When Italy lost the game to Spain in Euro 2008 quarterfinals, the win bought out a golden generation of Spanish players. In the past 88 years, team Spain had never been able to get an upper hand over Italy. It was in 1920 Olympics that Spain had managed to defeat Italy. Well, 88 years is a long waiting period!
Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta look full of self belief. With the help of this self belief, they wrote football history. Spain has been the undisputable king of football since the year 2008. Two consecutive Euros from 2008 to 2012 and World Cup 2010- all these were won by none other than Spain. But now, this undisputable king is dead. The death of this king is marked by the same team which helped it to kick off that is Italy. Spain was knocked out of the tournament when Italy scored a 2-0 against its unfortunate brothers. This has thus brought the saga full circle. Italy is now again back on the top.
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Now this is the same Spanish team – the one full of fire and roaring like a tiger. Just that it has lost its football prowess and hence much of its charm. This team shone brightly in the year 2012 beating Italy with a 4-0. This had been the most one sided victory in the history of Euro. But now, in Spain vs. Italy match, we just saw the embers on the Stade de France pitch. Italy not just defeated Spain; it snuffed out whatever remained out of the greatest collection of footballing talent. Spain has now reduced to a mere nothing. Fabregas who scored penalty in quarterfinal shootout against Italy in the year 2008, was completely transparent. Iniesta, who scored the winning goal in World Cup 2010 final against Netherlands, was completely hounded off the ball. Italian pursuers did not even think of giving him precious little time and space on the field.
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Vicente Del Bosque ran out of ideas against Antonio Conte. Antonio has one of the sharpest coaching minds in the world. One would never want to meet Conte in a dark alley on a pitch dark night. The energy and fury which he oozes on the touchline, continuously directing his boys with bawls and swinging arms like an ill tempered traffic cop, always make him an unmissable spectacle. To call this siesmic win, a mere another victory for much defensive minded Italian football, would be like describing Da Vinci as a bright guy! It would definitely not do any justice to Conte or his boys who executed their cunning master plans so meticulously. It was written off before the tournament began that Italy is more than the sum of their parts. The large part is their coach Antonio Conte. If he would have been hailed after Azzurri beat Belgium with 2-0 in their opening match, he deserves to be so again as Italy shocked the reigning champions (Spain) at Stade de France. The champion (Italy) asphyxiated their opponents in the first half itself. Rather than defending, Italy opted for all attacking. Spain created nothing worthy and could not break down the Italians. Conte’s men just soaked up the budding pressure.
Collapse of Spain in 2014 World Cup had already seemed to be the beginning of an end. But this victory, as it was so unequivocal, marked the beginning of an entirely new era. The only difference being, the limelight is now in the hands of Italy and not in the hands of Spain. But without any doubt, Italy deserves all the limelight it is getting now.