What more could German fans have asked for? Euro 2008 has brought them great football, and the fact that it was mostly played by nations other than their own has made the return of German efficiency even sweeter. Watching the Netherlands, Portugal and Russia in action certainly is a lot of fun – as long as it is us who make the final, some may think.
On and off the pitch, it has been a perfect tournament for Germany. TV ratings have exploded, public viewing is back, and all over the country, millions of fans have been celebrating the success of their team. It is not that often that you see Germans dancing in the streets. In terms of multi-cultural bonding, the semi-final against Turkey was priceless, with fans of both countries sharing the excitement.
Yet a tournament without England is not quite the same. An online poll revealed that almost 50 per cent of the Germans are missing Beckham, Rooney and Co. For what reasons, one doesn't know. Some journalists have complained about the lack of creativity when it comes down to fan chants. Others are missing the somewhat comic sight of "an English keeper trying to make a save", not to mention the drama of a shoot-out.
The bottom line is that England should have been there – no matter what. There were some English winners though, those English tourists on Mallorca. This morning they will not find the deckchairs occupied as I can't see my countrymen getting up early after a party night.
Cristiano Ronaldo could have made a strong push for player of the tournament honours had he not allowed himself to be stopped by unglamorous Arne Friedrich. Andrei Arshavin looked sharp before disappearing against Spain. Michael Ballack might be remembered for his selfless teamwork rather than his off-nights against Turkey and Croatia.
A frenzy of excitement has swept Spain in recent days, particularly since Thursday's decisive semi-final, creating a new, young, joyous identification with the flag, a rejuvenated sense of nationhood. The Spanish flag has long been seen by many as an arrogant statement of Madrid's supremacy over independent-minded regions, or a gesture of Real Madrid's would-be hegemony over Barcelona football club. Despite 30 years of Spanish democracy, that proud ripple of scarlet and gold silk still carried a whiff of divisive authoritarianism.
All that has changed in what the writer Javier Marias described in yesterday's El Pais as "a monstrous and jovial transformation". He was referring to the national squad, which has thrown off decades of suffering an inferiority complex spiked with triumphalism, to become a sleek and beautiful killing machine that needs no false heroics.
That serene confidence has pervaded Spanish society, reaching parts rarely touched by football, and has, paradoxically, prompted a moment's pause in the gathering euphoria.
A newspaper seller, thrilled to have been interviewed by foreign news crews, flanked by screaming headlines, said soberly: "They're a good team, the Germans. I have a feeling it won't be so easy." But he added: "Whatever happens, we've already won a historic victory." He caught the mood of the moment.
The weight of expectation on world champions Italy coming into Euro 2008 meant that the Italian media could never enjoy the same intellectual freedom as a UK press liberated from patriotism by the absence of anyone to support. But the degree to which the event has been reported in Italy through an azure-coloured prism, with little sense of the wider value of the tournament, has still been surprising. Typically, Russia's collapse on Thursday at the hands of mesmeric Spanish passing was greeted with a melancholic, "If only we'd been there..." in the Gazzetta dello Sport.
State broadcaster Rai has enjoyed high ratings throughout Euro 2008, suggesting that Italian viewers have thrilled to the football of Spain, Portugal, Russia, the Netherlands and Turkey every bit as much as British viewers, a feeling confirmed by daily conversations in bars. But for the bulk of Italy's sports media Euro 2008 began on Monday 9 June, with the Netherlands' 3-0 victory over the Azzurri, and ended on Sunday 22 June, when Cesc Fabregas slotted Spain's winning penalty past Italy's Gigi Buffon.
Both semi-finals were buried in the sports dailies by the really big issues of the week: Marcello Lippi replacing Roberto Donadoni as Italy coach; Juventus chasing Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger; Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor saying yes to Milan; and, crucially for football fans, where the top players and their girlfriends are enjoying their holidays (mostly Sardinia, for the record).
Mario Sconcerti, senior football writer of the Corriere della Sera newspaper, said that more considered opinion of the event would arrive after last night's final. "It's true that we have been a bit provincial in our coverage but that's partly because this tournament – while no doubt one of the better Euros – has not really thrown up anything radically new in football terms. We've seen a lot of good quality players, especially in midfield, but no genius who will leave a lasting impression."
Of course there is less interest in the competition now that France have gone out but people generally have enjoyed the tournament because there have been plenty of goals and good games. There was much disappointment with the French performance, though the main sports paper L'Equipe was not as critical of the coach Raymond Domenech as many were.
I've just written an article about the refereeing and the spirit of fair play, which has generally been very good. Of course referees have made mistakes but the standard has been good and the respect in which they have been held by the players has been excellent.
At France Football we have created an e-magazine published on the internet and what you notice is that our readers are really interested in the "new teams", such as Russia and Turkey.
They are maybe tired of the same old teams like Italy and even Germany and I've been asked to write a lot about the Russians and Turks in particular. But I am afraid I haven't heard anyone say they have missed England.
As for the players, France is no different to anywhere else in admiring Arshavin of Russia, and I have heard many good things about their two full-backs, Aleksandr Anyukov and Yuriy Zhirkov. For me, however, Arshavin was in many ways found out in the semi-final on Thursday. You don't play for Zenit St Petersburg, aged 27, if you are a huge star. He has great limitations and we saw them against Spain, which was a true reflection. Russia had given their all against the Netherlands.
Xavier Rivoire, France Football magazine
It's been a very good tournament. The gap between the smaller and bigger nations has been shown to be much less than it was. There are new football countries for the future such as Russia, Turkey and Croatia. In a way it is the old Eastern Bloc re-imposing itself. These countries are huge and are now using capitalism in football to their advantage. I think in the future all tournaments will be more even. There wasn't one outstanding team. The quality of football has been good, not great. The Netherlands were probably the best team, played the best football but were not the strongest. It showed there is a difference.
For Portugal it's been a great disappointment. This was our best chance of winning a tournament, probably ever. And what has let us down has been the coaching, the tactics, which is a concern for Chelsea with Luiz Felipe Scolari going there.
Ronaldo, too, has to take a lot of responsibility. He is supposed to be the best player in the world but didn't show it – although he paid the expenses of a lot of journalists by filling so many column inches on him. Everyone is also talking about Arshavin but I'm surprised. He is 27. He's been playing for the Russian national team for six years and yet big clubs and journalists are acting like he's new to them. Clubs are falling over themselves. He's always played well. But I've been most impressed by Wesley Sneijder followed by our boys, Pepe and Deco.
But there hasn't been one player who has made the decisive difference.
Jose Manuel Ribeiro, executive editor of the Portuguese sports daily newspaper, O Jogo
Compiled by Glenn Moore and Jason BurtReuse content