Spain rewrote history after winning three consecutive major tournaments in succession between 2008 and 2012, ending decades of underachievement with a dominant run to become arguably the greatest international team of all time.
After winning the European Championship to end a 44-year wait for silverware in 2008, La Roja secured a maiden World Cup triumph two years later, before defending their European title at Euro 2012.
Their latter final victory over Italy was one which proved an exhibition of the principles that had seen Spain dominate international football, a four-goal thrashing of the Azzurri sealing Vincente del Bosque’s side’s place in history.
Here is the Spain XI that started their 4-0 win over Italy in the Euro 2012 final.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
Spain’s captain and most experienced player, Casillas arrived at Euro 2012 with 137 caps having spent more than a decade as La Roja’s number one goalkeeper.
‘San Iker’ had captained the side to triumphs at Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010, before playing an influential role as Spain made it three consecutive major tournament successes.
He failed to concede a single goal following the group stage opener against Italy, setting a new tournament record of 509 minutes without conceding, whilst he made a crucial save from Joao Moutinho in the shoot-out success against Portugal in the semi-finals.
Right-back: Alvaro Arbeloa
Perhaps one of the least heralded talents in this side, Arbeloa was nonetheless a valued member of each tournament-winning squad and started the final at right-back.
Arbeloa had enjoyed a two season spell in the Premier League with Liverpool before rejoining former club Real Madrid, forming part of the team that won La Liga with a record 100 points and 121 goals scored in the season prior to Euro 2012.
Centre-back: Gerard Pique
Carles Puyol’s retirement saw Gerard Pique partnered with Sergio Ramos at the heart of the Spain defence, the duo impregnable during La Roja’s run to the showpiece.
The Barcelona defender produced a fine performance in the final against Italy, nullifying the threat of Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli with a typically assured display at centre-back.
Centre-back: Sergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos inherited Puyol’s role as the leader of the backline and enjoyed a strong tournament, cementing his status as one of the best centre-backs in world football.
Ramos featured at right-back during the previous two tournaments before moving into a central role, where he has since established himself amongst the best of his generation after winning five league titles and four Champions League trophies with Real Madrid.
The defender is the highest-capped European player in international football history after making 180 appearances for Spain and remains available for selection despite missing Euro 2020 following injury problems last season.
Left-back: Jordi Alba
Brilliant throughout with his lung-busting runs forward from left-back, Barcelona had already agreed a deal for the Valencia star pre-Euro 2012 and his performances indicated it was money well spent.
Alba burst forward to score Spain’s second in the final for his first international goal, his incredible energy having been shown time and time again during a career that has delivered five league titles and the Champions League since moving to the Camp Nou.
One of the few new inclusions from the previous tournament-winning squads, Alba’s strong showings at the finals saw him named in the Team of the Tournament.
Midfield: Sergio Busquets
Spain’s success was built on a conveyor belt of possession that meant Del Bosque started the final without a recognised centre-forward amongst his options, La Roja’s incredible collection of midfield talent passing teams off the pitch.
Busquets – as ever – orchestrated play from a deep role, the press-resistant Barcelona midfielder helping dictate the rhythm of Spain’s football throughout the finals.
Arguably the player who Spain’s transformation evolved around, the diminutive Barcelona midfielder was the lynchpin of era-defining sides both at club and international level, his ability to find space and teammates setting the tempo in midfield.
Xavi was excellent in the final and set up two goals with defence-splitting passes, first finding the galloping run of Jordi Alba, before sliding in Fernando Torres to make it three without reply.
There has never been – and perhaps never will be – as talented a group of midfielders featuring simultaneously for one nation, Xavi and Spain’s pass masters monopolising possession and creating a dominant dynasty at international level.
Midfield: Xabi Alonso
Del Bosque did his utmost to squeeze each of his midfield greats into one side, with Xabi Alonso an influential figure during Spain’s run to the final, scoring twice in the 2-0 win over France in the last eight.
Alonso was an elegant deep-lying midfielder who starred for some of the continent’s finest sides, winning four league titles and two Champions League trophies during spells at Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Whilst Spain’s football was built on sharp and incisive short passes, Alonso had the range to go long when required and contributed to shutting down the threat of Italy playmaker Andrea Pirlo in the final.
Right-midfield: David Silva
Opened the scoring in the final with a header from Cesc Fabregas’ cross and was an outlet all evening, drifting infield and occupying half-spaces in Spain’s free-flowing and fluid attack.
Silva started all six of Spain’s fixtures at the tournament and was brilliant in the 4-0 destruction of Ireland in the group stage, scoring one and providing two more in an outstanding attacking display.
The former Manchester City icon finished his international career with 125 caps and 35 goals, the latter the fourth-highest figure in the history of the national side.
Left-midfield: Andres Iniesta
Iniesta was named as the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2012 with the Barcelona great at the peak of his powers, roaming around the pitch effortlessly and driving at the Italian defence at will.
The midfielder was named as Man of the Match in three separate fixtures including the final win, with Iniesta also completing a unique treble after winning the accolade in the finals of the World Cup (2010), European Championship (2012) and Champions League (2015).
He was substituted after 87 minutes for Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata, who came off the bench to seal Spain’s success with La Roja’s fourth goal of the final.
False nine: Cesc Fabregas
Fabregas was tasked with leading the Spanish attack in a false nine role and was excellent during the final win, bursting away from Georgio Chiellini to set up David Silva for the final’s opening goal.
Fabregas’ creativity and evasive movement created space and opportunities for Spain throughout, before being substituted with 15 minutes remaining for Fernando Torres.
Torres came off the bench to become the first player in history to score in two separate European Championship finals, having also netted during the 1-0 win over Germany at Euro 2008.
The Chelsea forward then turned provider, teeing up club teammate Juan Mata as Spain secured an emphatic win and became the first team to defend the European Championship.