Torres goal gives Spain European title
Wednesday, 02 July 2008

REUTERS, VIENNA - Striker Fernando Torres's brilliantly executed first-half goal gave Spain a deserved 1-0 victory over Germany on Sunday as they were crowned European champions for the first time in 44 years.

Spain dominated a thrilling, end-to-end Euro 2008 final and could have won by a far more convincing margin, but Torres's 33rd minute strike was enough to bring them their first major title since their 1964 Euro success on home soil.

Just minutes after powering a header against the base of Jens Lehmann's post, Torres ran on to Xavi's through ball, sprinted around fullback Philipp Lahm and dinked a delicate shot with the inside of his right foot past the advancing keeper.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "It's our first title (together) and we hope it will be the first of many. We've still got the World Cup to come, we have to be ambitious.

SPAIN'S QUALITY

Germany coach Joachim Loew was gracious in defeat, complimenting Spain on the standard of their football.

"We have to accept the quality of the Spanish side tonight and their technical ability."

Spain, playing the cultured football and swift inter-passing that marked them out as the most entertaining team in the tournament, carved out other chances but failed to take them.

Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, Marcos Senna and Torres all either went close, were denied by Lehmann or in one case brought a Torsten Frings clearance off the line as Germany relied on trying to counter-attack at every opportunity.

But with their captain Michael Ballack carrying a calf injury and unable to dominate in midfield, and their blond dynamo Bastian Schweinsteiger not finding his passing range, Germany were kept on the back foot for long spells.

Even when they did get forward, the Spanish defence was impregnable. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas punched or caught everything that got through to him with total assurance.

The hard-working Spain midfield, in which Senna was outstanding, eventually restricted the Germans to speculative efforts and the nearest they came to a goal was when Ballack hit the side-netting after an hour.

SPANISH STRIDE

Germany, though, had enjoyed the better of the opening period with Miroslav Klose and Thomas Hitzlsperger having chances to give them an early lead.

But Spain soon got into their stride.

They split the German defence open time and again with some superb interplay down the wings and through the middle with low, swift passes from Cesc Fabregas, Iniesta and Xavi.

Germany increasingly relied on long hopeful balls, but they remained in contention until the final whistle simply because the Spaniards could not kill the game off with another goal.

In the end they did enough and the victory not only ends Spain's long wait for a title but also marks a personal triumph for their 69-year-old coach Luis Aragones, the oldest among the 16 managers that set out to win the title three weeks ago.

His decision not to include Spain's all-time leading scorer Raul in the squad was criticised by the Madrid media before the tournament, but Aragones has been vindicated in his last match in charge and is now set to join Turkish club Fenerbahce.

Forward David Villa, who missed the final through injury, also finished as the tournament's top scorer with four goals while Spain took their unbeaten run to 22 matches and finally banished their reputation as serial under-achievers.

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