Del Bosque's men leave best for last

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2012, 12:00am


Boring Spanish? Hardly. Spellbinding? They certainly were. Best football team in the world? They are now. A team seared into football history? Without question.

'Creating History Together' was the Euro 2012 slogan. And the Spanish delivered when it mattered - in the final. What a riposte to the earlier claims they dispatch their opponents with humdrum football. They have secured a unique place in football's long history by becoming the first team to win three successive major tournaments. And they did so with such emphatic style.

If there was any boredom in the last 90 minutes of this sizzling tournament, it might have been among the Spanish fans from celebrating so many goals. It was a perfect La Furia Roja performance, made easier in the second half by 10-man Italy. Four brilliant goals - two in each half - and each worked with a lavish sprinkling upon every blade of grass at the Olympic Stadium turf of that magical dust, tiki-taka.

One wonders if Vicente del Bosque teaches his squad the art of tapestry-weaving behind closed-door training sessions, and makes them thread fine silk through the eye of a needle with their toes. Such is the embroidery of the Spanish national team's football. The players weave elaborate rings around their opponents; their visionary passes - as good if not better than the goals - ties their rivals up in knots.

Once this galaxy of flame-red comets passes its zenith, we might never see the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi and Andres Iniesta again for a generation or more. A constellation should be named after them while they still sparkle. The hoarse Spanish faithful would still find a cheer to welcome such an honour.

The Spanish supporters sung long into the Kiev night and made permanent footprints on the terraces with their fandangos and cachuchas. Above the canto you could just hear the numerous sporting records on the pitch being broken - the biggest margin of victory ever seen in a final at this tournament, Casillas the first player to win 100 international games and Del Bosque the first coach to win the European championship, the World Cup and the Champions League, and so on.

What night. What a game. What a team. What fans. What a tournament. The united colours of European and world football ran down the streets of Kiev after Spain's dazzling waltz into the history books. The Italians enjoyed support from many Ukrainians, while thousands of Germans, clutching the tickets they bought in high hopes of a Deutschland final, turned up regardless. Large groups of Russians, Poles, English, Argentinian, Irish, Americans and Asians were among the great diaspora brought together to feast on Spanish football.

Some critics claim that Del Bosque cannot evolve his side any further, stuck as he is between strikers. What nonsense. To have labelled Spain boring shows what border-line pathological perfectionists we supporters have become. We will see how Del Bosque plans his next moves on the road to Rio. Of more interest will be how the other nations seek to break down the Spanish defence and emulate their winning style. Portugal came close with their attacking approach but in national FA boardrooms across the globe, heads are being scratched.

And what a road trip. Over 10,000 kilometres will be on the trip-o-meter of my Land Rover when I finally park in Hampshire in a few days' time after the long drive home. I have journeyed to all points of the Euro 2012 compass: north to Gdansk to watch Spain against Ireland in the wintry weather of a Baltic June; I saw two games in Warsaw - the opener, Poland against Greece, then the battle on the bridge and on the pitch with the Russians.

I journeyed south and across the border to Lviv to see the Germans deconstruct Denmark. Then it was on to Kiev, Kharkov and Donetsk to see England against Ukraine, then back to the Ukrainian capital to see the miserable Three Lions miss their penalties against the Italians. I returned once more back to the coal fields and bling of Donetsk to see the Iberian derby, Portugal against Spain, and then watched Italy stun Germany under the shadow of a huge statue of Lenin in Kharkov. And then once more back to Kiev to witness the relentless red tide.

As soon as I press send on my laptop, I will be clambering into my Land Rover. I have fished out the jerrycans ready to fill with cheap diesel at the last gas station in Ukraine. I should have enough fuel to power me back to southern England, where my vehicle will once more be put into mothballs.

I hope to make the Polish border tonight, then Camp Wok in Warsaw by tomorrow, where I shall bid farewell to the good friends there. Then it's foot down all the way to Berlin and a date with autobahns to speed me to Dunkirk in time to catch the ferry back to Britain.

I should be home by Friday, in time to repack and catch the plane back to Beijing. I shall of course be taking the bagful of football scarves, each bought to order - 'Don't forget France!' - and requests from my young son down the wobbling Skype line. He'll ask me again where I have been. 'At the football, son.' 'Who won?' Guess.