The 2012 European Championship Final between soccer giants Italy and Spain is rife with talking points. But I don’t want to talk about whether Spain’s current national team is better than that of Brazil in 1970 (how can one legitimately compare?) And I don’t want to discuss how some pundits, and even some “fans”, are referring to Spain’s patient, clever, and immensely skillful possession game as boring (is Rembrandt’s precision boring?) I don’t even want to talk about Italy’s dropping to ten men after substitute Thiago Motta’s hamstring injury essentially ends a compelling Euro Final thirty minutes early. Nor how Barcelona-bound Jordi Alba, Spain’s swift left back, crowns his magnificent tournament with an aggressive forward run and confident finish for La Roja’s second goal. I don’t even care that Spain’s central defender Gerard Pique’s hair resembles ever more closely that of his girlfriend Shakira’s jungle cat style. I only want to sit around with a pitcher of sangria and revel in the sublime beauty of Spain’s opening goal in minute 14, ultimately the game winner.
Let me pour you a glass. Spain’s technical genius, midfielder Andres Iniesta, surgically slices the Italian defense open with his perfectly weighted pass into the box behind Cesc Fabregas’ defender. A dangerous one-touch cross now presenting itself from just outside the six, Fabregas instead takes an impossibly deft and menacing touch forward, towards the goal, inside his chasing defender. Italy’s legendary goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, must suddenly commit to the near post. Fabregas’ defender can now only foul from behind and so is with this single move rendered superfluous. The Spaniards race to flood the eighteen. Then at full speed and a yard from the endline, Fabregas, who’s had up to this moment a rather forgettable tournament, pivots on his left foot and magically floats the ball back to the middle of the six with his right. The television camera is just quick enough to catch the 5’7” David Silva surging through the air, hair flying, legs scissored, slamming the levitating sphere against his forehead and ripping it into the back of the net. A short series of nearly perfect soccer decisions and execution from a team that has changed the way the game is played, and the World Champions lead Italy 1-0. That’s what I do want to talk about.