Before the European championship started, no one gave two cents for Italy's chances.
Cesare Prandelli's squad looked nothing like the team that had won the World Championship in 2006, and the team had been very disappointing during the last World Cup in South Africa.
Experts agreed that the talent was there, but the younger generation of players lacked experience at the highest level and were simply too young.
Prandelli decided to play people like Alessandro Diamanti and Federico Balzaretti, who are serviceable players, but not superstars.
The media seemed to agree that Andrea Pirlo was too old to pull the strings for the Azzurri and to have any meaningful impact during the tournament.
Boy, were they wrong.
Pirlo took control of the team and elevated the play of everyone around him. He was involved in nearly all of the moments that defined Italy's run, from the assist he gave to Antonio Di Natale to open the scoring against Spain, to his penalty that changed the momentum of the penalty shootout between Italy and England in the quarter finals.
He was over-matched during the final against Spain, but could not be faulted for that. Spain simply had a squad that was far superior to Italy's.
It's easy being a good player on a good team, and the teams that Spain and Germany fielded were superior to the Azzurri in many ways. Italy's success could be attributed in large part to Andrea Pirlo's fantastic tournament, not to a quality squad.