Euro win first for Spain since 1964 (Lead)

June 30th, 2008 - 5:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Vienna, June 30 (EFE) The Spanish national soccer team crowned themselves the Euro 2008 champions for the second time, 44 years after their first win in the tourney, in an exciting 1-0 final win over Germany before 51,428 fans in the Ernst Happel stadium here Sunday night. Overall, with 12 goals scored in the tournament and only two notched against them, the Spaniards had performed better than any other team.

Getting past the hurdle in the final had left Luis Aragones’s squad feeling so good and so convinced of its chances that not even a semi-final injury to David Villa, the tourney’s most effective player and top scorer with 4 goals, had been able to put the team into any kind of depression.

The Spaniards’ victory Sunday night, on a 33rd minute goal by Fernando Torres, was - above all - a triumph for Aragones, who put up with harassment when things weren’t going so well during the classification phase and gained the respect of his players.

The euphoria started during their 3-0 semi-final rout of Russia, a deja vu situation coming after Spain’s 1-4 drubbing of the boys from Moscow during the first phase.

With Germany pressuring them right from the start, Spain gave up a few good situations to its rivals, led by Joachim Loew, but when the Spaniards got their first good chance in the German area, their luck began to change and the Germans began to recognise that their pristine defence was possibly made of glass and their goalkeeper possibly not infallible.

Once the Spaniards got their game going, their outstanding ball-handling technique, great passing and tight defence made the night impossible for Germany, a three-time Euro champion.

Spain had put together two close chances before Torres - who had had a somewhat lacklustre showing in the tourney so far - hit the twine.

Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was just able to save a goal when a shot by Andres Iniesta was deflected in the 14th minute, but he couldn’t move fast enough nine minutes later when Torres got one past Per Mertesacker only to have his header hit the post and bounce away.

In the night’s lone goal, Philipp Lahm seemingly had a feed by Xavi Hernandez well in hand, but Lehmann apparently hesitated just slightly in charging out to capture the ball, and the dangerous Torres darted in just at that moment to artfully flip it over the goalie and into the net.

Loew sent in Marcell Janssen for Lahm in the 46th minute, and some minutes later sent in striker Kevin Kuranyi for Thomas Hitzlsperger, as Germany sought to recover the initiative.

Spain was able to put together several more chances after the intermission, but none of them amounted to much and Germany picked up its game, cognizant of the urgency of staging a comeback and loaded with die-hard players of the highest calibre.

Michael Ballack got a good chance, sparking some nervousness if not among the Spanish squad, then certainly among the Spanish fans.

Then Spain got a rapid series of possibilities on shots by Sergio Ramos and Iniesta, though Lehmann saved those with great professionalism. And Torres himself was able to get a couple more shots that were handled, but after all the sound and fury the whole contest boiled down to - and the fulfilment of Spain’s dream hinged on - just that one nicely executed finesse in the 33rd minute.

The match-up with Germany, a rival that in other years would have seemed unbeatable, was seen as a festive occasion in Vienna, where local fans mostly favour the Spanish team.

The last time Spain won the tourney was in 1964 at home, although it got to the finals again in 1984 but lost to France.

Torres, who was named the match’s Best Player, said after the game that the victory was great “not only for Spain, but also for soccer, because the best team won,” adding “justice has been done… We did our duty well.”

And the 69-year-old Aragones said after the match: “I feel wonderful, although I’m not used to expressing my emotions. But I feel very happy, for everyone.”

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