The 2012 Euro Cup wrapped up on Canada Day as Italy-Spain clashed in what was a match that featured the defending champions and World Cup winners Spain against a scrappy Italian squad led by Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balloteli who led the Azzurri to a two-nil upset victory over the undefeated Germans in the semi-final. While the game wasn’t the cracking back and forth match that fans expected in a Germany-Spain final the footballing world expected, the four-nil Spanish rout made Spain the first repeat Euro Cup winners and continued the unbelievable Spanish dominance on the world stage.
Spain’s run from being the nation that always “almost won” to two European Championships and a World Cup in three years has cemented Spain in the argument as being one of the greatest assemblies of footballing talent ever.
Spain’s title winning run is just one of the many reasons why another stellar and memorable Euro Cup proves that football is truly the greatest game on Earth despite it’s haters and critics.
From the opening game of the tournament which featured a loud Polish crowd cheer on their country as tournament co-hosts against Greece to the tournament final the fan atmosphere in Poland and Ukraine was much better and bright than what was expected amidst the controversy of hooliganism and racism entering the tournament.
Despite a riot during a Russia-Poland fixture that would have caused flares of fan violence regardless of where in Europe the tournament took place, UEFA did an excellent job balancing allowing the spirit and passion that makes tournaments like this great and avoiding danger and putting a black eye on the sport and its fans.
While on the topic of passion and fans, Ireland’s contingent showed what pride for your country truly is by travelling in large numbers and constantly chanting throughout a very dismal performance in games against Croatia, Spain and Italy.
The Irish may not have played the best on the pitch, but their effort and the heart of their fans unwavering support was an underrated highlight of the tournament.
Other fan highlights include the images of fans still chanting and sitting in their seats as Ukraine-France’s group stage match was delayed due to a massive thunderstorm, the images of fans in their quirky outfits yelling and chanting waiting for the game to resume added to the craziness of a rare match delay.
A great stat for the casual fan who thinks soccer doesn’t have enough scoring: Not one group stage game ended in a nil-nil draw, which is pretty much every soccer critic’s cheap shot at the sport. Even Spain and Portugal’s nil-nil extra time draw in the semi-finals was a back and forth match that featured several scoring chances and provided an exciting drama that any sports fan could appreciate and a penalty shoot-out that did not disappoint.
Penalty shootouts are generally the bane of tournament football as you have to decide a one hundred and twenty minute game where everything has been put out on the pitch with a mini game, but the drama that Italy-England and Spain-Portugal’s penalty shootouts provided were back and forth nail-biting finishes and saw the better team advance in each situation.
Germany’s exit after being the tournament’s only team to win every one of their matches in a classic match with rivals Italy shocked the world and provided one of the game’s more seminal moments when victim of racial abuse and often maligned striker Mario Balloteli scored two highlight reel goals in the first half to give Germany a shocking two-nil hole to overcome and the image of Balloteli taking a yellow card for ripping his shirt off in pure shock and elation after his long distance strike to put away the game might be an early candidate for sports moment of the year.
The young Italian is a former orphan and overcame a rough childhood and constant criticism from the media for his aloof and sometimes selfish antics to become the most impactful player of the tournament and an Italian hero in one of the most full circle stories of the year in sports thus far.
Fernando Torres’ redemption song was also a top moment of Euro 2012 as he won the Golden Boot for tournament’s top goal scorer despite coming on as a late minute substitute for the majority of Spain’s matches. The Spanish striker has been the victim of strings of bad luck at the club level for his EPL side Chelsea and seeing the streaky striker make the most of his chances in a truly efficient tournament put smiles on the faces of Spanish supporters and put breath into a once dying hope of Torres ever returning to being one of the game’s best scorers.
Euro 2012 was a competitive, and drama-filled month of sports that drew the attention of the world for nearly thirty days and even grew into a major event in Canada as TSN’s extensive coverage of the tournament saw a spike in viewership even drawing well over 600, 000 unique views of it’s 20$ per subscriber online streaming of the tournament.
Euro 2012 showed once again football is the choice sport for the entire world and maybe, just maybe showed Canada is ready to embrace the beautiful game. Despite the blow hards who call the game “boring” or whine about the “divers” and “fake injuries” of the game, football fans know it is the purest showing of passion and sport, mixing love for country and city into a ninety minute game. You can call it soccer, football, futbol and decry it all you want, but Euro 2012 once again showed that football reigns supreme.