Euro 2008 – Torres gives Spain Euro win
A first-half goal by Fernando Torres gave Spain their first major trophy in 44 years after a 1-0 Euro 2008 final win over Germany.
The victory at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Austria, rounded off a superb tournament for the Spanish, for whom it was a second European triumph in addition to their 1964 win.
It also vindicated the decision to keep faith with veteran coach Luis Aragones despite his embarrassing racist outburst about France striker Thierry Henry in 2004, his decision to drop Spain and Real Madrid captain Raul and his failure to get La Furia Roja past the second round of the 2006 World Cup.
Aragones is set to join Fenerbahce and his success has set the bar high for incoming boss Vicente del Bosque, although in truth it was not the best match of the tournament on account of a mediocre performance by Germany.
But there can be no doubt that Spain deserved to win the cup as – despite the excitement provided by the Russia, Turkey, Netherlands and Portugal – they scored more goals and conceded less than any other team in the Euros.
After a relatively cagey opening ten minutes that saw Germany make most of the running, Spain slowly took control of the match with their calm possession and quick counter-attacks.
Germany had the better possession at first, but it was the Spaniards who had the first effort on target when Jens Lehmann was forced to save from Christoph Metzelder when he almost put Andres Iniesta‘s low cross past his own keeper.
Spain gained confidence and, with Iniesta in particular able to find space on the left, the single-pronged attack allowed them to break in numbers from midfield, with Torres and Silva also profiting from great delivery by Xavi and Cesc Fabregas.
Germany, on the other hand, started to regress. Per Mertesacker looked particularly uncomfortable and he struggled to deal with Torres and Iniesta both positionally and in terms of decision-making.
Aside from giving them the run of the penalty area and the occasional loose pass to latch onto, the tall Werder Bremen defender’s trademark aerial ability was left in the dressing room as the much smaller Torres managed to beat him to crosses on three occasions, one of which saw the ball strike the inside of the post on 22 minutes.
And Spain took the lead on 33 minutes when Torres snuck between Philip Lahm and Jens Lehmann to chip the ball home from the edge of the box.
Lahm was culpable as he seemed to let Torres get past when he looked like he had the ball covered. It was a sweet finish though, and no more than Spain deserved as they attacked from deep with pace and flair.
The Bayern Munich full-back paid for his error and was replaced by club team-mate Marcel Jansen at half-time. It had little immediate effect though, as Spain continued to boss the match after the restart.
Lehmann saved from Xavi, Ramos was agonisingly close to backheeling David Silva‘s low drive into goal and Lehmann prevented a carbon-copy to Torres’s earlier goal when he rushed out to block the Liverpool man.
Germany had a chance in between when Ballack shot just wide, but that was a short blip and Spain continued to create opportunities – although they could have gone down to ten men when a confrontation between Lukas Podolski and Silva saw the Valencia winger aim a mini-headbutt at the Bayern striker.
Ramos should have scored but headed straight at Lehmann after shocking Germany marking from a Xavi free-kick, Torsten Frings cleared Iniesta’s low drive off the line after the corner that followed was taken short.
Germany looked short of ideas and energy, so boss Joachim Loew gambled by bringing on target man Kevin Kuranyi.
It had little effect though as the three-time winners huffed and puffed while Spain sat back and picked their breaks at leisure.
There was a moment of controversy when Lehmann appeared to handle outside the area, while Brazilian-born Spain midfielder Marcos Senna almost capped off a dream tournament with a goal but was unable to connect with substitute Dani Guiza’s excellent cushioned header back across goal.
Germany pressed late on using long balls and throwing on misfiring striker Mario Gomez, but Spain held on quite comfortably to complete a 1-0 thrashing and finally break their run of underachievement.