Torres strike ends Spain's long wait
Torres lifts the ball over Jens Lehmann and into the Germany net
Spain have been crowned European champions for the second time as Fernando Torres's first-half goal in Vienna proved enough to defeat Germany in the final of UEFA EURO 2008™.
History an inspiration
Spain won their only previous piece of silverware in this competition in 1964 and had not been beyond the quarter-finals of any competition in 24 years, yet Luis Aragonés's men have chosen to use that history as an inspiration rather than a burden. After a strong start from Germany, seeking a fourth title themselves, Spain were the more dangerous side throughout an entertaining final at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion although it took just one goal – in the 33rd minute, courtesy of Torres's pace, perseverance and an unerring finish – to end their long wait.
Germany received a significant boost before kick-off with captain Michael Ballack included despite a much-publicised calf problem and, perhaps buoyed by that news, Joachim Löw's team settled quickly. Much had been made of the contrast in styles between the two sides yet in the opening exchanges it was Germany whose passing looked crisper, Miroslav Klose and Thomas Hitzlsperger failing to make the most of glimpses of goal while Spain, shorn of four-goal leading striker David Villa due to a thigh injury, struggled to find their feet in a new 4-5-1 formation in which Cesc Fŕbregas was rewarded for a fine semi-final display with a starting place.
As an indicator of the pattern of the match, however, Germany's bright start proved misleading. Spain soon worked their way into the contest, with Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann – becoming, at 38, the oldest player to appear in a UEFA European Championship final – forced into action for the first time in the 14th minute. Although his instinctive save came when his own defender, Christoph Metzelder, inadvertently deflected Andrés Iniesta's cross towards his own goal, Xavi Hernández's fine through-pass had unpicked the Germany defence and showed the Spanish were finding their feet.
Torres on target
Right-back Sergio Ramos was then allowed to cut inside and deliver a deep cross, Torres peeling away from Per Mertesacker to create space for the header only for the right-hand post to come to Lehmann's rescue. The warning signs were there for Germany, yet they failed to heed them and duly fell behind three minutes past the half-hour. Again Xavi was the architect, playing a pass in behind the Germany defence towards Torres, who outmuscled a hesitant Philipp Lahm and clipped the ball over the diving Jens Lehmann and just inside the far post. David Silva then volleyed over Iniesta's cross when given time and space inside the area as Spain threatened to increase their lead.
Spain had more openings in the early stages of the second half, Lehmann getting the merest of touches to Xavi's low shot before Ramos nearly guided in Silva's drive from the resulting corner. Yet a warning of the threat Germany still posed arrived on the hour, substitute Marcell Jansen and Bastian Schweinsteiger combining for Ballack to shoot centimetres wide. Klose then deflected a Schweinsteiger effort past the post and in response to Germany’s renewed menace Spain coach Luis Aragonés promptly introduced Xabi Alonso and Santi Cazorla in place of Fŕbregas and Silva. The switches reinvigorated Spain instantly, Lehmann making sharp stops from Ramos and Iniesta while Torsten Frings blocked another Iniesta effort on the line.
As the final moved into the last 20 minutes, Spain had had seven shots on goal to Germany's one, yet with Germany having turned virtually one in two of their efforts on target into goals ahead of the final, that was scant consolation to Aragonés and his side. In the event Spain continued to carve out chances as the match reached its conclusion, Marcos Senna narrowly failing to apply the finishing touch to an unselfish header from substitute Daniel Güiza – but the celebrations would not be delayed much longer.