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Last night Spain were crowned as European Champions following a deserved final victory over Germany. Carlo Garganese asks if this proves that the Azzurri’s Euro 2008 campaign was not as bad as everyone first thought…

It is often said that the best team at major international tournaments never wins the cup. This idea may have been diproved by the likes of Holland at Euro ’88, France at World Cup ‘98, and even Italy at Germany 2006, however there have been numerous examples over the years where great teams have failed to taste glory.

At this summer’s Euros there can be no doubt whatsoever that Spain were easily the best of all the 16 nations, and their triumph was fully deserved. From the first day until the last they delighted neutrals with their pure and entertaining brand of the beautiful game, and their success has been labelled as a “victory for football”.

La Seleccion may indeed go down as one of the finest winners of the Euros, even if they are certainly behind the Holland of 1988, the France of 1984, and possibly the greatest ever European conquerors West Germany from 1972.

Italy’s performance at Euro 2008 certainly won’t live long in the memory, both in style and substance. While Spain rattled in 12 goals in six games, the Azzurri managed just a miserly three, none of them from open play, as they limped out at the quarter final stage.

La Nazionale, and now former coach Roberto Donadoni, received heavy criticism in the aftermath of their penalty shootout exit to Luis Aragones’ men. Much of this was fully deserved of course, but having now witnessed the final outcome of these Euros, should Italy actually now receive more credit?

The Azzurri may have packed everyone behind the ball during their 0-0 draw, but the fact remains that they were the only team in the tournament who did not lose to Spain (in normal time). They were also the only nation not to concede a goal to them, and indeed if you analyse the entire 120 minutes of the clash in Vienna, La Furia Roja never created a decent chance or even forced Gianluigi Buffon into a noteworthy save.

The fact that an Italy team, confused over its identity, with an exhausted lone frontman, and without two of its irreplaceable players, Fabio Cannavaro and Andrea Pirlo, comfortably held the outstanding eventual winners, is something that should at least be recognised.

If Italy had been on the other side of the draw they would probably have been in the final. Instead this honour went to possibly the worst German side in 60 years. All the strength in these Euros was located in Groups C and D, and the format of keeping the two halves of the draw apart until the final was a huge mistake by UEFA. Nevertheless it only serves as another reason to applaud Spain.

There are few positives that Italy can take from Euro 2008, but at least they can console themselves in the knowledge that they were eliminated, but not beaten, by the eventual champions.

What are your views on this topic? Was Italy’s Euro 2008 so bad after all? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think.

Carlo Garganese

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