KIEV, UKRAINE - JULY 01: The Henri Delaunay Cup is displayed ahead of the UEFA EURO 2012 final match between Spain and Italy at the Olympic Stadium on July 1, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Alas, Italy could not forestall Spain's march towards history. In the span of 4 years, La Roja have captured titles at Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and Euro 2012, cementing their place in history as the first nation to not only win three straight major titles, but also the first nation to successfully defend a European Championship.
History will write the superlatives for this generation of Spaniards, but for tonite, they were simply the better side, though not in the possess-at-all costs style to which the world has grown accustomed (at least in the first half, where Italy had the lions share) Spain, when they had the ball, kept their passes succinct and purposeful, as we saw in two beautifully orchestrated goals by David Silva and Jordi Alba, with Fernando Torres slamming the door shut in the 84th minute, following an Italian turnover, followed yet again by Juan Mata in the 88th minute, capping the 4-0 victory.
Though Italy did not play atrociously bad, they seemed a step behind and lacking energy for much of the match, which was exacerbated when Thiago Motta went off, leaving Italy with 10 men and no remaining substitutions.
The things that worked so well against Germany were nullified by Spain; Andrea Pirlo had precious little room to operate in the midfield and Mario Balotelli, for all intents and purpose, was held in check by the Spanish defense.
They say second place is merely the first loser; still there were many positives which Italy can glean from their three weeks in Ukraine and Poland. Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon proved they still have enough collective juice left to compete on the international level, Daniele De Rossi ascended to a new level, legitimately placing himself among the world's best midfielders (certainly the most unique), while Balotelli is well on his way to making himself a household name the worldwide.
With World Cup 2014 in Brazil a mere two years away, where do the Azzurri go from here?
One can safely assume that Cesare Prandelli will be leading the way during this World Cup cycle, but who will be joining him?
Pirlo and Buffon will be 35 and 36 for the next World Cup, respectively, though it's not a stretch to imagine both making the trip to Brazil. De Rossi will be 30 by 2014, most likely the last major tournament at his absolute peak, one would also imagine he'd be the odds on favorite to captain this team going forward.
The challenge for Prandelli will be how he shapes the midfield around De Rossi, if this tournament showed anything, it's that Claudio Marchisio and Riccardo Montolivo cannot be consistently relied upon at this level.
The attack still figures to be centered around Balotelli and Antonio Cassano (31 by 2014), though how and to what extent Giuseppe Rossi is integrated remains to be seen, needless to say the next year for Rossi is crucial, at both the club and international level. Di Natale will be 36 and unlikely to make the squad, so it will be interesting to see which players from the youth ranks rise to prominence. With Fabio Borini's inclusion in this squad, you have to like his chances, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Isigne certainly put in impressive performances at Pescara this past season, and of course theres Mattia Destro, who may or may not be on Roma's summer shopping list.
So that is about it for the Euro coverage at CDT, take your hats off to Spain, they certainly were the better team and have rightfully earned their place in history. Can they make it four in a row in Brazil? History hasn't been kind to European teams on South American soil, but it would be hard to bet against what many are calling "The Best Team in History."
Now on to Roma, the pre-season is a only a few weeks away and there are sure to be a lot of rumors to sift through and signings to discuss.