For some papers Italy's victory marked 'the return of the Azzurri' while others labelled Wayne Rooney 'a mad butterfly'
"Enormous!" screamed the headline in Italy's Corriere dello Sport on Monday as a nation woke up to the realisation its team had handed England a humiliating football lesson.
Italy's victory over England on Sunday gave Italy's football reporters a chance to ram home a point they have been making throughout the European championships – that England verge on the ridiculous after appearing to have learned nothing new about football in decades.
"Old Roy, knowing the limits of his team, ordered everyone back," wrote leading daily Corriere della Sera in its summing up the manager Roy Hodgson's night. "This was an embarrassing England for its lack of ideas and decent feet."
La Gazzetta dello Sport could not resist recalling how the British press had denounced Fabio Capello for his Italian defensiveness yet "we have never seen an England so folded up on itself." Hodgson's team, the paper added, had been gifted free tickets to watch "Italy's beautiful game."
For Corriere della Sera, Italy's victory in the penalty shootout marked "the return of the Azzurri among the big teams in Europe" while England's paltry possession and reliance on "improbable long balls" left Wayne Rooney, a player Italians fear and respect, "flying from one side of the pitch to the other like a mad butterfly."
The Manchester United striker received a meagre five out of 10 from La Repubblica, which declared he had played at less than 50 % of his potential. "Do we want to compare [Mario] Balotelli to Rooney, who we noticed only during the penalties?" wrote the Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, in Corriere dello Sport. "Super Mario was much better, he is a great striker, we need to push on with him and support him."
Writing that "Italy had never played against England like this," La Repubblica echoed the widespread feeling that Sunday night's game has ended Italy's traditional respect for England's physical, high speed football.
Throughout the competition, Italian TV commentators have claimed watching England was like climbing into a time machine back to an era of towering centre forwards and huff and puff rather than tiki-taka passing, singling out Steven Gerrard and the oddly benched Theo Walcott as the only genuine ball players.
"The English have not accepted the need to change their football according to other people's ideas," wrote Corriere della Sera. "They have stuck with a simple football, spectacular because it is physical like a boxing match, but without pre-established ideas, just the talent of the players themselves."
Despite Mancini's backing for Balotelli, others pointed to his profligacy. "Too wasteful," declared La Repubblica, while Corriere della Sera reckoned he might be better off playing behind a striker. But the Italy manager, Cesare Prandelli, preferred to focus on the positives, noting that Balotelli had demanded to take the first penalty. "That is a sign of personality," he said.
Corriere della Sera agreed with the theory that Italy's current match fixing scandal, which saw one player leave the squad just before the tournament, had brought the best out of the team. "It is the habit of Italians to give their best when things are really bad."
Italy's rediscovered panache was summed up for many by Andrea Pirlo's chipped penalty. "That penalty put more pressure on our opponents and instilled more faith in my team-mates," said the soft spoken midfielder. "Now nothing is impossible, we can go all the way."