two European Championships and a World Cup.  No wonder Spaniards call him 'Saint Iker.'

And then the wheels fell off for Italy.  In the 62d minute, substitute Thiago Motta limped off the field with a pulled hamstring, leaving Italy down one man.  With the chance to put the game away, the Spanish attacked mercilessly, as substitutes Fernando Torres and then Juan Mata scored two more late goals to complete Italy's misery.

After the match, the Italians were philosophical.  "Against Spain, you accept losing more easily," said Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon. "It was a great adventure. In a final, you have to win but today we played against a team of incredible quality."

So now it is official: Spain is the defining national team of our era.  Are they the greatest ever ?  No one can say for sure; but we have now reached the point where that is a legitimate question.  The absolute dominance of Spain over the international soccer scene over the last four years is undisputed and has defined an era.

All that remains now, is another World Cup victory in Brazil in two years.  Viva Espana !!!