|ESPNsoccernet: Euro 2012|
Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci said a more defensive approach would have spared the Azzurri such a heavy defeat to Spain but believes they have shown they are on the right track.
• Brewin: Peerless Spain
Few had expected Italy to reach the final before Euro 2012 got underway, with performances in the warm-up games less than encouraging, but they emerged from the group stage to beat England and Germany convincingly in the knockout rounds.
The final proved a step too far, though, with Spain running up a two-goal lead before half-time and then, after an injury to substitute Thiago Motta left Italy with only ten men, seizing complete control in an eventual 4-0 victory.
"It's a heavy blow. You can lose a final, but it hurts to lose it like this," he told Rai Sport. "If we had been a different side from the start then we wouldn't have lost 4-0. Spain probably would've won anyway, but we would've made it more difficult for them.
"There was also such bad luck with two thigh strains and no substitutions left, so that knocked the wind out of our sails."
He added: "I think we got the wrong approach from the start, as with a team of this level you can't give them any space.
"We came on after the break with a different level of determination, but then Iker Casillas saving from Toto Di Natale and Thiago Motta's injury knocked us for six. There was no way back."
Bonucci, though, feels Italy bolstered their reputation and showed that they are dedicated to positive football.
"We came into the tournament off a friendly defeat to Russia, but we showed that we had character," he said. "That character was perhaps what was missing tonight, as we reached the final completely exhausted.
"When you play certain games, everyone wants to push through the pain and be there. Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi looked tired yesterday, so they rested for the training session.
"Spain are certainly a step above the rest and we have to keep working to reach their level, but we are on the right track. We have earned our identity, shaken off the reputation of catenaccio and must now continue along this path."
Midfielder Daniele De Rossi also felt that the fitness problems had a detrimental effect on Italy, who had drawn 1-1 with Spain in the opening game of the tournament.
"Spain are stronger and I think we reached such a high level that we can play against them, but if you play ten times then you'll lose six or seven," De Rossi told Rai Sport. "We managed it in Gdansk and risked winning that game, but I think we did very well to get here and when not 100% fit there was nothing to be done.
"We all wanted to win and were convinced we could, as we already played them and held our own in the group phase.
"Spain commanded the game and above all we never really hurt them, as we didn't have the energy to chase them down. The match was over on the hour mark when we went down to 10 men.
"Spain deserve compliments, but so do Italy, as we created a new approach that will be built on in the future."
He added: "I challenge anyone to play with ten men against Spain, who are 2-0 up. We could've avoided the last two goals, but not much would've changed. Spain are a step above everyone else."