Spain all the way!

Eventually, it was a Torres de Force that won Spain their first international title in 44 years as they beat Germany with a classy display of some slick football at the Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna. Luis Aragones announced prior to this summer’s tournament that he was to step down as Spain boss at its conclusion and he is set to go out on a high as Fernando Torres struck to secure Spain’s first piece of silverware since the 1964 European Championship.

A thrilling Euro 2008 was crying out for an entertaining final to end proceedings in Austria and Switzerland and both sides played their part in an enthralling encounter in Vienna. Spain were the marginal favourites having played the best football in the tournament, and scoring a bag-full of goals while they were at it.

Ahead of kick-off, Germany were boosted by the news that Ballack was fit to play after recovering sufficiently from the calf injury which had prevented him from training on Friday or Saturday.

The match began with a high tempo, and both sides seemed to be playing the same 4-5-1 formation, with Cesc Fabregas finally breaking in to the side, due to the injury to David Villa. The first half saw a lot of chances fly by as a bad pass from Sergio Ramos almost let Miroslav Klose on to goal, only to be thwarted by resolute defending from Carles Puyol, something that the Barcelona captain has been hailed for, for quite some time now.

Michael Ballack collided with Marcos Senna to come off with a bleeding eye, and had to be treated, even as the game went on, unfolding as a chess game, only at ten times the tempo. But with Spain pressing on for the opening goal, the Germans seemed to forget the attacking football it seemed they had learned and resorted to the same old pass-back-to-the-keeper style. Ironically, it was this that led to the 33rd minute goal for Torres who outmuscled the frail Phillip Lahm and caught the often at fault Jens Lehmann off his position to slot in his first goal at the Championships, and probably the most important one of his career.

In the second half, Germany midfielder Michael Ballack volleyed his side’s best chance just wide of Spain’s near post, but Aragones’s men were always comfortable as they deservedly ended almost half-a-century of waiting for success. The Spanish defensive partnership of Puyol and Marchena was the Rock of Gibraltar as the Germans tried in vain to regain parity.

Spain could have had a second as Senna went close to prodding in Guiza’s knockdown, but one goal proved to be comfortably enough as referee Rosetti’s final whistle sparked wild celebrations and Casillas lifted the Euro 2008 trophy.

In the end, it was the flair and the swagger ofa young, fleet-footed Spanish side that survived the dour and boring German forward play, which mostly involved Jens Lehmann or one of the full backs launching the ball forward from their own penalty area. Luis Aragones, the maverick Spanish coach will go out on a high as he becomes the oldest coach to win the European Championships – at 69. The future looks bright for the Spanish Armada, and with their young quintet of Fabregas, Villa, Guiza, Silva and Torres maturing in the guidance of the old guard, the World Cup in two years’ time may not be far away from their grasp.

Vineet Kanabar

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