It was always going to be a tricky affair, being invited by an Italian to watch the match on a super big screen, among a bunch of Italians. A tricky affair because I was rooting for the Spanish.
There had been a lot of hoo-la-hoo in the media so far. The claims that the possession based game that they have played have been negative at times. Even, Arsene Wenger, (come on Wenger, you of all people know how difficult it is when one team parks the bus and how many most match interviews have you given saying the same), supported that claim, and various other critics, in a range of media has echoed that sentiment. I have not heard a more ludicrous claim. Spain had no option but to play that way against defenses that were passive. When well organized back lines gave minimum of space to their most attacking men. Del Bosque tried different things. ‘False 9’ so that they could pop up anywhere. Even a natural no. 9 like tall Negredo never really got them the space that they wanted. So when met with passive teams, there was only one option, keep the ball until you found an opening. And this meant passing the ball sideways.
And backwards. And for the sake of your entertainment they weren’t going to try and send a hopeful ball in the forward direction like other teams. And for the ones making a subconscious comparison with Barca, you have to remember that Messi, a truly superhuman of a footballer, could even without possession take out a couple of players thus creating openings for others, and he was not Spanish and it’s not even fair to ask someone to play that super human role. They always knew that the ball on your feet meant that the ball was not on their feet, which meant the opposition couldn’t score. So all the proponents that are complaining about the Spanish tactics, find another tree to bark against. You may want to blame the opposition. They just sat back and waited for the Rojas to commit a mistake than to force it from them.
The Italians on the other hand have played a very open and attacking game than I can remember from my memory, very different from the crisp counter attacking principles that they have been brought up on, always looking to take possession and keep it and play the ball forward and Cesare Prandelli has to be given credit for that.
So my fear that the final might force the Italians to go back to their roots to make the game a very cagey affair was disbanded from the very moment the game kicked off.
The Italians kept the possession, passed, prodded, but on the day, Xavi & Co. delivered the 10-point moves. The false 9 working to the advantage of the Spaniards where who got the ball became the attacking midfielder and the one who did not became the number 9, getting as close to the ‘total football’ concept theorized by the Dutch. Iniesta, the perfectly weighted pass behind the defense, Fabregas the telling cross and Silva with the timely arrival. Spain were one up and the game was going to open up a bit more. Italy knocked and if there was a classic example of total football, then it was that second goal, Jordi Alba a left back, making a forwards run, and the knowledge of the fact that they can score a goal as good as any forward in the world, and that’s what Alba did. Score. Ronaldo would have been proud.
Cesare Prandelli, made the change, and after Chiellini had limped off, that was his second. They tried to take it to their opponents, and if one of the Di Natale efforts had gone in, (I actually thought the header was the dead sitter, and not what looked like the more easier chance few minutes later with his back to goalkeeper) then things would have probably turned out different. My only grievance against Prandelli would have been after gambling with one player who got injured and limped out earlier was it worth taking a risk, playing another who also has just come back for injury. And when Motta fell on the ground clutching his hamstring, we all knew it was over. There needn’t be a third goal to kill of the game, it just was. Torres came in, toyed with the defense and scored a goal to win the golden boot. Made another one for Juan Mata. Pirlo was outclassed by Xavi, and it was not even the pressing of the Spanish midfield that caused it. It was Xavi playing his best match of the Euros, with the ball at his feet and Pirlo chasing him down.
And it was all over. A truly masterpiece of a final. The Spanish team should now look forward to building a national museum for football, because it seems like there are a lot more triumphs to come. And all those masterpieces need a wall to hang. For now, let me see how politely I can tell the Italians they were destroyed emphatically in the space of 90 minutes without any catching abuse from them.