Humbled Italy praise best team in the world
Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon spoke of his disappointment at having missed out on the Euro 2012 title but said he could only congratulate winners Spain.
The world champions were a cut above yesterday and romped to a 4-0 thrashing that was accentuated by Italy playing the last half hour a man down after Thiago Motta limped off once coach Cesare Prandelli had already exhausted his substitutions.
By then Italy were already two goals down and reduced to virtual spectators, according to midfielder Daniele De Rossi. But for Buffon there was no shame in losing to the best.
"For many of our squad it was their first final so that's why it's a huge disappointment," he said.
"But it's also true that in such an important match when there's the substantial difference that you saw, all you can do is clap your hands and applaud the others."
Buffon said he could only think of one other occasion when he had played in a side so totally dominated: a 3-0 Confederations Cup group stage defeat to Brazil in 2009. "I had a great view of the red waves from the first minute to the last," said the goalkeeper of Spain's performance.
"They played with great knowledge of being strong and of what they wanted and knowing that they had already won a lot so they knew how to achieve this type of result. "And against a team (Italy) that physically was in the red. "Maybe in the Confederations Cup against Brazil (it was similar), we lost 3-0 and were never in the game, but this is a little different because it was a final."
Italy had drawn 1-1 with Spain in their opening group game of the tournament in a match that could have gone either way. But by the time they arrived at the final, they were always playing a day after their opponents and therefore had 24 hours less to prepare.
And when Spain shifted up the gears, they couldn't respond.
"We played another match like this in the first game of the tournament but we were fresh, agile and fired up. It was a different game, now they're even stronger," said Daniele De Rossi.
"The difference was that they're better and they're more used to playing at a certain level right to the end (of a tournament). But the huge difference (in performance) was also due to physical condition. "They're probably better than us and everyone else but they also had difficulties in the tournament. "There wasn't such a big difference (in the group game) but it wasn't a final. "We could even have won it but (Sunday night) we never had that feeling of being on the same level. "And when Thiago Motta went off, it was over and we were just looking (helplessly) at each other."
De Rossi also insisted that after the match-fixing scandal that blighted their preparation before leaving for the Euros, and having been thumped 3-0 by Russia in their only warm-up match, Italy have at least played with pride and improved along the way.
"I'm proud that I was part of this group. The most important thing was igniting the passion of Italians. "After the scandals before the Euro, we've just been professionals who sometimes give emotions but unfortunately the disappointment from not winning is gigantic, but there are also better teams. "We've taken a huge step up. From the first game to the semi-final we improved a lot.
"We ran hard, those who came in always did well, we improved as a group. We were a bit cooked for the final and when you're against the best team in the world you can't afford to not be 100 percent physically because it goes like this. "You're a spectator, less even."