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Spain end 44-year title drought, beat Germany in Euro 2008 final

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

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.

For 69-year-old Spanish coach Luis Aragones there was a tinge of bitterness mixed with the moment of glory.

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.

However, in the immediate aftermath of the match he was repeating the mantra on the eve of it, of how disappointed he was at not being asked to stay on.

“We did things well, we won, period. I will not be staying on as coach because I have been given no possibility to,” said Aragones.

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.

For Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas it was a dream come true.

“This is great,” said the 21-year-old Arsenal star.

“This is the best day of my life as a player.

“I don't think we are conscious yet of what we have achieved….44 years later.

“It has been one of my dreams and I made it.

“It is true we won it with style.

“We were trying to create chances and play beautiful football and we have at last had the success we deserved.

“I don't know why it has taken this long and I don't want to think about that anymore as we have achieved it and we are a young team and will fight for the World Cup in two years time.”

For Torres too it was a dream realised.

“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.”

German coach Joachim Loew professed his admiration for his side, who defied expectations to reach the final.

“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.”

For German captain Michael Ballack it was more disappointment in a major tournament.

“It is very sad to lose when one has come such a long way,” said the 31-year-old, who missed the 2002 World Cup final because he was suspended and has also lost two Champions League finals.

“All the team battled away. This tournament has come at the end of the season and physically it has been tough. However, today (Sunday) we have made too many errors.”

Spain 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 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 Ballack's volley being blocked by 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 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.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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