Now that Spain has become the first European team in soccer history to win three consecutive major tournaments—having scooped up the 2008 Euro, 2010 World Cup, and 2012 Euro titles—they’ve moved front-and-center in all conversations regarding the greatest teams ever.
There are multiple candidates for that title, from the Dutch and West German teams of the 1970s, the Hungary side of the 1950s, several eras of Brazilian teams, and France’s team from the late 1990s to the early oughts.
But most observers agree that it comes down to Brazil’s team from the early 1970s and the 2008–12 Spanish side.
We could argue subjective style points all day, but right now, let’s take a look at some hard data:
• As mentioned, Spain is the first team from Europe to win three straight major tournaments.
• The last 71 times Spain has taken a 1-0 lead, they’ve won—a span stretching back to 2006.
• Spain’s 4-0 win over Italy in the Euro 2012 final is the widest margin of victory ever in a Euro or World Cup final.
• Spain hasn’t lost in its last 12 European Championship matches (nine wins, three draws)—a record for the event.
• With a 60.03% possession rate per game, Spain had more of the ball than any other side in the competition (the Republic of Ireland had the least possession, with 39.52%).
• La Furia Roja averaged 626.3 passes per game, more than any other team at Euro 2012 (the Republic of Ireland averaged the fewest, with 221.3 per match).
• Spain has not given up a goal in its last five European Championship games, another Euro record.
• Except for the 2009 Confederations Cup—when they lost to the United States 2-0 in the semis, and defeated South Africa 3-2 in the consolation match—Spain has not conceded a single goal in the knockout stages of a tournament since 2006.
Bonus fact: Only one team has beaten both Euro finalists—Italy and Spain—in the past three years, and that is … wait for it … the United States.
H/T’s: BBC, ESPN, RefBaiter