Sunday, June 29, 2008

Germany Vs. Spain Euro 2008 Final Match Report

Fernando Torres was the hero for Spain by firing them to Euro 2008 glory against Germany in Vienna - and ending 44 years of underachievement.

Torres struck in the 33rd minute at Ernst Happel Stadion and despite the efforts of Germany skipper Michael Ballack, they held on to their lead to spark wild celebrations in Austria's capital.

Heavyweights in European football who produce a constant stream of individual talents, Spain had not won a major tournament since 1964 but finally shook off their tag of being chokers, not able to cope with the pressure of the highest stage.

They have also been perceived as a nation divided by their regions - the lyrics to their national anthem are not used - but full-back Sergio Ramos had kept mentioning the word "united'' this week, and when Torres secured the Henri Delaunay for them they were just that.

Just shy of his 70th birthday, Luis Aragones will now leave his post as coach, probably for Fenerbahce, as a champion. Vicente del Bosque has been tipped to take over and he will inherit a young squad who have their sights on the World Cup.

While Portugal appeared destabilised by Chelsea announcing Luiz Felipe Scolari as their new coach during these finals, there were no signs of the same happening to Spain following Fenerbahce's statement revealing Aragones as their new boss on the eve of their semi-final.

They finish as the tournament's top goalscorers, helped by Torres who took the Premier League by storm with 33 rookie goals for Liverpool.

He was not on the top of his game for the whole of the tournament, but the 24-year-old stepped into the shoes of David Villa when Spain needed him.

"Viva Espana'' sang their fans before the sangria started flowing.

This was billed as a clash of Germany's efficiency and power versus Spain's fluidity and creativity which were on display as Russia were swept aside in the semi-finals.

Germany's drive came from Ballack, with the Chelsea midfielder passed fit despite carrying a calf injury on the eve of the final.

'Against the odds we will win the trophy', read one headline from a German newspaper on the day of the game - and Ballack was seen as the key to their chances.

They had been inconsistent in the group stages, then stuttered past Turkey after outmuscling Portugal.

Only Ballack's level of performance had been high throughout all of it but he ends the tournament a 'nearly man' again.

Six years ago he missed the World Cup final through suspension just after Bayer Leverkusen missed a trio of chances for silverware.

This season Manchester United pipped him to the Premier League and Champions League - and he finds himself the bridesmaid once more.

Facing Ballack was a Barcelona-bred wall of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas in midfield, with Arsenal's youngster getting his chance following Villa's injury.

But before they were allowed to impose themselves on the game, Germany had already wasted two early chances.

Ramos lost his bearings and gifted a pass straight to Miroslav Klose, whose poor touch let him down as he sped past Carles Puyol - and the opportunity had gone.

Then Thomas Hitzlsperger was teed up on the edge of the area by Klose but could not get purchase on his shot.

Spain started to move through the gears after their double reprieve, never looking back after they were let off the hook.

Their opening chance came after a Xavi pass had split the German defence to find Iniesta on the left. When the cross came over, Christoph Metzelder sliced towards his own goal and Jens Lehmann, the oldest player to feature in a European Championship final, athletically tipped around the post.

The post came to Lehmann's rescue when Torres climbed above Per Mertesacker to meet Ramos' centre - but the Liverpool man was not made to wait long for his goal.

It came 12 minutes before the break when Xavi played the ball beyond Philipp Lahm. The full-back was favourite to clear but Torres used pace and muscle to get around him and chip over Lehmann before celebrating his goal by sucking his thumb.

It could have got worse for Germany had David Silva not volleyed over wildly when found at the far post by Iniesta.

And German fans feared the worst when Ballack was forced off with a cut eye, but he returned after getting the bloodied injury treated twice. He was also booked along with opposing captain Iker Casillas for talking back at the referee.

Spain had chances to make it comfortable after the break, with Lehmann saving from Ramos' header and Iniesta getting a drive cleared off the line.

Their own indiscipline almost cost them when Silva butted his head towards Lukas Podolski - but no card was shown.

Torres was taken off in the 78th minute, with his job already done in waking the sleeping giants of European football.


Germany Vs. Spain Euro 2008 Final HIghlights Video Clips

Germany 0 - 1 Spain
half-time (0 - 1)

referee :
Roberto Rosetti (Italy)
match details :
33' [0 - 1] F. Torres


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Germany Vs Spain Match Preview

VIENNA, June 27 (Reuters) - Spain can end a 44-year wait to be crowned European champions if they reproduce the same form in Sunday's final against Germany that they showed to beat Russia 3-0 in the semi-final on Thursday.

Germany, in contrast, will have to play far better than they did in their 3-2 semi-final win over Turkey in Basel on Wednesday if they are to win the title for the fourth time.

Despite that dip in form against the Turks, Germany were outstanding in their quarter-final victory over Portugal and a double over the Iberian countries would give them the European crown for the first time since 1996.

An outstanding tournament has produced two worthy finalists at the Ernst Happel stadium who should cap three glorious weeks of soccer with a fitting finale.

Germany coach Joachim Loew said his team would be able to enjoy the final after playing through the pressure of two knockout rounds in Basel.

'The pressure we've been under is now off to a certain extent,' Loew said at a news conference on Thursday.

'We're in the final now and we have a lot to win on Sunday.'

He said, though, that the six-day gap without a match between their quarter and semi-finals deprived them of their momentum.

'I think it's better when you play every three or four days. The long break before the Turkey game didn't do us any good,' he admitted.

Loew is likely to stick with the 4-5-1 formation that served them so well against Portugal and, in the end, saw them sneak home against Turkey.

The one difference in the side is likely to be the return of Torsten Frings, who missed the Portugal game after cracking a rib in the team's final Group B game against Austria and had to be content with a substitute's role against Turkey.

Frings did well when coming on for the second half against the Turks when he replaced the injured Simon Rolfes.

There will be key battles all over the field, but the most fascinating will be in midfield between Germany captain Michael Ballack and Spain's Cesc Fabregas, who is expected to start because David Villa is likely to miss out with a foot injury.

'We've made it and now everybody is expecting us to do something big,' Fabregas said after Spain beat Russia.

Spanish coach Luis Aragones, who turns 70 next month and was the oldest of the 16 coaches that began the tournament, will be taking charge of Spain for the last time on Sunday.

It will be Spain's first final since losing to France in Paris in the 1984 European Championship.

Despite decades of producing great players, Spain's only major tournament victory came at the 1964 European Championship when they beat Russia's predecessors, the Soviet Union, in the final in Madrid.

Germany will also be hoping to end an odd sequence that has seen them win and lose finals alternately. After winning in 1972, they lost in 1976, before winning again in 1980, losing in 1992 and winning again in 1996.

Despite those defeats, their impressive overall major tournament history is a powerful motivating factor for them, as is Spain's for Aragones's men -- for very different reasons.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Russia Vs. Spain Match Report

VIENNA, June 26 (Reuters) - Spain reached the European Championship final for the first time in 24 years on Thursday with a convincing 3-0 win over Russia to set up a meeting with Germany in Sunday's Euro 2008 decider.

Xavi scored with a superbly taken opportunist volley at a rainswept Ernst Happel Stadium to give Spain a deserved 1-0 lead after 50 minutes and substitute Daniel Guiza made no mistake when he beat the offside trap to make it 2-0 after 73 minutes.

Cesc Fabregas set up David Silva to make it 3-0 eight minutes from time.

The breakthrough in an absorbing match came five minutes into the second half when Andres Iniesta cut in from the left and found Xavi who had lost his markers.

He took his chance brilliantly to put Spain ahead and on the way to their first final since they lost to France in 1984.

Guiza replaced Fernando Torres up front after 69 minutes and took only four minutes to strike after being set up by midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who had a huge influence after replacing the injured David Villa after 35 minutes.

Spain, who stretched their unbeaten run to 21 matches, will be attempting to be crowned European champions for the first time since their only success in 1964.

Germany, who reached the final on Wednesday by beating Turkey 3-2, will be aiming for their fourth continental triumph.

Spain beat Russia 4-1 in the group stage two weeks ago and were the better side again on Thursday, totally deserving their triumph because their midfield dominated and created plenty of chances for the front men.

Russia, who improved enormously after that opening loss to Spain, never found the rhythm and verve that had seen off Netherlands in the quarter-final and Andrei Arshavin, the inspiration behind their revival, had a largely anonymous game.

Both teams made a lively start in the pouring rain with Spain creating the first two chances. Torres turned and shot straight at Igor Akinfeyev after six minutes and Villa forced the keeper into a good save five minutes later.

Russia's first serious chance came after 16 minutes when Roman Pavlyuchenko blasted a free kick just over Iker Casillas's bar. He also went close with a long-range shot after 31 minutes. However, the second half belonged to triumphant Spain.


Russia Vs. Spain Highlights Video Clip

Russia 0 - 3 Spain

half-time (0 - 0)
referee : spectators :

Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium) 52,000

match details :

50' [0 - 1] X. Hernandez
73' [0 - 2] D. Guiza
83' [0 - 3] D.J. Silva