Lowe misses chance to join German greats

Joachim Loew missed out on the chance to add his name to the trio of Germany coaches who have won a European title when his side lost 1-0 to Spain in Sunday's Euro 2008 final.

The 48-year-old has earned plenty of praise from the German media at Euro 2008 having inspired an average Germany side to reach the Vienna final after just two years in charge having been predecessor Jurgen Klinsmann's assistant.

He had aimed to follow in the path of Bertie Vogts who steered Germany to the Euro 1996 title after current German team manager Oliver Bierhoff won the tournament with a golden goal against the Czech Republic at Wembley.

As West Germany, the Mannschaft coached by Helmut Schoen claimed the Henri Delaunay trophy for the first time by defeating the USSR 3-0 in Brussels in 1972 with legendary hot-shot Gerd Muller grabbing two goals.

The West Germans bounced back from the disappointment of losing the 1976 European Championship final at the hands of Czechoslovakia with a 2-1 final triumph in Rome as Jupp Derwall coached his side to the title in 1980.

This was the first time Loew had met Spanish opposition as a coach or player in official competition.

He could only watch as Spain's Fernando Torres scored the winner which gave his side a sixth win in the 20 games between the two sides with Germany still leading the series with eight victories.

But Loew really showed his tactical nous in the 3-2 quarter-final defeat of Portugal when he abandoned the trusted 4-4-2 formation for a potent 4-5-1 system which worked with devastating effect.

Having signed a two-year contract extension last autumn, Loew will take Germany to the 2012 World Cup finals in South Africa.

His biggest challenge will now be to groom replacements for ageing midfielders Torsten Frings, Michael Ballack and Bernd Schneider, who missed the Euro 2008 finals with a back injury.

However, for the moment Loew was content to praise his present bunch of warriors.

“I have to compliment the team for what they have achieved over the past few weeks,” said the 48-year-old.

“It has been fantastic. The players are obviously disappointed, but they have every reason to hold their heads up high.”

He too could exit the tournament with his head held high.

Sun 29 June, 2008
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Torres steps out from under Villa´s shadow

Fernando Torres showed that anything his fellow striker David Villa can do he can do too with the precious goal that gave Spain victory over Germany in Sunday's Euro 2008 final.

Villa had stolen most of the limelight away from the Liverpool forward at Euro 2008 up to Sunday night with his four goal harvest making him the competition's leading scorer.

But injury in the first half of the Spaniard's semi-final success over Russia left the big stage clear for the Premier League star.

Torres was deployed by coach Luis Aragones as a lone striker served by a five man midfield featuring his Premier League rival Cesc Fabregas.

And after a hesitant start he made himself known to the German defence in the 20th minute with a looping header which went high.

Two minutes later he had the best chance of the opening exchanges, his downward header hitting Jens Lehmann's far post.

Then on 33 minutes his moment of glory came.

Xavi was the instigator of the move that will have set the hearts of 44 million Spaniards beating at 100 miles an hour.

The Barcelona midfielder slid a perfect pass through to Torres who used his muscle and skill to see off German defender Phillip Lahm, lifting his shot over Lehmann and into the far corner.

“For me, it's a dream come true,” said Torres.

“Victory in a Euro, is almost as big as a World Cup. I think that we have played very good football throughout the tournament and it was justice done when we won the final.”

His 74th minute booking for a foul on Christoph Metzelder will hardly have ruined his evening and he was eventually replaced by Dani Guiza four minutes later, his work done.

The blonde-haired forward who had a sensational debut season at Liverpool with 33 goals opened his account at this Euro against Sweden in the second match, but had up to now been largely overshadowed by Villa.

Torres, for whom this was his 17 international goal in his 53rd cap, had developed a forceful partnership with Villa – a major factor in Spain's waltz through the group stages.

Villa paid tribute to his strike partner after his opening hat-trick against Russia, saying: “People don't really notice the work he does in terms of creating chances.

“Two of my goals were due entirely to his huge amount of work in the lead up to them.”

Torres won best player and top scorer prizes at the Under-16 and Under-19 world championships in 2001 and 2002, and scored three goals at the 2006 World Cup in which Spain went out in the second round.

Quick and lethal in front of goal Torres, who joined Liverpool for a reported 30 million Euro fee, was given the nickname 'El Nino' when appointed Atletico Madrid captain at 19.

Now aged 24 'the kid' showed flashes of brilliance in last Thursday's semi-final and put in a man's performance here Sunday.

It's not hard to see why Liverpool have put a 'not for sale at any price' sign on his head after rumours that Chelsea are about to mount a bid.

Sun 29 June, 2008
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Aragones the mastermind behind Spain´s Euro success

Luis Aragones's tenure as national coach came to a glorious and deserving conclusion here on Sunday with Spain's success over Germany in the Euro 2008 final.

Approaching his 70th birthday he became the oldest coach to win the European title but he must have shed half his years as he watched captain Iker Casillas hold aloft the coveted Cup which Spain has only held in its hands once before in 1964.

Aragones had warned bleakly on the eve of the final that “no one remembers who comes second” – well he needn't have worried as Fernando Torres's first half goal ensured the world and his wife will recall his Spanish team for many a year to come.

Back in the dark days of Spain's early qualifying campaign for Euro 2008 Aragones had tendered his resignation as coach after back-to-back defeats to Northern Ireland and Sweden.

Luckily for the team that has so often in the past suffered from 'quarterfinalitis' his offer to stand down was rejected, not a bad executive decision by the Spanish Football Federation.

Defender Carles Puyol, speaking on the eve of the final, reflected: “We have followed the coach, pulling through some tough times when we've been criticised and so has he.

“This has strengthened our will. The coach deserves this success.”

Sunday's 1-0 win over Germany to break Spain's 44 year title famine was the crowning moment of a man who counts King Juan Carlos as one of his buddies and a fitting reward to La Furia Roja's exuberant fast flowing attacking football backed up by a steely defence under his watch.

Like most men within weeks of turning 70 Aragones can be irascible and short-tempered but he has won the hearts of a nation with his team's exploits at these championships.

By masterminding Spain's passage to Sunday's final against Germany he had ended the 1964 champions' well earned reputation of falling short when it mattered most.

Prior to last Sunday's spot-kick win over their bogey team Italy they had lost on penalties in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup, Euro 96 and the 2002 World Cup.

But now all those years of hurt at the national side's under achievements have been swept away by Spain's starring performance over the past three long weeks.

Aragones' spell in charge of Spain has not been without controversy or criticism.

He was castigated over racist comments he made about Thierry Henry as he tried to motivate Henry's Arsenal teammate Jose Antonio Reyes during a training session back in 2004, an outburst that earned the Spanish Football Federation a near 90,000 dollar slap on the wrist from UEFA.

Aragones later denied he was racist, a view supported among others by Barcelona's Cameroon star striker Samuel Eto'o.

And his decision not to include Real Madrid's Raul in his Euro squad sparked heated debate among fans and the Spanish media – but with the David Villa and Fernando Torres tandem proving so effective here he can feel fully vindicated.

As a player he earned the nickname 'Zapatones' or big boots and his will certainly be hard to fill when he stands down after his side's exorcising of so many ghosts at Euro 2008.

Sun 29 June, 2008
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Quick Report: Germany 0 – 1 Spain

VIENNA (SW) – The long forty four year wait for Spain to win their second European Championship is over.

A goal in the thirty third minute of the first half by LiverpoolÂ’s Spanish striker Fernando Torres sealed the fate of the Germans.

After a tentative beginning by both sides the game soon developed into a fast and free – flowing spectacle with Spain fully deserving their victory. In terms of ideas the Spanish had more to offer.

Apart from the first ten minutes and another ten minutes midway through the second half where Germany looked dangerous, Spain were fully deserving of their victory.

Joachim Löw’s comments before the match in which he stated that the Spanish team never had any weaknesses was certainly vindicated.

The teams were separated by TorresÂ’ thirty third minute strike when the Liverpool striker chipped the ball passed former Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann.

The match was played in a good spirit with both teams displaying respect for each other.

The match was a personal triumph for Spanish coach Aragones who had his critics during the early phases of the qualifying rounds for his team selections.

Sun 29 June, 2008
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Spain end 44-year title drought, beat Germany in Euro 2008

Spain ended their 44-year wait for a major international title with a 1-0 victory over Germany at the Euro 2008 final here on Sunday.

Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game in the first half as football's perennial underachievers finally banished that unwanted tag to the history books.

It was the first time Spain had won the European title since 1964 and their first final since 1984.

They seemed to start tentatively and a mistake from Sergio Ramos gave Miroslav Klose a glorious opportunity after just four minutes, but after taking the ball past Carles Puyol his next touch was too strong and he ran the ball out of play.

Spain gradually started to settle but three-time champions Germany still had the next chance, Thomas Hitzlsperger hitting a tame shot straight at Spain captain Iker Casillas.

Just before the quarter-hour mark Jens Lehmann came to Germany's rescue as a cross from Andres Iniesta deflected off Christoph Metzelder's boot and only a stunning reaction save from the Arsenal stopper prevented a goal.

Spain were starting to take control and Torres headed a Xavi free-kick over the bar.

On 23 minutes Sergio Ramos cut in from the right and crossed to the back post where Torres climbed above the considerably taller Per Mertersacker; his downward header beat Lehmann but unfortunately for Spain not the base of the post.

Up the other end Spain's slightly suspect defence was struggling to cope with the direct running of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski but Germany created little despite captain Michael Ballack's volley being blocked by Sergio Ramos.

Then on 33 minutes Torres put Spain ahead with a moment of sublime quality. He latched onto a piercing through ball from Xavi, outpaced Philipp Lahm and chipped the ball over the advancing Lehmann with a flicked shot that could have threaded the eye of a needle.

Spain were suddenly rampant and Iniesta crossed to the back post where the unmarked David Silva had a rush of blood to the head and lashed a volley wildly over.

Spain seemed brimming with confidence at the start of the second period and both Xavi and Silva went close with long range efforts before Torres again outpaced the German defence but couldn't quite reach the ball before Lehmann came out to smother.

Germany coach Joachim Loew responded by sending on a second forward in Kevin Kuranyi to replace midfielder Hitzlsperger.

That immediately shifted the momentum of the game and on the hour a mistake from Puyol was almost punished as Ballack fired just wide; moments later Casillas came storming out of goal to take a cross from Ballack off Kuranyi's head.

Spain remained dangerous and Sergio Ramos forced Lehmann into a fine block with a powerful header from a Xavi free-kick before Torsten Frings cleared a shot from Iniesta off the line.

Brazil-born Marcos Senna came within inches of settling the game in the final 10 minutes but he couldn't quite stretch his leg out far enough to meet substitute Daniel Guiza's downward header with the goal at his mercy.

Sun 29 June, 2008
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Quick Report: Germany 0-1 Spain

Spain captured their first major tournament since 1964 on Sunday, claiming the Euro 2008 title with a 1-0 victory over Germany in Vienna.

Spain started out the more ambitious of the teams and nearly went in front on 23 minutes when Fernando Torres rose to head a cross from Sergio Ramos, but the ball rang off the post with German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann beaten.

Ten minutes later, Torres found the right side of the post, beating Philipp Lahm to a loose ball and sliding it past a charging Lehmann for a 1-0 lead.

Germany lacked ideas and some good touches in the final third of the pitch and rarely threatened Iker Casillas in the Spain goal except for a spell near the hour mark, but they only had half-chances.

Marcos Senna was the closest to the second goal, just missing getting a touch to a header back by substitute Dani Güiza, but they defended well in the end, and took home the Henri Delaunay trophy.

Sun 29 June, 2008
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German Federation give Klinsmann share of Euro credit

Jurgen Klinsmann took his place as a spectator at the final of Euro 2008 here on Sunday in the knowledge that the German Federation credit him with laying the foundations of Die Mannschaft's new rise to prominence.

Klinsmann took the Germans to third at the last World Cup on home soil playing an exuberant and entertaining brand of football before handing on to his assistant Joachim Loew, who has kept the revolution going and taken the Germans to the next level.

The German Football Federation (DFB) invited Klinsmann to the Ernst-Happel Stadion in recognition of his previous work before handing over the reins to Loew and the former Stuttgart, Inter Milan, Tottenham and Bayern Munich striker duly took his seat in the VIP stand.

“Is is also his final,” said DFB president Theo Zwanziger.

“Jurgen Klinsmann has played an enormous part in the development of this team. Since 2004, after a catastrophic Euro 2004, we have set new things in place,” he added.

Klinsmann had until Sunday avoided watching German matches at Euro 2008 in situ to avoid having the voracious media focus on him rather than his successor.

The 43-year-old's only previous attendance at a Germany match since stepping down was in August last year when he witnessed a friendly win over England in London.

Klinsman, who said that Loew was “always more than just an assistant” at the World Cup, won the world title as a player in 1990 and also Euro 96, Germany's last title ahead of Sunday, when the Germans were looking to deny Spain.

On Monday, “Klinsi” will take up his new post as coach of Bayern Munich.

Sun 29 June, 2008
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Football fans, Darth Vader celebrate Euro 2008 final

The Euro 2008 final has arrived at last and the whole world – and universe – came together on Sunday in Vienna to celebrate the culmination of three weeks of football, ahead of Germany v Spain.

The old town was drowned all afternoon in a sea of red, gold and black, in which German and Spanish fans could hardly be told apart.

The ones boasted hats, wigs and face paint in the German black-red-gold, while the others waved red and gold flags with giant black bulls.

“You have to look at their faces and then you can figure out if they're German or Spanish,” said Matts Landmark, a Swedish fan in national blue and yellow.

A distinctly Hawaiian feel descended on the fans as temperatures hovered around 30 degrees Celsius and the sun streamed down, with flags used as pareos and flower garlands tied in the hair.

While men paraded in the usual team shirts, women showed off their colours with a little more creativity, wearing dresses made of flags, combining head-to-toe outfits in the national colours – a red floaty skirt with a bright yellow top – or accessorising their look with a pair of red high heels, a yellow belt or a tricolor scarf tied around the waist.

But those teams already eliminated from the tournament also had their share of loyal fans refusing to admit defeat, as the Euro played out once again on the cobblestone streets of the Austrian capital.

“People come up to us in the street and say we should have been here. It would've been good,” said John Bekavac, a Croatian from Adelaide, Australia, who traveled specially to Austria with his two brothers for the Euro.

“We'll go to the stadium later, it's easier to get tickets there as you get nearer to the game,” he added hopefully.

A Greek woman from Athens, meanwhile waved her blue and white flag excitedly.

“We are the champions and we're going to pass the trophy tonight to whoever wins,” said Anastasia Panaretos, dismissing Greece's elimination in the group stages.

“We cannot be the champions every year!” she continued to sing cheerfully.

A couple from Vancouver, Canada, Desmond and Sujin, decided to come to Vienna for the final, while traveling through Europe and had already marked their cheeks with decals of the opposing teams.

“The atmosphere is sensational, it's the first time we're hosting such a big event and the atmosphere is phenomenal,” noted Manfred Lasinger, a rare Austrian fan wearing his team's colours.

Austria, which co-hosted the championship with Switzerland, was relatively slow to capture the football fever, with fan zones around the country complaining about limited attendance at the beginning of the tournament.

But all this was forgotten in Vienna on Sunday as locals and tourists, young and old, women and men, football fans or not, took part in a heaving party outside St. Stephen's Cathedral and in the surrounding streets.

“Of course, the atmosphere gets better as you approach the final or the decisive games, and today is absolutely great,” said Lasinger.

A group of Spaniards from Zaragoza wandered around in full cow, bull, or even Bugs Bunny costumes, a tall German blonde in a pale orange negligee, with very hairy legs – Frank from Mannheim, on a stag party trip with his friends – sauntered down the street.

Even Darth Vader joined the party.

Accosted by a few German fans offering him a beer, the Lord of Darkness?? removed – gulp! – his mask, revealing the street artist underneath, who took a swig from the bottle before climbing back up on his pedestal.

A flurry of vendors hawked T-shirts, scarves and hats on the street, much of it illegal merchandise but police turned a blind eye.

“Today especially, on the last day of the championship, it's tolerated,” one officer said benignly.

“We'll celebrate tonight no matter what,” said German fan Thomas, wearing a mask showing German coach Joachim Loew.

“The Spanish are great, they're our favourite opponents.”

A perfect illustration of the mood in the Austrian capital hours before the final clash of Euro 2008.

Sun 29 June, 2008
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Ballack set to start for Germany in Euro final

Germany captain Michael Ballack was rated almost certain to start Sunday's Euro 2008 final against Spain despite straining his right calf in training, German media reported from Vienna as the countdown to the match reached fever pitch.

The 31-year-old Chelsea midfielder damaged his calf in Germany's final training session on Friday at their Euro 2008 base in Tenero, Switzerland, and has been receiving treatment for the injury.

Although the team flew to Vienna on Saturday afternoon for the final at the Ernst Happel Stadium, Ballack stayed behind at the team hotel for treatment.

A German football Federation statement said Saturday night that Ballack's “participation in the final is still to be decided. The decision on whether to play him will be taken just before kickoff.”

At a press conference Saturday evening coach Joachim Loew said he had “not given up all hope of being able to count on Ballack”.

But the usually well-informed German tabloid Bild headlined its internet edition mid-afternoon with the words “yes – Ballack to play – the injured skipper will definitely start. What a relief for German fans.”

Sun 29 June, 2008
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Loew and Hickersberger ban wasn´t justified, says Blatter

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says the one-match bans handed to both Germany coach Joachim Loew and Austria's Josef Hickersberger by UEFA during a Euro 2008 group game were unjustified.

Loew and Hickersberger were both banned after being sent to the stands in the first-half of Germany's 1-0 win over Austria in Vienna on June 16 by referee Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez for arguing with fourth official Damir Skomina from Slovenia.

Loew was then allowed no contact with his team during the 3-2 quarter-final win over Portugal in Basel where he had to watch the game from the stands, while Hickersberger would have also served a ban had he stayed on as coach.

But Blatter says UEFA should have not banned the pair, saying coaches should be allowed to get on with their job and be left in peace by the fourth official during matches.

“They were wrongly sanctioned,” Blatter told Austrian television channel ORF.

“The fourth referee should not create problems and should let the trainers do their work.”

Sun 29 June, 2008
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