A thousand fans cheered loudly, applauded and sang the national anthem when Italy coach Cesare Prandelli and his players returned to Rome after having lost the European Championship final.

The squad was first greeted by about 200 workers Monday as they stepped off the plane at Rome's Fiumicino airport before departing on one of the four coaches reserved for the Italian delegation.

Italy lost 4-0 to Spain in the final on Sunday, and captain Gianluigi Buffon says ''we are still bitterly disappointed, but we know that we had a great European Championship,'' adding ''we played the final against the strongest team and not in the best conditions.''

The loudest cheers were reserved for Buffon, Daniele De Rossi, Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano and, above all, for Prandelli, who was beaming broadly.