Spain 1-0 Germany
Spain overcame a nervy start to outclass and control Germany in a largely one-sided Euro 2008 final...
Die Nationalelf had a full squad available after Michael Ballack recovered in time to make the squad, and he lined up in attacking midfield with Schweinsteiger and Podolski to either side of him. Klose began up front, while Fernando Torres did likewise for a Spanish side bereft of David Villa. Francesc Fàbregas supported him, while Xavi, Iniesta and Silva comprised the rest of the attacking midfield. Iker Casillas captained the side from in goal.
After just two minutes Sergio Ramos committed a grave error, inexplicably gifting the ball to the oncoming Miroslav Klose. To the Spaniard's relief, though, the Bayern man strode into the box and overtouched the ball, which rolled harmlessly wide.
Overall the early stages saw die Nationalelf come purposefully up the flanks, although there was little end product, even as Michael Ballack managed to whip in a cross (albeit a wayward one.)
Eventually they did register a shot on target eight minutes in. With yet another attack coming down the left that culiminated in a Klose shot from the edge of the area. Casillas, though, stooped to easily save the effort.
Spain, missing the movement of Villa up front, were largely reduced to the long ball game, while Germany made hay against what was a midfield more apt to stand off than tackle - Ballack looked particularly active in such an environment.
But with their first fluid move of the match, Spain came inches away from scoring. After a fine passing move through Torres and Xavi, Iniesta was gifted to a fine through ball into the left-hand side of the box. Touching the ball past Mertesacker (almost inadvertently), he attempted to play it across goal, only for Christoph Metzelder to get there first - and deflect it goalward. To his relief Jens Lehmann stretched acrobatically to save.
La Furia Roja were emboldened but still struggled to make too much of an impact in front of goal, with Fàbregas also somewhat slow to get involved. But yet again when they did manage to get into the final third, they oh-so nearly made it count. The ever-energetic Sergio Ramos - further forward than might have been anticipated against Germany - launched a cross to the far post, where Fernando Torres manager to tower above Friedrich and head the ball towards goal. With Lehmann unable to reach it, the ball clattered off the post and broke to Capdevila, who shot wide.
For a final the match was becoming remarkably open, and the opener could have come 28 minutes in. Many, in fact, will say that it should have. Capdevila, prior to making a clearance, appeared to handle the ball in the box after tapping it up off his foot, leading to fervent protests from the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Referee Roberto Rosetti, though, declined to blow his whistle.
Five minutes later, though, and Spain were in the lead. It was simple yet beautiful: a 1-2-3 pass move down the middle starting with Marcos Senna before reaching Xavi. The Barcelona man then weighted an absolutely magnificent through ball for Fernando Torres, who outmuscles Lahm and chipped the ball deftly over the onrushing Lehmann into the far corner of the net.
It should have been 2-0 seconds later after Iniesta broke down the left, performed his trademark across Mertesacker, and clipped a cross to the onrushing Silva. Completely unmarked, the Valencia man needlessly ballooned a volley over the bar when he had ample time in which to control the ball and test the 'keeper.
Spain's euphoria was tangible, and in truth they Germany had begun to fade after their dominant spell in the opening ten minutes while their counterparts grew in confidence.
Ugly scenes erupted 41 minutes in Ballack hacked down Fàbregas; in the end Ballack, as well as Spain captain Iker Casillas, were booked for their part inthe drama. But there was to be little more action of note in the first period as the half ended after another fine Xavi-Iniesta counter.
Philipp Lahm, so convincingly beaten at Torres' goal, was hooked at half-time in favour of Marcell Jansen, but otherwise the teams came out unchanged.
Spain started the brighter side, but there were to be relatively few chances. Indeed, Germany were to enjoy the first as Jansen, a positive influence, managed to play the ball to Podolski, but the Polish-born forward was dispossessed just before pulling the trigger. La Furia Roja launched a counter, and Lehmann had to be at his best to force the corner after a Xavi shot. From the resulting corner Silva eventually played it through to Sergio Ramos, but the right-back could make no contact.
The Spaniards once again strode forward just a minute later, and with Mertesacker nowhere Torres was once again played through on goal. This time, though, Lehmann slid in well to save, much to the Liverpool forward's frustration.
The otherwise-impressive Puyol was then caught out after a passing move across the edge of the Spanish box that culminated in a shot for Ballack. Casillas reacted slightly late, but the ball inched wide anyway.
On came Xabi Alonso for Francesc Fàbregas as Spain changed shape. With Germany committing men forward the Furia Roja had to adapt, and thus they did by going 4-2-4-1, Xabi alongside Senna. After another half-chance for the Germans, there was more disciplinary drama as Podolski and Silva clashed off the ball. The German took issue with Silva's pulling him down and squared up to him. The Valencia man reacted by jutting his head forward, although the referee decided not to deem it a headbutt.
Silva was in any case withdrawn seconds later in favour of Santi Cazorla, and Spain renewed their offensive. Metzelder committed handball 30 yards out, and with relatively few staying back for it, it was a quiet box that met the delivery. It was a wonderfully taken free-kick by Xavi, and dreadfulyl defended by Germany, who played Sergio Ramos onside. The young Real Madrid man dived to meet the ball, but his header was saved brilliantly by Lehmann.
Lehmann was called into action again as the final 20 minutes approached, although it seemed that his evening was becoming quieter as Fernando Torres, booked, was substituted off for Daniel Güiza.
Germany, meanwhile, brought on Gomez for Klose as they committed men up front. In doing so, though, they merely afforded Spain a vast amount of space on the break and left their forwards stranded. The Roja almost took full advantage 81 minutes in after a mazy run by Senna - no doubt relieved to be given the freedom to surge forward and pass to Cazorla for a great cross to Güiza. The Mallorca man cut the ball back across goal, but the onrushing Senna
missed the ball by inches with the goal at his mercy.
Spain were well and truly in control as they reacted well to Germany's tactical change and kept the frazzled Nationalelf back four in disarray. Few would have been surprised if they managed a second, and as a solo Daniel Güiza somehow managed to force a corner despite being surrounded by four defenders it actually seemed inevitable.
With few men in the box the corner originally seemed set to come to little, but it was cut back once again to Senna, striding forward, but this time the Brazil-born midfielder won a free-kick 25 yards out. Xavi, though, sclaffed it over the top.
The probability of a second goal lessened as the match wore on, and indeed there was high drama at the other end as the whistle blew in the box, but in fact the referee saw a foul on Capdevila and not Schweinsteiger.
Spain, then, were able to run down the clock in relative comfort as Germany's belief evaporated. The colossus of European trophy-getting, then, were left worn and defeated by the side that had all too often in the past flattered to deceive. The fans saw what so many in football wryly remarked they'd never see again: Spain lifted a trophy as European Champions.
SPAIN 1-0 GERMANY
1-0 Torres 33'
SPAIN: Casillas (c); Sergio Ramos, Marchena, Puyol, Capdevila; Senna; Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Cesc Fàbregas (Xabi Alonso 63); Silva (Cazorla 65); Torres (Güiza 77).
Subs Not Used: Palop, Reina, Albiol, Fernando Navarro, Villa, Sergio García, Arbeloa, Juanito, de la Red.
GERMANY: Lehmann; Friedrich, Mertresacker, Metzelder, Lahm (Jansen 46); Frings, Hitzlsperger (Kuranyi 57); Schweinsteiger, Ballack (c), Podolski; Klose (Gomez 78).
Subs Not Used: Enke, Adler, Fritz, Westermann, Rolfes, Neuville, Trochowski, Borowski, Odonkor.
Yellow Cards: Casillas 42, Torres 74 - Ballack 42, Kuranyi 87.
Referee: Roberto Rosetti (Italy)
Ewan Macdonald, Goal.com