The Italian press reacted with hurt and frustration – but also a measure of pride – after the Azzurri were outclassed as Spain swept to an unprecedented third consecutive triumph – but the national coach, Cesare Prandelli, for one is determined to pick up the pieces.
Prandelli, having guided Italy to a final in Kiev that few thought they would ever reach, has confirmed his intention to remain in charge. "It's already been written that the project does not stop here, and that it must continue," said the former Fiorentina manager.
"Of course, my decision also takes into account [Sunday's] loss. It's impossible to leave now. I decided to stay because I saw there is a common desire to change. I met with the federation and they made me certain of that. They told me they wanted to continue on this road."
The Italian newspapers did not seem quite so sure about that, though. The Rome-based Corriere dello Sport ran the headline "Prandelli, what have you done?" The paper's sub-headline continued: "We were in pieces, they were very strong" and its coverage described Spain's dominance as "heavily embarrassing."
The same paper queried some of Prandelli's decisions, such as taking off Antonio Cassano for Antonio Di Natale at half-time and later replacing Riccardo Montolivo with Thiago Motta – who had some consolation for his later injury yesterday when he signed a five-year contract extension that will keep him at Milan until 2017.
The national daily La Repubblica echoed these sentiments, with its front-page headline of "The big disappointment," alongside a photograph of a tearful Mario Balotelli, who stormed off the pitch after the final whistle, shoving aside a team official in the process.
But the Italian celebrity gossip weekly Chi at least managed an upbeat spin on the final week of Euro 2012, reporting that the Manchester City striker had been inspired before the semi-final win over Germany by the news that he was to become a father for the first time.
Balotelli's girlfriend Raffaella Fico told Chi: "I called Mario while he was with the national team before the match with Germany and I said to him: 'Remember our dream of becoming parents? Well, that dream has become a reality. I'm expecting a baby. Your baby'.
"He remained silent at first, then he let himself go. 'You've given me the best news in the world,' he told me. Then the next day on the pitch he scored two goals."
The image of Balotelli was also used on the front page of Gazetta dello Sport, Italy's biggest-selling paper, with the headline: "Like this, it hurts…" An editorial said "Thanks anyway", apparently reckoning that making the final was an achievement in itself.
Gazetta admitted Spain had been the better team, but also bemoaned the injuries that led to the Azzurri being reduced to 10 men on the hour mark when Motta had to be carried off on a stretcher.
The Turin-based Tuttosport's headline was "Italy, don't cry" accompanied by a photograph of captain Gianluigi Buffon. The sub-headline read: "Legendary Spain – but we return with our heads held high." Its editorial praised the national team for their efforts during the competition.
Prandelli must feel he has a good chance of rebuilding team confidence with an early return to action. Italy's next game, a friendly on 15 August, is against the side they knocked out of Euro 2012: England.
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