Italy lost to Spain by a brutal 4-0 margin in the 2012 European Championship Final, but the Azzurri loss wasn't because Cesare Prandelli's side played especially poorly.
Spain became the first team ever to win three major tournaments in a row with their victory in Kyiv. Despite the four-goal differential, Italy didn't turn in a deplorable effort.
Unfortunately for the Italians, they ran into a buzzsaw in the form of the Spanish side.
Possession was supposed to be Spain's biggest advantage in this match, but Italy did a pretty good job of keeping the ball at their feet before it had to play with 10 men.
Playing a man down for the last 27 minutes, Italy conceded two inconsequential goals in the last 10 minutes, but had done well to keep the game reasonable in the second half.
The Azzurri weren't dominated in any statistical aspect of the match. They had four shots on goal to Spain's six. The problem is that Spain just suffocated Italy when it mattered most.
For a large portion of the game, Spain blanketed Italy in the midfield. Even when the Italians were able to conjure up some opportunities, Iker Casillas protected his net especially well when it came to deflecting dangerous crosses out of the box.
The Italians have no reason to hang their collective heads after the loss. They put forth a valiant effort in a competition where many people (including myself) doubted their ability to make it to this point.
Before the injury to Thiago Motta in the 57th minute, you could make the case that Italy looked like the better team on Sunday night. That wouldn't make it true, but making the case that Italy outplayed Spain for portions of this match isn't out of the realm of possibility.
It was all downhill once Motta went down, though.
Plenty of things went wrong for Italy today, Giorgio Chiellini's early departure was one of multiple unfortunate occurrences for Prandelli and company.
One bright spot for Italy was Mario Balotelli. Not in terms of his play, as he didn't do anything particularly impressive, but the fact that he was able to keep his composure through adversity was a great sign for the young forward's future.
Italy put on a great show for their fans through the entire tournament, shocking Germany, England and the football world during their run to the final.
As a sports fan, you almost feel bad for Italy. They ran into the best team in sports today and became just another stepping stone for Spain en route to the establishment of a Spanish football dynasty.
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