Spain gains historic win

Toronto FC’s Ryan Johnson, left, tries to head the ball into the net against New York Red Bulls’ Brandon Barklage, right, during the second half of an MLS soccer game Saturday, June 30, 2012, in Toronto.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Spain’s national soccer team confirmed in Kiev, Ukraine, that passing is the game. The 2008 European champion successfully defended its title with a convincing 4-0 spanking of Italy on Sunday. The Spaniards are now being hailed as one of the best national teams of all time. It made history in the process by being the first team to win back-to-back European championships and, throw in the 2010 FIFA World Cup win in South Africa, has now won an historic three major titles in succession.

It was the passing game that the Spaniards are known for that helped them to make history. They confirmed that soccer is a passing game, although earlier in the tournament, the team was criticized for making too many passes. Except for the first half of Sunday’s Euro 2012 final, Spain dominated the passing statistics against all its opponents. The Spaniards keep the ball for very long spells because of the movement of their players around it.

Known for its famous midfielders Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta, Spain’s awesome foursome dominated the midfield by keeping the ball for long periods in the first half and totally holding on to it in the second. The clever thing about the Spaniards is that they seldom keep the ball without an end result, unlike many other teams who seem to just enjoy holding on to it. Spain not only passes the ball successfully, but they constantly exploit the holes created in the opponents’ defense by its ball movement.

Spain ‘s first goal by David Silva in the 14th started with defender Alvaro Arbeloa, who gave it to Xavi, then to Iniesta for a through pass into a seam in the Itlaian defense for Cesc Fabregas to run onto and cross for Silva to head home. The second goal just before the half took another five or so passes, this time it culminated with a pass from Jordi Alba to Xavi; Alba kept on running and got the return pass, another defense-splitting through ball, to finish with a left-footed placement just inside the left goalpost and past the outstretched right hand of Italian goal keeper Gianluigi Buffon for the 2-0 halftime lead.

Spain’s passing and movement off the ball was superb in the second half and resulted in late goals by substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata in the last six minutes to complete the most comprehensive win in a European final game. Ironically, this Italy team is one of its best in modern times; it parted from its traditional defensive posture and attacked from the outset and continued throughout the game, even when it had to play the final 30 minutes with a player less when final substitute Thiago Motta went down with a leg injury after only seven minutes on the field.

Italy was a very attractive team to watch in the tournament as it played attractive soccer that all Italians should be pride of. Players like forward Mario Balotelli, who scored twice for Italy against Germany to take Italy into the final game, Buffon, midfielder Andres Pirlo and defender Ignazio Abate represented their country and the game with class. Italian coach Cesare Prandelli must be credited for his good team management and should be around to lead Italy in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

Spain finally beat Italy for the first time since the 1920 Olympics and is now unbeaten in this European national tournament in its last 29 games, since June 2004. The Spaniards are now being compared to the great Brazilian team of 1970 with legends Pele, Jair, Calos Alberto, Rivelino, Tostao, Gerson, Clodoaldo, which rallied to beat Italy, 4-2, in the 1970 FIFA World Cup final in Mexico. On Sunday, Spain, the better team won, which is the way it should be.

Today, Spain is the best!

Red Bulls Stall

The New York Red Bulls (9-4-4, 31 pts.) coming off one of its best performances in MLS so far this season in a 3-2 home win over DC United on Sunday, June 24, stalled in Toronto’s BMO Field last Saturday, June 29 when it only managed a 1-1 tie. Red Bulls midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli had given the visitors a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute, but that was all the scoring New York could manage. Two minutes later, Toronto’s Danny Koevermans equalized with a header from a Torsten Frings corner kick; from then on, the game was somewhat of a stalemate. Solli’s goal was his second of the season and came off assists from Jamaican international Dane Richards and defender Brandon Barklage.

Earthquakes Top Galaxy

In one of the most exciting MLS games this season, hosts San Jose Earthquakes stormed back from a 3-1 halftime deficit to beat cross-state rival Los Angeles Galaxy, 4-3, in front of 50,391 fans at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Ca. Chris Wondolowski came up with his MLS-leading 14th goal of the season to win the match. It was the second time this season that the Earthquakes rallied from a deficit to beat the Galaxy.

Wondoloski’s winner came in the 61st minute off a corner from Martin Chavez. Steven Lenhart, Victor Bernardez and Sam Cronin also scored for San Jose (11-3-3), which got its third consecutive win; Los Angeles’ three-game win streak was halted. For Los Angeles (6-9-2), David Beckham and Landon Donovan got on the scoreboard; Los Angeles third goal was an own goal by San Jose defender Jason Hernandez.

In other MLS games last weekend, there were wins for all the home teams. Hosts Colorado Rapids knocked off the Portland Timbers, 3-0; Houston Dynamo topped the Philadelphia Union; Columbus beat Real Salt Lake; DC United went past Montreal Impact, 3-0. New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders played to a 2-2 tie and the only host to lose this weekend was Sporting Kansas City’s 1-0 loss to Chicago Fire last Friday night.

Spain’s Jordi Alba celebrates scoring his side’s second goal as Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci kicks the ball in anger during the Euro 2012 soccer championship final between Spain and Italy in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, July 1, 2012.
AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

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