In case you were following the Euro 2012, which has just ended on Sunday with the final game of Italy vs. Spain, you may have been as astonished as many by the kind of football that was on display.
Although Spain defended their title by beating Italy 4:0, this historically high final score does not tell the whole story of the game. Italy was down to 10 players for the last 30 minutes or so due to injuries, which made it impossible for them to catch up to Spain, already leading 2:0 at that time.
Nonetheless, the crowd in the stadium in Kiev saw history in the making by what now – even given all the difficulties comparing eras – may be considered the best national soccer team of all time. Spain is the first team to win three major tournaments in a row (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012), all the while cultivating their own distinct style of play and not conceding a single goal in any of the knockout stages!
Tiki-taka, as the style is usually called, has not only prompted admiration, but also harsh criticism. It is characterized by a quick passing game that is not very forward-oriented, but instead relies on keeping possession of the ball as long as possible. The rationale is that, eventually, chances for scoring are going to just "present themselves." This Euro even saw Spain regularly starting a player as a "false nine" (a midfielder nominally occupying the position of a lone striker), which in essence means playing with no striker at all. Spain remains very flexible, however, as attested by the unusually high goal count on Sunday (the likely outcome of a pure tiki-taka game being 1:0). Still, every goal was scored by a different player! Tiki-taka as a tactic is in standing room at 796.3342 Strategy and tactics [of soccer].
While at the beginning of the tournament a match-up of Germany and Spain (almost a “clásico” in itself by now) sounded like a mouth-watering prospect, it didn't come to pass. Germany may have focused too much on Spain as their natural opponent after losing the Euro 2008 final and the World Cup 2010 semifinal against them, so that they were not able to overcome an excellent Italian side in the semis this time. Well, the qualifiers for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil have already begun, so the deck will be shuffled again very soon.