Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Euro 2012: Captain Iker Casillas enjoys Spain's greatest moment

Iker Casillas of Spain
Spain's players celebrate with the trophy after the Euro 2012 soccer championship final between Spain and Italy in Kiev
DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 19: Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich signs autographs for football fans during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between England and Ukraine at Donbass Arena on June 19, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

Spain captain Iker Casillas hailed the ability and hard work of his side as they became the first international team to win three consecutive major championships with a 4-0 win over Italy.

David Silva and Jordi Alba put the holders 2-0 up before half-time and after Italy were left a man short due to an injury to Thiago Motta, Spain cruised to victory with further goals from Fernando Torres and Juan Mata.

Casillas himself broke a European Championship record by extending his run without conceding a goal in the competition to 510 minutes and he is delighted to have been a part of Spanish football's golden era.

He told the Spanish Football Federation website: "This is due to the talent that we all have and the work that people don't see - the work of the past, with everyone in the academies, and the manager who has given this generational change.

"We are living in the most marvellous moment in Spanish football history.

"We have been superior thanks to the work of our players and our characteristics. With Alba's goal we almost sealed it but the third killed it off completely."

The Real Madrid goalkeeper also hopes that success on the football field can bring some happiness to those suffering in the difficult economic times currently afflicting Spain.

"I suppose the people will be happy," he said. "They were before and now even more so.

"We have made the difficult look easy. They will think it has been a walk in the park but we could have been put out in the semi-finals. We have grown, we have gone from strength to strength and we were better.

"We have to enjoy this moment with all those that have suffered. We have lived four unforgettable years."

Xavi echoed Casillas' sentiments and the Barcelona midfielder was pleased to make a telling contribution with two assists after what had been a frustrating tournament for him personally.

"Today I have been decisive," he said. "I was lacking this incisive pass that wasn't going through and today I have had two. We have had a great game and I felt very comfortable.

"The players are very happy. For all of the country it is a joy and for us it is deserved. We have enjoyed on the pitch the best of the Euros and of the final.

"We have made history and we have to enjoy that with all the people that followed us here and everyone else.

"We have been very superior. We had possession and, with the goals, more space to play in. We felt very comfortable."

The 32-year-old also stressed that he intends to continue playing international football and will hopefully be fit enough to play a full part in Spain's defence of their World Cup crown in two years' time.

However he also recognised that with even more success there will be even greater expectation in Brazil.

"The bar is very high," he said. "There is more expectation.

"We are asked to win all the time but it is better like this, before it was more difficult.

"If I feel good then I will be there. I will speak with the manager and in principle, yes, I will go, but we will see."

Cesc Fabregas was one of a number of the squad to wear t-shirts in the post-match celebrations bearing the names of Antonio Puerta, Dani Jarque, Manolo Preciado and Miki Roque, all prominent figures in Spanish football that have died in the last few years.

And the former Arsenal captain believes it was important to honour them at such an important time in Spanish football history.

He told AS: "They are people that have left us recently and that left us a few years ago but they are always with us. We will never forget them."

On the game itself, Fabregas admitted that once Italy were reduced to 10 men the game was effectively finished but insisted that should not detract from Spain's incredible achievement.

"Finals are for winning and on top of this we have enjoyed it a lot on the pitch.

"They were left a man short with the injury to Motta and we were able to play at will but the level of success is brutal.

"It is certain that the game swung our way with the first goal but we played a great game."

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