Take heart Italy, you're not alone

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli (back right) comforts Gianluigi Buffon (front left), Leonardo Bonucci...

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli (back right) comforts Gianluigi Buffon (front left), Leonardo Bonucci (back left) and Federico Balzaretti after their loss to Spain in the Euro 2012 final at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, July 1, 2012. (CHARLES PLATIAU/Reuters)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:36 PM ET

If it wasn't Italy, it would have been someone else.

Still shell-shocked following the most lopsided European championship final in the tournament's 50-year history, Spain's 4-0 win over the Azzurri Saturday in Kiev saw the Italians saunter off the field with their heads hanging at full time.

But the run Italy made to the final must be remembered in spite of being crushed by what has to be regarded as the top national team in the history of the game.

Big-time wins over England and Germany were massive achievements for a side that some predicted wouldn't emerge from a fairly difficult group.

In the end, as it would have been for any other team, the task was too high -- and the world was treated to a picture-perfect showing by a side that will likely be on top for years to come.

MINUTE BY MINUTE

Cesc Fabregas will get the credit for the run and sublime cross that fell to David Silva in the 14th minute, but the 70-metre diagonal from defender Sergio Ramos to begin the sequence was the most impressive part of the play. The cross-field switch unbalanced Italy's defence, allowing Fabregas to combine with Andres Iniesta before playing it to Silva for the game's opening goal ... Despite tagging a few shots miles from goal, the Italians never seriously threatened through the first 45 minutes. Although they did well to hold the fort, a bit of magic in the 41st minute broke the match wide open. The pass from Xavi Hernandez to Jordi Alba was special, but Alba's first touch to drag the ball in front of him was the highlight on the goal. The Barcelona man's first touch set up his cool finish on his second ... What if Antonio Di Natale had nodded home his chance a minute into the second half? Unmistakably outplayed, cutting Spain's two-goal advantage to one might have unsettled the defending champions ... Not that it mattered, but for supporters who didn't appreciate Germany being awarded a spot kick in the semifinal, the Italians were fortunate Leonardo Bonucci wasn't whistled for a hand ball in the 49th minute ... Italian coach Cesare Prandelli shouldn't be blamed for using all his substitutes before the hour mark. When your third and final substitute leaves with an injury minutes after coming on, it wasn't meant to be ... Fernando Torres and Juan Mata bagged Spain's third and fourth goals with under 10 minutes remaining to solidify Spain as the top team on the planet at the moment.

BORING SHMORING

From the seventh to 10th minute, Spain connected on 38 straight passes with the Italians not getting so much as a touch. The play ended with an effort from Xavi that just missed over the bar. After watching that, will someone explain to me the ludicrous stigma of the Spanish being a boring side throughout the tournament. Has Spain's brilliance become too sophisticated for the average onlooker? ... With Spain playing six midfielders and pressuring the overmatched Italians into submission during the opening half, other than a few attempts from distance Italy rarely threatened ... Italy also had nowhere near the patience exemplified by its counterparts. Spain's ability to recycle the ball inside and around the penalty area is something matched by few teams in the world, the only comparison being the Mexicans, Brazilians and Argentines at the moment -- all boring sides, I suppose.

THIS AND THAT

Italy's play-acting and exaggeration -- I'm talking about you, Riccardo Montolivo, Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli -- on a number of harmless tackles made what was thought to be a formidable opponent for the current Cup holders appear as European minnows. That said, despite a few hiccups along the way, Spain is capable of picking apart any side in the world at the moment, continuing to embarrass some of the world's most intelligent soccer nations ... An unthinkable accomplishment a decade ago, Spain became the first UEFA side to win successive European titles, sandwiched around its 2010 World Cup win in South Africa ... The Italians wouldn't admit it, but the match was over at halftime. Only three teams in the competition's history have come from behind to win in the final. Further, Spain extended its shutout streak to 509 minutes in the tournament, shattering the previous record held by the -- you guessed it -- Italians ... To its credit, Italy settled in a bit more in the second half after bringing on Di Natale, who came close to scoring on two occasions ... The Azzurri's start was simply too damning. The Italians looked unsettled throughout the first-half, playing a number of hopeful balls and only finding momentary success down the left side ... You can't help but wonder if Italy's slow start had something to do with it having a day less of rest due to the insistence the the two semifinals being played on separate days ... Stay classy Balotelli. Cameras caught the semifinal hero shoving aside team officials as he exited the field in frustration as his teammates stayed on to congratulate Spain. He later returned to receive his medal.


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