England's hopes of Euro 2009 glory were shattered by ruthless Germany despite a battling effort in a compelling final on Thursday night.
Goals from Karen Carney and Kelly Smith twice kept England in contention in Helsinki but the world champions were ultimately far too strong as they secured a fifth successive continental title.
Prolific pair Inka Grings - who finished as the tournament's leading scorer with six - and Birgit Prinz both struck twice while Melanie Behringer and Kim Kulig were also on target.
Smith's goal after 55 minutes had reduced the arrears to 3-2 and given England hope of a first major title but Grings and Prinz spectacularly closed out the game. Yet there was no shame in losing to a German side that have not been beaten in tournament football for 10 years and have now won seven of the last eight European Championships.
That formidable record initially seemed to hold no fear for England, who were also looking for their first win over the Germans in 19 meetings, as they made the brighter start. Eniola Aluko caused alarm in the German rearguard as she broke through to reach the byline but the ball just rolled out of play before she could pull back a cross.
Germany responded by piecing together a slick move but the distinctive figure of England captain Faye White, wearing a mask to protect a fractured cheekbone, dispossessed Prinz in the area.
England had the first serious attempt on goal after Smith was tripped 30 yards out and dead-ball specialist Fara Williams hit a free-kick narrowly wide.
Both sides' determination to win was obvious as tackles flew in and one heavy challenge between Carney and Behringer appeared to hurt both players.
Germany grabbed the lead after 20 minutes as Grings turned inside White and squared for world record goalscorer Prinz to slide in and score for the 124th time in international football.
Smith almost grabbed an immediate equaliser with a shot that was deflected for a corner but England's task looked a daunting one as Behringer fired a superb second moments later.
There appeared little danger as the midfielder collected the ball 40 yards out but she looked up and crashed a powerful shot past Rachel Brown.
England needed to respond quickly and got themselves back into the game as Smith weaved her way through the German defence and squared for Carney to thump into an empty goal.
It was the third goal in the space of just four minutes and Jill Scott almost got England level before the break with a header that was cleared off the line by Behringer.
Germany restored a two-goal advantage five minutes into the second half through Kulig. The ball bounced across goal after Simone Laudehr's shot from a cross hit the post and the ball was only cleared as far as Kulig.
Yet England would still not throw in the towel and fought back again as Carney slipped in a fine ball for Smith, who turned sharply and hit an unstoppable shot past Nadine Angerer.
Germany, however, had another gear when it mattered and Grings headed in to all but secure her second successive Euro golden boot from a Kerstin Garefrekes cross just after the hour.
It almost got worse for England as Alex Scott turned a Garefrekes cross against her own post.
Grings was on target again after 73 minutes as she linked well with Prinz and cut inside Anita Asante and White to finish from the edge of the area. She then returned the favour by setting up Prinz to lash home her second past a weary England defence three minutes later.
After the match England coach Hope Powell said she believed her side will taste future success despite the heavy loss to all-conquering Germany.
"I think this will make the girls hungrier next time and one day it will be our day," Powell said.
"The scoreline sounds like a walloping but I don't think it was. We started very brightly and we still believed we were in it at 3-2. We still went out to win the game, even though we were 6-2 down. We still wanted to attack and we have to applaud that.
"I truly believe they feel they were in a game tonight. We're happy with what we have achieved in reaching the final but not satisfied."
Powell added: "I think you have to give the Germans some credit, they were very clinical. They kept the ball very well and we made a few unforced errors that put us on the back foot and made it difficult.
"We played well in patches but they moved the ball very quickly and that is a lesson for us. We will now go back, work harder and come back."
Germany coach Silvia Neid admitted England had made life tough before her side eventually secured their seventh Euro title in eight attempts.
Neid said: "I wouldn't have imagined the final would have eight goals. Two very good teams made it a really good final and the game went up and down.
"I thought England could have got back into the game, even at 4-2 down. I only felt confident at 5-2 when England started to look tired and we were still enthusiastic."
Player of the match Grings, who has now won the golden boot in two successive Euro tournaments, added: "I am very happy with the awards but don't forget the team. With team-mates like this you will always look good and it is just a beautiful night."