Euro 2008 came to a thrilling end yesterday as Spain walked away with a 1-0 victory over Germany and the Euro 2008 Championship. Spain was no doubt the best team in the tournament, outscoring their opponents 12 to 3. They had not given up a goal since their final group match versus Greece and defeated the surprising Russians twice by scores of 4-1 and 3-0. Even without leading goal scorer David Villa, the Spanish still defeated Germany. Fernando Torres notched the only goal of the game on a nice through-ball from Xavi. For Torres, the goal was only his second of tournament, but could not have come at a better time. Up until Sunday’s final, Torres had struggled throughout the whole Euro tournament, missing huge opportunitiesand blowing golden scoring chances, but he came through when it mattered most. Xavi, on the other hand, had an outstanding tournament and was named best player at Euro 2008 by UEFA technical experts.
For Germany, it was a gut-wrenching loss that makes it 12 years since they last won a major title. After winning a couple of games with well-timed goals and fortunate bounces, the Germans could not squeak out a win versus Spain. It took a massive free kick from captain Michael Ballack for Germany to beat Austria and advance past group play. In the quarterfinals, Portugal had twice as many shots on goal as Germany, had nearly three times as many corner kicks (8-3), and had possession 53% of the time, but could not find the back of the net. Germany escaped with a 3-2 win in that game even though they were thoroughly out played. Then in the semifinals, it took a 90th minute goal from Philip Lahm for Germany to edge Turkey 3-2 and advance to the finals. Unfortunately for Germany, their luck ran out against Spain. German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, who had a couple of good free kicks and some nice goals in previous games, could do nothing in the final. He screwed up a couple of German set pieces by blasting the ball out of play and misreading his teammates on Germany’s few scoring chances.
Even though I talk about Germany’s luck running out, that is not why they lost. They lost because Spain’s defense was simply too good. Sergio Ramos and Carles Puyol acted like a wall in the back. As Germany fought hard to find cracks in the Spanish defense, Spanish midfielders sprinted back and stopped any German rush. Particularly, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas were back on defense every German possession and did not allow a counter-attack all night. Germany managed to get off only 4 shots the entire game, a lot less than the 14 shots by Spain, 8 of which were on goal. Germany’s best chance probably came on their last possession when Schweinsteiger appeared to have an open look in the box, but the play was whistled down. German players argued adamantly and German keeper Jens Lehmann even commented that the referee was biased, but those are just pitiful excuses created by a weaker German team. I lost respect for players like Michael Ballack, who spent all 90 minutes arguing and whining. Spain thoroughly Germany and that is that. Congratulations to Spain on their Euro 2008 win. They completely deserved it.