Spain's players celebrate with the trophy after beating Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 final
AFP IS CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT AFTER Spain's football team made history by becoming the first side ever to successfully defend their European title after a resounding 4-0 victory over Italy in the Euro 2012 final in Kiev.
Vicente del Bosque's side also became the first team ever to win three consecutive major tournaments following their triumph at the 2012 World Cup in South Africa.
So renowned for their metronomic passing, Spain found their rhythm quickly and grabbed the lead after just 14 minutes when Cesc Fabregas beat Giorgio Chiellini on the righthand byline before chipping in a cross that midfielder David Silva headed home.
La Roja doubled their advantage five minutes before half time when Xavi sprung the offside trap to pick out the onrushing left-back Jordi Alba who slotted coolly past Gianluigi Buffon.
Worse was to follow for Cesare Prandelli's side after 62 minutes when Italy's third and final substitute Thiago Motta, who had only come on four minutes earlier, was forced to limp off with what looked liked a hamstring strain.
Down to ten men, Italy's task of getting a vital goal back began to look beyond their reach and Spain showed no mercy as substitutes Fernando Torres and then Juan Mata scored late on to complete Italy's misery.
"We came up against a terrific side," admitted Prandelli afterwards.
"They're world champions. Obviously, when you go down to 10 men, the game's over."
"Against Spain, you accept losing more easily," said Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon. "It was a great adventure. In a final, you have to win but today we played against a team of incredible quality."
Read on to find out how all the action unfolded in the National Stadium in the Ukrainian capital as Del Bosque's team wrote their names firmly into the record books.
2130 GMT: More reaction from my colleague Anna Cuenca in Madrid: "At the famed Cibeles stone fountain in the city centre, depicting the goddess of nature on a chariot being hauled by lions, workers have finished erecting a massive stage to welcome the team with a victory party tomorrow.
"On their return home, the players will be greeted by King Juan Carlos before being hailed by adoring fans in an open-top bus that will travel through the capital's streets," she writes.
2125 GMT: Spain have now equalled Germany's record of three European Championship wins - 1964, 2008 and now 2012 (Germany won it twice in 1972 and 1980 as West Germany).
2120 GMT: Italy's press are already acknowledging Spain's remarkable achievement of winning back-to-back European titles -- but they also salute their players for reaching the final.
"Thanks anyway, Italy," the online edition of la Repubblica reads, as the country's daily papers recognised Spain's superiority in their 4-0 victory in Kiev over a tired but proud Azzurri.
"Spanish Greats," said the website of the Gazzetta dello sport, adding that Cesare Prandelli's side were no match for "the technical and athletic superiority of the Iberians".
2110 GMT: "Leonardo Bonucci was absolutely bawling his eyes out as he went up to receive his runners-up medal. Balotelli, finally convinced back onto the pitch, had a face of thunder, manager Cesare Prandelli looked as cool and suave as ever!" Barnaby adds.
2105 GMT: AFP's Barnaby Chesterman, covering the final game at the stadium in Kiev, gives this assessment of how the game went: "That injury to Thiago Motta, reducing Italy to 10 men, basically killed this game stone dead.
"Antonio Di Natale's chance apart, Italy hadn't looked particularly likely to get back into this and then, chasing shadows with a numerical disadvantage... well, it was already a long night!"
2055 GMT: Captain Iker Casillas holds the trophy aloft Spain are crowned champions again!! The party has well and truly started at the Olympic Stadium - a spectacular fireworks display begins to cap off the moment.
2053 GMT: Balotelli stormed off down the tunnel at the final whistle but thankfully came back out pretty quickly to join his team-mates - he's clearly pretty upset but was one of Italy's better players tonight. He goes up to collect his medal but looks pretty glum.
2048 GMT: The Italian team is warmly applauded off by Spain's players - and veteran 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon gets plenty of pats on the back as they go up to collect their runners-up medals.
2044 GMT: Spain's celebrating players have bought their kids onto the pitch - there are a lot of them and all impossibly cute!
90 + 2 mins: FULL-TIME - Spain 4 Italy 0
SPAIN WIN EURO 2012!
They are the first team ever to successfully defend their European Championship title.
88 mins: GOAL! Spain 4 Italy 0
You have to feel a bit for Italy here who are out on their feet. Another through ball finds Torres on the edge of the area, the Chelsea striker picks out Mata with a deft right-footed flick and he sweeps the ball home from inside the area.
86 mins: SUBSTITUTION - Chelsea's Juan Mata gets a run-out for Spain, coming on for Andres Iniesta.
84 mins: GOAL! Spain 3 Italy 0
Fernando Torres puts the icing on Spain's cake - he's played in on the edge of the area by Xavi and curls a neat right-footed finish into the corner.
That really is game over.
80 mins: Spain, with an extra man, are continuing to dominate - a ball through to Fernando Torres and the Chelsea man almost gets hold of it.
Surprisingly both teams have had 50% of the possession in this game - you suspect Spain may have had a lot more of it in the attacking third though.
78 mins: Italy centre-back Federico Balzaretti challenges Ramos in the box and the Real Madrid defender goes down theatrically - Balzaretti is not impressed and neither is the referee.
75 mins: SUBSTITUTION - Cesc Fabregas is replaced by Chelsea striker Fernando Torres - Spain looking to rub salt in the wounds here...
73 mins: Spain are just keeping the ball now and frustrating the Italians here - and they're not holding back with their tackles either as Xabi Alonso goes over the ball and catches Balotelli. Not malicious though.
65 mins: More fan reaction from AFP's David Williams, outside the Marca sports bar in central Madrid: "Among dozens of beer-swilling fans who poured into the street at half time to smoke a cigarette is 23-year-old business administration student Miguel Revert, on a week's holiday in Madrid staying with a friend.
"I think Spain are playing their best game of the whole Euro," Revert says. "Jordi Alba has had a great tournament and deserved his goal.
"Today the whole country is united as one and everyone is involved in the Euro, and the crisis -- non-one is thinking about the crisis."
62 mins: More woe for Italy - Motta, just four minutes after coming on, has to go off with what looks like a hamstring injury. He's being helped down the tunnel - and Italy have no substitutions left so will have to play the remaining half hour with 10 men. Ouch.
59 mins: SUBSTITUTION - Del Bosque responds with a change of his own for Spain, bringing the quicksilver Pedro Rodriguez on for the goalscorer David Silva.
57 mins: SUBSTITUTION - Cesare Prandelli makes a change for Italy - Brazilian-born midfielder Thiago Motta replaces playmaker Riccardo Montolivo, as he did against Germany in the semi-final.
Italy need a goal and soon.
51 mins: What a chance for Italy! Riccardo Montolivo finds the Antonio Di Natale unmarked on the left of the area, just outside the six-yard box, but the Udinese striker's shot is saved by Casillas. He gets the ball back but can't pick out Balotelli with his ensuing cross.
48 mins: Spain pressing early on again through - great feet from Fabregas who dances through several defenders before toe-poking a shot at goal which Buffon gets hand to and Ignazio Abate clears. Close shave for Italy.
1949 GMT: KICK-OFF, SECOND HALF - They're under way again in Kiev... let's hope Italy hit back quickly and make a game of it.
SUBSTITUTION - Italy have made a change at the break with Antonio Di Natale on for Antonio Cassano.
1945 GMT: More from Anna Cuenca at the official 'fan zone' in Madrid where thousands of Spain fans have been revelling in a passing masterclass from their team: "Another huge roar at the Fan Park as Spain score their second goal. La Roja supporters hug and kiss each other, screaming with delight: 'We're going to win this game, we're going to win this game.'
No points for creativity then - maybe they can think of something more memorable by the final whistle!
1936 GMT: "Some fans in the streets of central Madrid already singing 'Campeones, Campeones' (Champions, Champions)," writes my colleague David Williams from the Spanish capital.
45 + 2 mins: HALF-TIME - Spain 2 Italy 0
45 + 1 mins: Sweet strike from Spain's David Silva outside the area but it's straight at Gianluigi Buffon who takes it in his midriff.
45 mins: YELLOW CARD - Italy defender Andrea Barzagli in the book for a cynical lunge that takes out the onrushing Iniesta.
41 mins: GOAL! Spain 2 Italy 0
Left-back Jordi Alba passes to Xavi and then streaks through the Italian defence - he receives a return pass that breaks the offside trap before slipping the ball under Buffon.
It's a long way back for Italy now!
35 mins: "Whose fans are chanting the loudest at the moment? Poland's, that's whose!" says AFP's Barnaby Chesterman at the Olympic Stadium.
"But the locals have just woken up now and drowned out "Polska" with 'U-kra-i-na' - don't adjust your TV sets, we are still watching Spain-Italy!"
33 mins: Powerful drive at goal from Italy's Antonio Cassano from outside the area but Casillas punches clear.
27 mins: A bit more promise for the Italians as a fine cross from Balzaretti down the left almost picks out Balotelli at the far post by 'keeper Iker Casillas stretches out a hand and palms it away.
25 mins: YELLOW CARD - Spain's Gerard Pique in the book for a two-footed tackle - he beat Antonio Cassano to the ball but it looked reckless.
20 mins: SUBSTITUTION - blow for Italy as centre-back Giorgio Chiellini is forced to come off with a knee injury - he's replaced by Federico Balzaretti.
14 mins: GOAL! Spain 1 Italy 0
Brilliant work from Fabregas who beats Giorgio Chiellini, gets to the byline to the right of Buffon's goal and dinks the ball back into the middle for midfielder David Silva who heads Spain into the lead from six yards out!
10 mins: Great chance for Spain! Xavi plays a pass into Cesc Fabregas who returns the favour on the edge of the area and he fires a shot inches over Buffon's crossbar. Spain's attacking threat is already on display...
8 mins: Spain have a free-kick 30 yards out but a pile-driver from Ramos flies over the crossbar. The defender is in the thick of the action again a minute later when he rises above Chiellini in the Italian defence but heads over.
First half-chance of the game to La Roja.
5 mins: Early ball into the Spanish box from the left almost finds Mario Balotelli by Sergio Ramos gets across him to clear. Irritable reaction from Balotelli - let's hope he can keep his head tonight...
1847 GMT: KICK-OFF - After a ten-second countdown over the PA, the final of Euro 2012 has kicked off in Kiev - here's hoping it's a cracker...
1842 GMT: Both sets of players are lined up for the national anthems - Italy's first - 'Il Canto degli Italiani' - and then Spain's (which has no lyrics, interestingly...)
1836 GMT: AFP reporter Anna Cuenca who is with Spain fans in Madrid has just sent this in: "The song 'There's no two without three!' blares out at top volume from the huge screens where supporters welcome news of the starting line-up decided by coach Vicente Del Bosque with shrieks of delight."
The song is no doubt a reference to Spain's attempt to record a third consecutive major title in Kiev this evening.
It would add to their triumph at Euro 2008, when they beat Germany 1-0 in the final in Vienna, and their World Cup win in South Africa two year's later when they beat the Dutch in Johannesburg.
1825 GMT: And here's some analysis on some of the key battles ahead from Barnaby at the Olympic Stadium: "Vicente Del Bosque's Fabregas experiment didn't work too well against Italy in the group game but he's going for it again anyway.
"Italy playing a different formation this time around but they should manage to keep their shape regardless and not get dragged out of place by the lack of an out-and-out striker.
"For me the crunch clash will be the nippy, little David Silva up against big, cumbersome Chiellini."
1818 GMT: Another update as kick-off nears from my colleague Barnaby Chesterman at the Olympic Stadium: "This will surprise no-one who's been following Italy's progress through the tournament but the deep red shirts far outnumber the blue ones in the ground half an hour before kick-off.
"Not much atmosphere as yet, just noisy adverts playing on the big screens!"
1815 GMT: A little snippet from my colleague in Rome FranÃ§oise Kadri who is with fans preparing to watch the match from the Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman chariot racing stadium in the Italian capital: "The fans are benefiting from the shade thrown by four huge screens set up by the town hall in this enormous overheated bowl.
"Many of them are playing cards and others listen to music as they try to stay calm in the build-up to the game."
1806 GMT: An amusing aside in the build-up to kick-off (just 40 minutes away now...) -- it seems Italy midfielder Thiago Motta nearly missed the bus taking the team to the final!
The door to the Azzurri's bus was closed when the Brazil-born star ran out of the team hotel and was able to get on board just in time, television pictures broadcast by UEFA showed, as a dozen or so hotel staff who had turned out to wish them well looked on with grins on their faces.
1800 GMT: Starting line-ups for the final are in from the Olympic Stadium in Kiev... "Cesc Fabregas gets the nod up front for Spain while Ignazio Abate comes back in at right-back for Italy after injury and Giorgio Chiellini holds onto the left-back berth," says AFP's Barnaby Chesterman at the stadium.
Iker Casillas (capt); Alvaro Arbeloa, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso; David Silva, Xavi, Andres Iniesta; Cesc Fabregas
Coach: Vicente del Bosque
Gianluigi Buffon (capt); Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio; Riccardo Montolivo; Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli
Referee: Pedro Proenca (POR)
1752 GMT: Remember Spain have already faced the Azzurri in their opening group game at this year's tournament - way back on June 10 - when a goal from Barcelona's Cesc Fabregas cancel out Antonio Di Natale's opener for Cesare Prandelli's side.
That draw ended Spain's run of 14 successive victories.
WELCOME TO AFP'S LIVE REPORT on the final of the Euro 2012 football championships which sees reigning World and European champions Spain take on Italy in Kiev as they attempt to become the first team ever to win three consecutive major titles.
Kick-off at the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian capital is just over hour away at 1845 GMT - stay with us for all the team news and build-up with input from our team of English, French and Spanish reporters at the game.