Stoppage Time: Hard to argue with history
(Sports Network) - Four years ago in Austria, a promising generation of players fulfilled its considerable potential and captured Spain's first major title since 1964.
The 1-0 triumph over Germany in the final of Euro 2008 was a breakthrough for a nation that had come close so many times, only to leave empty-handed.
But four years later, after a dominant 4-0 win over Italy in the Euro 2012 final on Sunday, Spain became the first team to ever win three major competitions in succession, thrusting itself into the discussion of the greatest teams of all time.
Including its 1-0 extra time victory over the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup final, Spain has not only established itself as the most dominant team of the era, but also one that stands the test of time.
Spain will not go down as the most exciting team ever, with La Roja preferring possession over panache, a style that has drawn boos from opposing crowds at this summer's tournament.
But what the Spanish lack in style they certainly make up for in substance, carving up opponents with the precision of a surgeon during their history- making run.
During the past four years, Spain has offered up a clinic in consistency, winning all 10 of its knockout round games at major tournaments by a combined score of 14-0.
For all the attacking talent that Spain possesses, it is a stingy defense led by goalkeeper Iker Casillas that has been the backbone of this Spanish juggernaut.
Spain captured its first World Cup title in 2010, but maybe its most impressive achievement came this summer at Poland and Ukraine, where the Spanish were able to win yet another trophy despite wearing a massive target on their back.
Germany and the Netherlands were viewed as teams that figured to take a real run at Spain's title this summer, while the Spanish were playing without defensive stalwart Carles Puyol and all-time leading scorer David Villa, who were out because of injuries.
Villa spearheaded the Spanish attack at the 2010 World Cup, and with fellow striker Fernando Torres struggling to find his brilliant best, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque opted to instead use six midfield players, with Cesc Fabregas playing further up the field than usual.
Sergio Ramos moved inside to take the place of Puyol, while Jordi Alba emerged as one of the best left backs at the tournament with a standout effort for Spain, illustrating the teams tremendous ability to adjust.
While most teams have spent the past few years attempting to devise a way to stop Spain, the Spanish have simply continued to play a well-balanced team game and turn away challenge after challenge.
Pele's great Brazil teams are often held up as the standard against which all other teams are measured. And while the level of talent on those Brazil sides is undeniable, Spain's level of efficiency is unmatched.
Four years ago, Spain was a team that was mentioned among the biggest underachievers in the world.
Now, after three straight major titles, it's hard not to call Spain the best team of all time.
Attentions will now turn to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, where the task will get even tougher, and the pressure even greater.
No European side has ever won a World Cup in South America But then again, no European side as strong as Spain has ever competed for one.
Making history has become a habit for Spain, which will return virtually the same group of players two years from now for the World Cup.
With Spain having already completed an unprecedented run of success, the only measuring stick left is staring back in the mirror.