class=”styled__BannerImage-sc-1wadlxz-1 iLJqYu styles_articleMainImage__Lj_Qv”>A dejected Federico Balzaretti (left) and Andrea Pirlo (right) reflect on their Euro 2012 final defeat

A dejected Federico Balzaretti (left) and Andrea Pirlo (right) reflect on their Euro 2012 final defeat

Throughout Euro 2020, we have been looking back at classic games from previous tournaments. Today’s featured match is Italy’s last appearance at a European Championship final, when they succumbed to a 4-0 defeat against Spain in 2012.

History makers

Italy are through to the Euro 2020 final – and they will be hoping for a better outcome than their last appearance in the European Championship’s showpiece match.

The Azzurri were ruthlessly dismantled by a Spain side looking to make history at Euro 2012, having won both the 2008 edition and the 2010 World Cup two years later.

La Roja were determined to write their name into the record books by claiming back-to-back Euro victories and three consecutive major trophies.

They weren’t about to let Italy stand in their way on the path to greatness.

Statement wins

Despite the comprehensive scoreline, this match-up was far from a foregone conclusion ahead of the final.

After all, the two teams had drawn their Group C match 1-1 earlier in the competition, though Spain finished ahead of Italy after the Azzurri dropped points against Croatia.

Both sides then enjoyed statement wins in the knockout rounds.

First Spain dispatched France 2-0 in the quarter-finals, while Italy needed penalties to get past England.

But the roles were reversed at the semi-final stage – La Roja’s shootout success against Portugal was eclipsed by Italy’s eye-catching 2-1 victory over Germany in Warsaw.

Spain take control

Spain celebrate after David Silva scores their opener against Italy
Spain celebrate after David Silva scores their opener against Italy

As the final got under way, Spain set about passing Italy into submission.

With Cesc Fabregas leading the line in a false nine role, they dominated the opening exchanges and were ahead after just 14 minutes.

The Barcelona man was instrumental in the opener – picking up a sublime through ball from Andres Iniesta, before stepping inside and crossing for David Silva to head home.

A similarly brilliant pass from Xavi cut through Italy’s defence like a hot knife through butter for Spain’s second, as the marauding Jordi Alba charged forward to finish just before the break.

Injuries take their toll

Italy had remained competitive during the opening period, but a combination of injuries and tired legs took its toll.

Giorgio Chiellini’s 21st minute departure with a thigh injury was an early blow and worse was to come for the Azzurri.

After bringing on Thiago Motta as their third substitute in the 57th minute, the midfielder suffered a hamstring injury soon after entering the pitch.

That left Cesare Prandelli’s men with just 10 men and Spain made them pay.

First when Fernando Torres swept a Xavi pass into the net on 84 minutes, before the Chelsea forward assisted Juan Mata four minutes later.

End of an era

Spain become the first team to win back-to-back European Championship trophies
Spain become the first team to win back-to-back European Championship trophies

Spain’s Euro 2012 triumph proved to be a high-water mark for La Roja.

It ushered in the end of a remarkably successful era for Vicente del Bosque’s outfit, who won everything there is to win over a glorious four year period.

And the road back to the top has been a long one for Italy – though not as long as England – after they suffered group stage eliminations at the next two World Cups before reaching the quarter-finals at Euro 2016. They even missed out on Russia 2018 entirely.

But the Azzurri are finally back in a final after nine long years and Roberto Mancini’s side will be looking to make amends for that defeat in Kyiv when they head to Wembley on Sunday.

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ItalySpainEuropean Championship