Kiev – Spain coach Vicente del Bosque hailed a “great generation of footballers” after seeing his side romp to a 4-0 win over Italy in the final of Euro 2012 in Kiev on Sunday.
The one-sided victory made Spain the first team to successfully defend a European Championship title, as well as the first side in history to win three consecutive major international tournaments.
Several of the team's players, including Xavi, captain Iker Casillas, and man of the match Andres Iniesta, have featured in all three triumphs, and Del Bosque said they were a shining example for the country.
“We're talking about a great generation of footballers,” he said.
“They have roots, and they know how to play together because they come from a country where they learn to play properly.
“We've done a great job. We have some great lads who play abroad, which was impossible before. We didn't really have players abroad and now foreign clubs want our players, so this is a great era for Spanish football.”
Sunday's result at the Olympic Stadium made Del Bosque only the second coach to have won both the World Cup and the European Championship, after Helmut Schoen's twin successes with West Germany in the mid-1970s.
The 61-year-old former Real Madrid manager also became the first coach to hold titles from the World Cup, the European Championship and the Champions League.
As he had done on two previous occasions at the tournament, Del Bosque elected to field Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas as a 'false nine' centre-forward at the tip of his side's attack.
It proved an extremely successful tactic against Italy, but Del Bosque dismissed suggestions that he had revolutionised the game with his tactical innovation.
“There's not only one (way of playing) football,” he said.
“The important thing is to score goals. We have a very balanced team. We have security in our players. We have great strikers, but we chose to play with players who went better with our style.”
First-half goals from David Silva and Jordi Alba put Spain 2-0 up at half-time, and Italy's hopes of a comeback were dashed just after the hour when Thiago Motta's injury-enforced exit left them with only 10 players.
Spain ran in two goals through substitutes Fernando Torres and Juan Mata in the final 10 minutes, but Del Bosque conceded that Motta's departure had distorted the game's outcome.
“This is sport. This can happen,” he said.
“We've played in friendlies where we also lost 4-0. There are not many differences between national teams.
“They had bad luck because Thiago Motta was injured and then everything turned in our favour.”
Applauded into the room by journalists at his post-game press conference, Del Bosque saluted the foundations laid down by his predecessor, Luis Aragones, who guided Spain to victory at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.
“With the win in Vienna, Luis Aragones showed us the way and now we just have to go on,” he said.
“There will be more challenges. There's qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, with Finland, France, Belarus and Georgia in our group, and then the Confederations Cup, when we will represent Europe and will want to do well.” – Sapa-AFP