KIEV, UKRAINE - JULY 01: Spain celebrate their victory with the trophy during the UEFA EURO 2012 final match between Spain and Italy at the Olympic Stadium on July 1, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Well it's all over now. There will be no football to distract us from work, or a lack of work, and we may actually have to venture outside this summer now (at least until the EPL season starts in about six weeks). What did all that went on the past three weeks mean? What did we learn?
-That Spain are better than you are. Pretty simple stuff. I thought fatigue, a rabid German side, a slight jading of form from some players, the fact that playing Sergio Ramos in central defense really should cost you at some point (not make you better), all of that would add up to grab them at some point. And it didn't even come close. And it's all based on runs from deep. All their goals yesterday was a result of a midfielder or some runner not being able to be tracked, something Liverpool and England have never figured out.
-Best of all time? The accomplishments say so. If nothing else, they've won more in a shorter span than any international side has, and it'll be tough to match. There's no definitive answer, because it's such a fun debate to have. They're the best I've seen since I started watching in the mid-90's. The thing is, the France squad at the turn of the century may have had slightly more talent. But as a team, this Spain side is better. They don't need the individual brilliance of Zidane to get them out of trouble. They'll do it all together.
-Xabi Alonso is still a wonderful player, and that still makes me very, very sad.
-Yes, the Germans are capable of having a coach completely torpedo their tournament. Here was Joachim Loew's thought process before taking on the Italians: "Let's see, I've got the best playmaker in the tournament in a free role behind the striker, so I'm going to shift him to a wing just because. Then, with an Italian defense that is slow at best and immobile at worst, I'm going to throw the most immobile striker in the world at them. Then I'm going to keep tossing out Schweinsteiger even though he can barely move. And then I just pray to God Phillip Lahm's defensive frailties aren't exposed." Whoops.
-Ronaldo got a lot of pub about bringing Portugal to the semis by himself, but he wouldn't have been able to do it without the discipline of Veloso, Meireles, and Moutinho.
-Andrea Pirlo doesn't age, but he's not a God if you can actually keep someone in his zip code at all times.
-Antonio Cassano rules. For the player, and man that he is. And what he's overcome in just eight months.
-The knockout stage really was a letdown after the group stage.
-Where do Spain go from here? Something tells me this squad tries for one last hurrah in Brazil (or wherever the World Cup is when Brazil finally throws in the towel on hosting) but comes up just short. There's a reason on European team has won outside of its hemisphere. Brazil may just be too tough on home soil, maybe Argentina will actually get it right once (as if), or maybe an ever-dangerous Uruguay side in South America jumps up and bites them. Who knows?
But then when Xavi, Alonso, Puyol, Iniesta, Casillas, and Villa ride off into the sunset, Fabregas, Mata, Cazorla, Javi Martinez, Reina, Navas, and a boatload of other slobberingly talented footballers will come in, and I really don't know how much they'll drop.