The best way to answer your critics is not to yell and lash out but simply to give further evidence that proves your point. All we heard in the run-up to the Euro 2012 final was that Spain was boring and Italy was in form. It was the leitmotif, the summer's soccer zeitgeist.
Yet it didn't matter what the knockout rounds had shown before Sunday's game in Kiev -- namely, the Azzurri gently putting England to sleep before stylishly quashing the German machine, while Spain nervously ground out narrow, uninteresting wins.By full time on Sunday, the truth was obvious. Spain is anything but dull. To refer to it as boring is absurd, as ludicrous perhaps as Fernando Torres winning the Golden Boot. Ultimately, La Roja deserve all the praise and trophies that they have accrued over the past few years, and any talk of their demise is, at the time of writing, rather premature. Such is the power of a good storyline.
But it didn't start out that way, and only the giddiest of España supporters would have bet their euros on a 4-0 romp. As such, Vicente Del Bosque's team, weirdly, felt like an underdog within its own dynasty. The flurry of signs portending an Azzurri upset: Andrea Pirlo's midfield majesty; Mario Balotelli's form against Die Mannschaft and Antonio Cassano's menace; coach Cesare Prandelli's charismatic, overwhelmingly positive man management; the weight of a minor yet significant head-to-head history in which Spain had never beaten Italy in a major tournament without the aid of a penalty shootout (a 3-0-4 streak).There was also the stodginess of Del Bosque, taciturn and hesitant to use a striker, as though the thought is so abhorrent when the squad was packed with brilliance in midfield. The grim contrast of its progress through the tournament compared to its energetic, fired-up opponents.
Yet Pirlo couldn't dominate Sunday, muzzled by Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, all of whom seemingly worked in shifts to keep his passing lanes closed. Balotelli was isolated and bereft of meaningful service. Cassano was subbed off at halftime.Not only did Spain ruthlessly crush every positive that Italy fans had been clinging to, it also looked far from the tepid collective that had irritated and perplexed fans and pundits for much of the tournament. There was energy and menace that had seemingly been held in reserve against Portugal. Iniesta continued his sparkling form to tee up Cesc Fabregas, who in turn fed David Silva for the most un-Spanish of goals: a close-range header. Jordi Alba's blazing run upfield to finish off Xavi's measured pass was brutally clinical.
All in all, Spain's performance was a thumb in the eye to its cynics, skeptics and naysayers. It was an affirmation of the squad's abundant class and a further sign to the pretenders who came and went over the past month in Poland and the Ukraine: We're better. We can turn this on whenever the mood strikes. You may contain us for 45 minutes, but we have an extra gear.
In the end, the score line was as unkind to the crestfallen Azzurri, as it was proof positive of Spain's capabilities. Not like we needed the reminder.
An early injury forced Prandelli into one defensive change, and a tactical switch necessitated Antonio Di Natale's direct approach over Cassano's peripheral influence, but to see third sub Thiago Motta pull up lame and withdraw was a cruel twist, albeit one that didn't deter Spain over the final half hour. After all, you don't let the details overshadow you proving a point: cue Fernando Torres' simple finish and casual assist to secure the Golden Boot.
Insane -- and oddly brilliant -- that a man who spent much of the tournament as a bench-ridden afterthought could walk away with the award for best striker despite playing for a team that abhorred the traditional concept of what a striker should be.
Don't neglect the losers in all of this, though. It's equally important to not forget what Italy has accomplished in finishing runner-up. There is genuine hope for the future and real potential in what Prandelli, or a future manager, has available for selection.Buffon will eventually retire, as will Pirlo, yet in playing smart, elegant soccer throughout the Euros, the Azzurri not only have destroyed the sad memories of the 2010 World Cup but also have shown that they're again in the conversation regarding great national teams. But Sunday's defeat, its worst in a World Cup or European Championship proper, will take some effort to work past.
Euro 2012 was a triumph for Spain, but we should have seen it coming. In running roughshod over its toughest opponent when it counted most, there should never have been any doubt. Are we the boring ones instead?