Sixteen teams from around Europe convened on Poland and Ukraine for three weeks and played 31 matches all to find out one thing -- Spain reign supreme. By the end of Sunday's final, it seemed like the only reason the tournament was even played was to answer whether or not Spain are the best team ever.
But that wouldn't be fair to what was a tremendous three weeks of soccer. Headed goals were all the rage and there were goals of all kinds aplenty, with just two matches all tournament finishing goalless.
More than anything, there were several players who wowed the world in Poland and Ukraine, some of them expected and others not so much. Be it the expected brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mario Gomez or Mario Mandzukic and Alan Dzagoev, who grabbed the spotlight and forced the world to take notice, the stars came out to play. Luka Modric and Andrea Pirlo thrilled with their midfield play and Xavi Hernandez reminded everyone at the end who the real maestro was, while Sami Khedia stepped up out of the shadows and Jordi Alba said hello to the world outside of Spain.
Few tournaments could match the star power, thrills and drama of Euro 2012. It was one of the best tournaments ever, with just enough surprises to keep you on your toes before the cream rose to the crop. And in the end, one team gave the tournament immense historical significance as they made their claim to be called the best ever. Euro 2012, you were a blast and we will miss you.
1. Spain- The biggest knock on the Spaniards is that they are so good at what they do that they get boring. This is a team that barely gave Juan Mata a runout and never played Fernando Llorente, yet still won the tournament. They went more than 500 minutes without giving up a goal to close the tournament, had the biggest margin of victory in a Euro final and are now winners of three consecutive major tournaments. But the are boring? No, they are the best ever.
Bonus points: Fernando Torres' daughter gives Spain the tiebreaker in any close contest for the best team of all time.
2. Italy- Maybe the best thing about Italy's run to the final is that there isn't really a single person to single out as the reason they made their run. Pirlo was the darling as people remembered that he spent the last decade among the best passers in the world, but how about Cesare Prandelli? Tactically he was fantastic and did everything in his power, while their tactical versatility was only possible because of Daniel De Rossi's ability to play pretty much anywhere and do it will. Riccardo Montolivo was also tremendous and then there was three-goal scorer Mario Balotelli.
So who was the star for Italy? Nobody, but there was a clear winner -- the fans. The typical boring, boring Italy were nowhere to be found and instead the azzurri entertained all tournament, thrilling everyone from the tactical savants to the casual observers.
3. Germany- It's tough to call a semifinalist a disappointment, but that is exactly what Germany were. On paper, Germany are as good as Spain and there is a big gap between them and the next best team in the world so why weren't they in the final? Bastian Schweinsteiger was clearly hobbled by his ankle injury, Mats Hummels proved he was as good at derping as he is at defending and Joachim Löw outcoached himself.
The pressure is now on Germany. As good as they may be, or at least are capable of being, they have nothing to show for it. The 2014 World Cup looms large.
4. Portugal- Guys, Cristiano Ronaldo is really good. Guys, Pepe is really good. Guys, Joao Moutinho figured out how to be really good for a month. The rest of the team, eh, but Portugal were fun, entertaining and did better against Spain than anyone else. It's time to give them a round of applause.
5. Croatia- In another group, maybe with just a different schedule Croatia are through to the knockout stages with a chance to make a run. After all, they drew Italy and had they not needed to push for a win probably would have drawn Spain.
But most of all, Croatia were fun. The complete list of fantastic Croatia things: Luka Modric, their checkerboard jerseys, Mario Mandukic, Slaven Bilic*, their flares, how much they love their flares, Luka Modric.
* He wears a beanie with a suit, plays in a punk rock band, has a law degree and goes absolutely nuts on the sidelines. He could be the list all on his own.
6. England- Nobody cares if they were ugly and boring. Actually, everyone cares, but they went undefeated at Euro 2012. Grit your teeth, say well done and hope the Three Lions don't qualify for the World Cup so you don't have to watch that again. That or laugh at the United Kingdom Parliament putting a ban on naming newborns Ashley.
7. Denmark- "What if?" What if Christian Eriksen played well? Keep asking "what if?" because they played three good matches versus Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands and they didn't even get good play from their best player. "What if?"
8. France- Sure there is talent and the results were fine enough, but they played four matches and only played well in one of them. Moreover, they were among the best equipped teams in the tournament to take down Spain and didn't bother showing up to play in the quarterfinals. [Insert your French surrendering joke here]
9. Czech Republic- Can you blame the Czechs for being boring and ultra-defensive? They didn't have the players to compete with the big boys so they stopped playing soccer and started playing an ugly mush of something else instead and they were good at it. Well, they were good enough at it.
10. Ukraine- Andriy Shevchenko has retired from international play, but he will live on forever, even if just for his brace in the co-hosts' tournament opener. That is unless his turning back the clock is overshadowed by the newest inductee to the World Soccer Hall of Fame of Fantasticness and Adorbleness and Happyness and D'awwwwww.
11. Greece- The Greeks can have a high five for making the quarterfinals thanks to being an in an awful group, but the entire non-Greek world was happy to see them go out. For one, booooooooring. And two, the bailout, debt, financial jokes that stalked your every move got old quick.
12. Russia- If Germany are the most disappointing team of the tournament, Russia are the second most disappointing. To not get out of an awful group was bad enough, but it also saddled the rest of the world with having to watch Greece one more time.
Worst of all, because Russia didn't make it out of the group stage we were deprived of more of three very important things: 1) Geography lessons. 2) Alan Dzagoev. 3) The best national anthem the world has ever known.
13. Sweden- "I got a bike when I was little, a BMX. I called it ‘Fido Dido’ after the tough little cartoon guy with spiked hair. I thought he was the coolest thing ever." - Zlatan Ibrahimovic in "I Am Zlatan".
Sweden didn't bother showing up for the tournament do there isn't much else to say. Zlatan is cool. Zlatan says cool things. Zlatan does cool things. The rest of Sweden can go back to their country of excessively beautiful people and stop teasing the rest of us.
14. Netherlands- Germany were not the tournament's biggest disappointment and Russia were not the second biggest disappointment. The Holy Hell Disappointment Scale was broken by the Netherlands and isn't quite back up and working yet.
15. Poland- Everything was looking good for Poland. They had Jakub Błaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski leading them into a weak group in front of a raucous home crowd for all three matches. Being the co-hosts, every neutral was rooting for them too*.
Unfortunately, there was just one little problem for Poland-- they are not very good. Doesn't it suck when the important things get in the way of the cool things?
* Rooting for the hosts is a rule for all neutrals in every tournament. Consult the World Soccer Fan Constitution for confirmation.
16. Ireland- Poor Ireland. They were finally invited to the cool kids' birthday party and everyone agreed that they were pretty funny and cool, but nobody could actually be seen talking to them, of course. Worst of all, they didn't even get cake. Poor Ireland.