Spain stultified at times during Euro 2012 but also stimulated spectators with their football when they defeated Italy 4-0 in the final. Not only did Vicente del Bosque's team reaffirm their continental superiority, they confirmed their status as arguably international football's best ever side.

Rarely did La Roja look in danger of losing a football match. Even after they went behind to the Italians in their opening group match they replied swiftly, while their remaining five matches were either controlled displays or walkovers. They ended up scoring 12 goals from six games.

Euro 2012 as a tournament was an ambivalent spectacle. The cutthroat nature of the group stage was exciting and laden with goals but beyond the 24 matches the quality was stymied by some tentative football. Playing without a striker became in-vogue.

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  • Euro 2012

    England fans make a protest against Sol Campbell's advice not to travel to the Ukraine or they could go home in a coffin, by taking a coffin to the Golden Lion in Donetsk, Ukraine, ahead of the England v Ukraine Euro 2012 football match.

  • Firemen, unseen, spray water on Spanish fans as they celebrate Spain's Euro 2012 soccer championship in Madrid, Spain, Monday, July 2, 2012. Spain won the Euro 2012 soccer championship final against Italy in Kiev, Ukraine on Sunday. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

  • Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Group C - Republic of Ireland v Croatia - Municipal Stadium Poznan

    Republic of Ireland fans before the UEFA Euro 2012, Group C match at the Municipal Stadium, Poland.

  • Poland's Robert Lewandowski, right, scores a goal past Greece goalkeeper Costas Chalkias during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group A match between Poland and Greece in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, June 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Poland's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Greece during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group A match between Poland and Greece in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, June 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • Denmark's Michael Krohn-Dehli, left, scores during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group B match between the Netherlands and Denmark in Kharkiv , Ukraine, Saturday, June 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

  • Italian forward Mario Balotelli controls

    Italian forward Mario Balotelli controls the ball during the Euro 2012 championships football match Spain vs Italy on June 10, 2012 at the Gdansk Arena. AFPPHOTO/ GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Group C - Republic of Ireland v Croatia - Municipal Stadium Poznan

    Croatia's Darijo Srna tries to score from a free-kick

  • England's Joleon Lescott, second left, celebrates after scoring a goal with teammates during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group D match between France and England in Donetsk, Ukraine, Monday, June 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

  • Poland's Jakub Blaszczykowski celebrates after he scored during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group A match between Poland and Russia in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

  • German forward Mario Gomez (C) reacts af

    German forward Mario Gomez (C) reacts after scoring past Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg (R) during the Euro 2012 championships football match the Netherlands vs Germany on June 12, 2012 at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv. AFP PHOTO/ PATRIK STOLLARZ (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Spain v Ireland - Group C: UEFA EURO 2012

    GDANSK, POLAND - JUNE 14: Cesc Fabregas of Spain scores their fourth goal during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C match between Spain and Ireland at The Municipal Stadium on June 14, 2012 in Gdansk, Poland. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

  • FILE - The June 15, 2012 file photo shows England's Danny Welbeck, left, scoring their side's third goal during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group D match between Sweden and England in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo cel

    Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with Portuguese defender Bruno Alves after scoring during the Euro 2012 football championships match Portugal vs. Netherlands, on June 17, 2012 at the Metalist stadium in Kharkiv. Portugal won 2 to 1. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/GettyImages)

  • FILE - The June 19, 2012 file photo shows Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring by France's Philippe Mexes during the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group D match between Sweden and France in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

  • Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic greets fans after the Euro 2012 soccer championship Group D match between Sweden and France in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

  • Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso (not seen

    Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso (not seen) scores against French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (C) during the Euro 2012 football championships quarter-final match Spain vs France on June 23, 2012 at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk. AFP PHOTO / JEFF PACHOUD (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Euro 2012 soccer championship quarterfinal match between Czech Republic and Portugal in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, June 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

  • English goalkeeper Joe Hart (R) reacts a

    English goalkeeper Joe Hart (R) reacts after Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo scored during the penalty shoot-out in the Euro 2012 football championships quarter-final match England vs Italy on June 24, 2012 at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. AFP PHOTO/ JEFF PACHOUD (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Italy players celebrate after Alessandro Diamanti scored the decisive penalty shootout during the Euro 2012 soccer championship quarterfinal match between England and Italy in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, June 25, 2012.(AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

  • Sport - Christmas Package 2012

    File photo dated 24/6/2012 of England's Ashley Young is consoled by John Terry after losing a penalty shoot out. PRESS ASSOCITAION Photo. Issue date: Sunday December 16, 2012. England once more failed to achieve at a major tournament, going out on penalties, how else?, against Italy at Euro 2012 under new manager Roy Hodgson. See PA story SPORT Christmas Overview. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

  • Spanish players celebrate after Cesc Fabregas, center, scored the decisive goal in the penalty shootout of the Euro 2012 soccer championship semifinal match between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, June 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

  • Spain's Cesc Fabregas scores the decisive penalty shootout during the Euro 2012 soccer championship semifinal match between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, June 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

  • Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, reacts during the penalty shootout at the Euro 2012 soccer championship semifinal match between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, June 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

  • Italy's Mario Balotelli celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the Euro 2012 soccer championship semifinal match between Germany and Italy in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, June 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • German midfielder Mesut Ozil reacts afte

    German midfielder Mesut Ozil reacts after the Euro 2012 football championships semi-final match Germany vs Italy on June 28, 2012 at the National Stadium in Warsaw. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Final - Spain v Italy - Olympic Stadium

    Spain's David Silva (right) celebrates scoring their first goal of the game with team-mate Francesc Fabregas who claims the assist

  • Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Final - Spain v Italy - Olympic Stadium

    Spain's Juan Mata (centre left) celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Fernando Torres (centre right), Jordi Alba (far left) and Pedro Rodriguez (right)

  • FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - In this July 1, 2012 file photo, Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas lifts the trophy after the Euro 2012 soccer championship final between Spain and Italy in Kiev, Ukraine. Spain won the match 4-0. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

  • Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Final - Spain v Italy - Olympic Stadium

    Spain celebrate victory as they lift the UEFA European Championship trophy after the game

  • Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Final - Spain v Italy - Olympic Stadium

    Fans make a grab for the trophy as Spain's Gerard Pique carries the trophy back down to the pitch

Two 120-minute 0-0s at least rewarded their audience with penalties but then Germany, viewed as the biggest threat to Spain, uncharacteristically choked in the last four against a Mario Balotelli-inspired Italy. They will have to wait another two years to beat the Azzurri at a major tournament.

The continent was subsequently deprived of the final everyone wanted. So good were Italy in the semis the final contest was a fait accompli before a ball was kicked, for they had committed that tournament sin of peaking too early. Spain hadn't, and duly thumped them in the final as Cesare Prandelli's ballsy 4-4-2 was exposed with ease.

Away from the football, racism threatened to smear the games after some early incidents but Panorama's pre-tournament scaremongering ended up being lampooned by happy tourists.