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Spain win Euro 2008!

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Spain have ended their 44-year wait for a major footballing trophy thanks to a 1-0 victory over Germany in Vienna.

This content was published on June 29, 2008 - 22:38

Fernando Torres finally lived up to his billing as one of the world's great strikers on Sunday by scoring to make Spain the champions of Europe.

Torres, who had been overshadowed by teammate David Villa all tournament, scored in the 33rd minute of the final to topple the three-time European champions and earn his nation's first major title since 1964.

Touching a sliding pass from Xavi Hernandez past Philipp Lahm, Torres turned and ran past his marker on the opposite side, collected the ball and lifted a shot over sliding goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and into the far corner.

In the end, Spain were deserved winners of the 13th European Championships, co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria.

Long known as underachievers who peaked between tournaments rather than at them, Spain reached the final at Ernst Happel Stadium with a string of beguiling attacking displays orchestrated by a vibrant midfield – and held true to their values in the highest pressure match.

Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva swapped positions constantly against a midfield marshalled by Michael Ballack and eventually wore out their opponents until it seemed Spain was simply counting down time until the final whistle.

Slow start

Germany, playing in their seventh European Championships final, had a strong appeal for a first-half penalty turned down but, despite Ballack's imperious performance, could not find a way past the Spanish defence.

Ballack's tender right calf had meant that, until right before kickoff, it looked like he was about to add a missed European Championships final to the World Cup final he sat out in 2002.

But he took his place in the line-up and, against a team with even slightly less skill and passion, could have been the driving force in another German win.

Germany dominated the opening exchanges until a lucky break in the 14th minute gave the Spanish their first chance on goal and a boost that clearly lifted their play.

On a rare foray forward, Iniesta sent a cross into the box from the left and German defender Christoph Metzelder stuck out a boot to send the ball rocketing toward his own goal. Only a diving reaction save by Jens Lehmann kept it out.

Spain never looked back.

Quality goal

Per Mertesacker had to dispossess Torres in the area with a well-timed sliding tackle before Torres found space for a couple of dangerous headers. He put the first just over the bar before sending the second against the foot of the post with Lehmann beaten.

Germany were then left to rue their luck in what could have been the decisive moment of the match in the 29th minute. Fullback Joan Capdevila mis-controlled the ball and it clearly bounced up to hit his hand, but Italian referee Roberto Rosetti waved away the appeals.

Moments later, Torres showed why he is rated one of the best strikers in the world.

With leading tournament scorer Villa absent because of injury, Torres was again the sole outlet in attack. He took Xavi's pass and finished off his chance by flipping the ball over Lehmann and watching it roll softly into the corner for his second goal of Euro 2008.

Germany replaced the struggling Lahm with Marcell Jansen at halftime but Silva still got in a 54th-minute shot that right back Sergio Ramos almost deflected in with a back heel.

Ballack, who had already received treatment for a head wound and was railing against every decision in Spain's favour, shot past the post and almost set up substitute Kevin Kuranyi with a cross that goalkeeper Iker Casillas just tipped away.

But from then on, aside from isolated passages of play, it was all Spain.

Curse broken

After winning their first title in 44 years having beaten Italy and Germany, Spain no longer need to think of themselves as an underachieving football nation.

The "Red Fury" won their second European Championships playing with flair, finesse and a determination that the team had lacked in so many previous competitions.

The Spaniards may not have as many trophies as the Germans or Italians, but the sparkling performance in Euro 2008 finally ended Spain's curse of exiting major tournaments in the quarterfinals.

The Spanish had a weak start to qualifying for Euro 2008 with losses to Northern Ireland and Sweden, but they recovered with eight wins and one draw to claim their group.

Spain's flow continued at the tournament with three straight victories in the group stage followed by a 4-2 win over Italy in a penalty shootout.

That was Spain's toughest test, and the only match in which they didn't score in regular time. It was also crucial for the team's self-confidence as it ended Spain's bad habit of exiting major tournaments in the quarterfinals.

From that moment, there was no holding Spain back as they crushed Russia 3-0 and carried the momentum on to the final against Germany, even with tournament top-scorer David Villa out injured.

The 1-0 win over Germany extended Spain's unbeaten streak to 22 matches and allowed embattled coach Luis Aragonés to end his four-year spell with Spain on a high.

It was Spain's third European Championships final, after beating the Soviet Union in 1964 and losing to France 20 years later. Since 1984, Spain had not previously advanced past the quarterfinal stage of the any major tournament.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Spain: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Carlos Marchena, Joan Capdevila, Xavi Hernandez, David Silva (Santi Cazorla, 66), Marcos Senna, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas (Xabi Alonso, 63), Fernando Torres (Dani Güiza, 78).

Germany: Jens Lehmann, Christoph Metzelder, Per Mertesacker, Philipp Lahm (Marcell Jansen, 46), Arne Friedrich, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Hitzlsperger (Kevin Kuranyi, 58), Torsten Frings, Michael Ballack, Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose (Mario Gomez, 79).

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Previous Euro finals

1960 Paris USSR - Yugoslavia 2-1 after extra time (0-1, 1-1)
1964 Madrid Spain - USSR 2-1 (1-1)
1968 Rome Italy - Yugoslavia 1-1 after extra time (0-1, 1-1)
Replay: Italy - Yugoslavia 2-0 (2-0)
1972 Brussels Germany - USSR 3-0 (1-0)
1976 Belgrade Czechoslovakia - Germany 2-2 after extra time (2-1, 2-2),
5-3 penalty shoot-out
1980 Rome Germany - Belgium 2-1 (1-0)
1984 Paris France - Spain 2-0 (0-0)
1988 Munich Netherlands - USSR 2-0 (1-0)
1992 Göteborg Denmark - Germany 2-0 (1-0)
1996 London Germany – Czech Republic 2-1 after extra time (0-0, 1-1)
2000 Rotterdam France - Italy 2-1 after extra time (0-0, 1-1)
2004 Lisbon Greece - Portugal 1-0 (0-0)

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Euro 2008

Switzerland co-hosted the Euro 2008 football tournament with Austria from June 7-29.

The first round games were played in four cities in Switzerland (Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich) and four cities in Austria (Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna). The semifinals were hosted by Basel and Vienna and the final was held in Vienna on June 29.

The finals were broadcast in 170 countries and were expected to be watched by about eight billion cumulative TV viewers.

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