Euro 2012: Iniesta's delight at Spain's 'magical' victory
Spain's Andres Iniesta last night described his team's victory in the Euro 2012 final, the first time a team has ever retained the trophy, as a "magical" achievement that may never be repeated.
Their 4-0 victory over an Italy team reduced to 10 men for much of the second half after an injury to substitute Thiago Motta left Cesare Prandelli with no options to replace him, was the third time Spain have won the European Championship in their history. It was also the first time any country has won three successive major tournaments, a run that includes their 2010 World Cup finals triumph.
Answering the criticism from some quarters that Spain's style of play is boring and predictable Iniesta said that the team's way of playing would not chance for public opinion.
He said: "Everybody has their point of view, their opinion. We are not here to say that our game is the most beautiful of them all. Everyone has a different opinion. [Against Italy], we had a great level of play and we were faithful to our style. Of course, it would have been different had they not been playing with 10. That made things easier for us. Now we want to enjoy the victory. It's unique. It's magical. Something that cannot be repeated. People can't ignore how great this is."
Cesc Fabregas told BBC Five Live that he believed Spain's victory had ended the debate about their style. "I think so,' Fabregas said. 'Those people who think we are playing boring...in my opinion they don't understand the game.
"This feels really amazing, one of the best days of my life. I don't think we're ready to see what we have done yet. Three major trophies in a row has never been done before in the history of football.
"It's difficult to realise what we have done, but in time I think we will, It is amazing."
The Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who was also in charge for Spain's World Cup triumph two years ago, said that his country had been blessed with "a great generation of footballers."
He said: "They have roots, they know how to play because they come from a country where they learn to play, and this is the feeling of sport in our country. In football, we have done a great job. We have great lads who play abroad, and that was impossible before. Before, we didn't really have players playing abroad. Now foreign clubs want our players. So this is a great era for Spanish football."
Spain ended the tournament conceding just one goal, Antonio Di Natale's goal for Italy in the first group game. They have still not conceded a goal in the knock-out stages of a tournament in 990 minutes, dating back to the quarter-finals of Euro 2008. Last night there goals came from David Silva and Jordi Alba in the first half and then substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata in the last six minutes.
Del Bosque said that the Italians had been undone by the injury to Motta. "I would like to say that everybody loses sometimes," he said. "The Italians have played a great tournament and they had the bad luck of the injury to Thiago Motta. That's where it all ended for them, unfortunately. But their reaction was great.
"This match was great for our players. They controlled the game. After we scored the first goal, the Italians were a little more dangerous but we reacted very well. We played well. We had ball possession, the pressure, the depth, so we're very happy. This success for Spanish football is something historic now. Now we have to look to the future. We are going to try and qualify for Brazil [in 2014].'"
Were Spain to retain the World Cup in two years' time they would establish another precedent – no European side have ever won a World Cup staged in South America. Last night, Cesare Prandelli, the Italy coach, would not confirm that he will remain in charge of Italy for their World Cup qualifying campaign.
"In terms of my future, there were times when I wasn't entirely sure but I've never had any problems with the Italian Football Federation. This project needs to continue. The country need to keep going with it, because this team must grow.
"Spain really have made history, and deservedly so. They've been playing terrific football for a number of years now, and they've got players who are tried and tested at this level. In spite of the fact they don't play with a traditional striker, they still cause a hell of a lot of problems."