Image 1 of 10: Group A: Czech Republic & Greece advanced in a double shock, turning the tables on Russia and co-host Poland. Despite Russia’s blistering start, the early-peakers weren’t good enough for the cut. Co-hosts Poland were eliminated and didn’t live up to the expectations of the home crowd. Greece were the wild card, riding on their defensive play.
Image 1 of 10: Group B: Germany & Portugal came out trumps - Die Mannschaft breezed through with 3 straight wins, while Portugal improved as along the way to qualify. The Netherlands with their surprise elimination were the ultimate disappointment - delivering the worst display before the finals. Denmark seemed in with a chance but failed to capitalize on it.
Image 1 of 10: Group C: Spain, after some struggle, went through as group leaders on an underperformance. Italy silenced the critics with their strong attack-minded play. The two would-be finalists advanced from the same group. Croatia did enough to embarrass the big boys, without real damage. Ireland lost all games as the flops – pulling off poor throughout.
Image 1 of 10: Group D: 3 Lions rode their luck & defense tactics to top the group. France advanced less than convincingly, sustaining a shock-loss v. Sweden (who after early leads in the 1st two matches let themselves down before deservedly taking France 2-0). Ukraine played decently til a questionable ref. call v. England left them wondering what went wrong.
Image 1 of 10: Quarter Final Czech Republic 0 Portugal 1: Portugal dominated the play, finally winning 1-0 courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo Ronaldo’s header. Attacking play met CR's defensive, counter-attacking. In full command of his game, at this point Ronaldo looked primed to win player of tournament.
Image 1 of 10: Quarter Final Germany 4 Greece 2: after a scare for the Germans at 1-1, they were able to come back and take the match convincingly against the downtrodden Greeks. Still it certainly wasn’t smooth sailing for the winners who took all. The result does not reflect the struggle Die Mannschaft found themselves in.
Image 1 of 10: Quarter Final Spain 2 France 0: This 3rd QF was a walk in the park for the reigning Spaniard champions. Xabi Alonso made his mark with a brace for his centennial international match with La Roja. France allowed themselves to be a pushover, and the critics cited bad team selection.
Image 1 of 10: Quarter Final England 0 Italy 0 (aet, 2-4): Italy dominated possession as the England coach's tactics were no match for the Italian superior performance. Possession however didn’t convert into goals, until eventually penalties went deservedly Italy’s way.
Image 1 of 10: SF Portugal 0, Spain 0 (aet 2-4) A suspense-heavy match that fell short of expectation finally went to penalties. Spain’s play was dubbed dull. The onus was on the reigning champions to make the match. Xabi Alonso wasted a penalty, not costing Spain the game or potential tournament. Bruno Alves missed a penalty for Portugal, blown out the water.
Image 1 of 10: Final: Spain dominated the match with their name firmly on the title by midway. David Silva secured a lead, from which Italy never came back. Spain by the end were literally laughing & adding insult to injury as Italy played short with 10 players 2nd half. La Roja won unchallenged by an Italy showing the strain of a tournament of tougher games.
The biggest footballing event of the summer 2012 has just ended and before the dust settles, we take a look at how it all went down - from start to finish, in a dramatic one-sided final that saw Spain clinching the title and most deservedly at that.
Spain's journey to the top
Spain secured the championship of Euro 2012 after a rather shaky start to the tournament in their group stage matches. They weren't all that convincing in their opening match in which they drew against the Italians 1-1, and what's more were almost knocked out of the competition by Croatia, before coming out with a narrow 1-0 win.
Afterwards, they met France in the Quarter Finals, for an easy match that ended 2-0 in favor of the revving-up Spaniards. Then they faced neighboring Iberian Portugal in the Semis in what was a tough challenge for Spain that was only thrashed out in penalties. Spain's experience played a key role in their qualification for the final. Once La Roja found their stride, they had put all hesitanancy and early nerves firmly behind them.
The best for Euro
The best teams for performance in the tournament included Germany, Portugal, Denmark and Sweden among others not least of all Azzurri. Italy reached the final much to its credit proving its doubters wrong. Spain had an easier ride, un-threatened or deterred from their road to defending the championship by France.
Spain comes out with a blazing victory and record that sees it add another heavy-weight title to their impressive armada. Unrivalled as the first team to win 3 major tournamtents in a row (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012), this is a major and enviable European and global acheivment and unprecedented in all senses. No other country in the world circuit seems to be displaying the same unparalleled hunger of these feisty Spaniards who are more than the winners taking all. They prove that a winner's streak can play out on the big occasions.
If it ain't broke
Other teams will be taking stock and learning from the fact that sometimes, even if it ain't broke, maintanance and repair are sitll key to going into a major tournament in tip-top shape. England and France both certainly came under attack for team selection and cracks in their games that should have been addressed rather than glossed over while sporadic victories masked over them.
The final match on Sunday night was not really the final the people had wanted, in so much as the competition was flagging and the match was hardly a match at all. Italy did not touch Spain's possession and speed.
Where were Italy?
The hearty Italians were certainly not really in the final at all, for all intents and purposes. They showed little gusto and many signs of strain and fatigue from a more toil-intensive journey to their place in the final, playing England and Germany in the lead up. The Italian emotion kicked in as the runners-up have left their fans as well as players with man-tears and a feeling of absence from a final they never really got a foot in.
What do you think of the Euro 2012 Championship? Share any comments on the final or indeed the whole tournament here.