Euro 2012 has come to an end and it was pretty good viewing for fans of each nation and neutrals alike. It will in all likelihood be the last of its kind as Michel Platini and his UEFA counterparts are looking to revamp the entire tournament in a way to maximise profit. The tournament will expand to 24 teams next time around, which means that half of Europe will be able to qualify for the 2016 tournament. Therefore basically every noteworthy nation in Europe will be there, heavily diluting the quality.
As things stand there are very few blowouts at the Euros (other than this year’s final!) because the playing field is quite level, more so than the World Cup or perhaps even the South American Championships, but with the huge influx of teams there are bound to be some drubbings. The other option being tossed about is to have the whole continent host the tournament rather than one or two host nations. This will make the tournament cheaper to run for the hosts as they will not have to update their stadia or transportation for the large amount of fans travelling, but the downside to this is that the fans won’t be mixing together in their little tournament communities as they have at every major soccer tournament for the past seven decades, simply flying to the respective cities where their team is playing rather than all packing into a few cities. There are pros and cons to each side, but that is the way UEFA is taking it.
Looking back at Euro 2012, one must dissect the work done by repeat champions Spain and how they have managed to conquer Europe again. In the final Spain produced their best performance with Cesc Fabregas restored to his false nine position, which at the beginning of the tournament seemed like lunacy but now in hindsight appears to have worked rather well. Fabregas was probably not even the false nine we all believed him to be, as he did not drop deep and simply played like and made the runs of an actual center forward – very successful in doing so. Italy on the other hand were outclassed and unfortunate.
Giorgio Chiellini started at left back, which was unfortunate for the excellent Federico Balzaretti with Ignazio Abate returning from injury to reclaim his spot at right-back. This proved to be a mistake on multiple levels by Cesare Prandelli: to begin with Chiellini did not have the pace to keep up with the pace of David Silva or Andres Iniesta and his distribution going forward was utterly wasteful – injured after 20 minutes, it was unfortunate to waste a substitute so early in the game but Balzaretti was able to rightly come on and play a much better game. These early substitutes would come back to haunt Italy though.
The main question asked of Spain’s formation other than the lack of a striker was where would the width come from? Jesus Navas came on a few times to great effect and there was some talk before the match started that he could replace Xavi to create more work down the flanks, so Silva and Iniesta could drift inside as they like to do. This however was not a problem as Italy also play very narrow with a midfield packed full of central players, and starting with Chiellini and Abate as full-backs was never going to be as adventurous or fluid going forward as Spain’s Alvaro Arbeloa and Jordi Alba.