bill-swift - July 3, 2012
So that's it. After 31 matches and 76 goals Spain are European Champions again.
Goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata confirmed their superiority and now it's official that they are the greatest side ever assembled, as they became the first nation to ever win three straight major tournament titles on the back of their Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 triumphs.
Pre-tournament predictions that the matches themselves would be overshadowed by racist supporters violently abusing every ethnic minority in their vicinity didn't occur, even though there were still some rather unsavoury moments.
However, despite these occurrences, the tournament has been roundly regarded as one of the greatest European Championships ever. But what and who have been the stand out moments of the competition?
Best player - Andres Iniesta
It's not often that many of the world's best players play so well in a tournament but at Euro 2012 they certainly did. Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard, David Silva and Mario Balotelli each played to their full potential throughout, but it was the diminutive Spaniard who shone the brightest. Whether he played as a centre forward, winger or central midfielder he was still Spain's most potent attacking threat and was an integral influence in their final victory.
Best game - Germany 1 - Italy 2
Well, it had everything. Germany were the clear favourites going into this semi-final encounter and maybe this led them to feel a tad arrogant as Italy systematically outplayed their European neighbours to book their place in the final. Pirlo, Cassano and Balotelli were majestic, shocking the Germans with their direct and concise play and for a brief moment Italians dreamt that this might be their tournament after all.
Greatest goal? Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs France
Poor Zlatan. The man can't do anything without getting lambasted for his attitude. Clearly he is one of the best strikers in the world and his acrobatic overhead volley showed that when he wants to, he can take a game by the scruff of the neck and produce a moment of magic. Check it out above.
Worst moment - Racism
Before the tournament had even begun, the press made you believe that racist abuse and violence was so rife in Poland and Ukraine that people would be murdered on sight once they arrived. It didn't manifest itself quite like this but the host of measly fine handed out by UEFA to Russia, Germany et al, was an embarrassment, with Michel Platini and his cohorts needing to take a long hard look at themselves.
Best moment - Spain's return to glory
To misquote Ernest Hemingway, rumours of Spain's demise have been greatly exaggerated. After turgid 1-0 defeat of Croatia was followed up by two dull victories over France and Portugal many football fans decided to round on Vincente Del Bosque's men and label them as dullards. Instead, they hustled us. Sunday's match will go down in infamy as one of the greatest footballing displays ever witnessed and Spain showed that when they want to, they can decimate any football team on the planet. We're beginning to run out of words to describe them.
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