Germany and Spain are the last two teams left at Euro 2008, and face each other in Sunday’s final to decide which team is to lift this year’s trophy.
Germany aim to win their fourth European cup after doing so in 1972, 1980 and most recently in 1996.
The Germans made up from two poor European Championships – in which they didn’t survive the group phase – by making it to the final in this one.
After a 2-0 win over Poland in their opening match, Germany had more trouble against Croatia in the second and lost 2-1. But the final group match with hosts Austria was won 1-0, and that was enough to secure the second place in Group B.
The quarter final with Portugal was Germany’s best match at this tournament, beating the 2004 finalists 3-1. The semi final against Turkey was tougher, and only a late goal from Philipp Lahm secured the 3-2 win.
Manager Joachim LÃƒÂ¶w has a fit selection to choose from. Midfielder Torsten Frings might still be able to make an appearance despite breaking his rib earlier in this tournament.
Captain Michael Ballack, who missed out on the 2002 World Cup final, will be more than inspired to make an impression on Sunday and has been Germany’s key player so far at Euro 2008, with a successful free kick against Austria as highlight.
And friendly ties between Germans and Spaniards will be forgotten, as is confirmed by Christoph Metzelder.
“A final is naturally something very unique, but this time I’ll be up against two team-mates in Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos.”
“We have sent each other our congratulations on reaching the final and we really get on well but that is something that will be put on ice for 90 minutes on Sunday. Then everyone will be doing his best for his country and to win the title.”
Spain, the eternal under-achievers at big tournaments, have finally managed to shake off that curse, much to the delight of press and public in their home country.
The Spanish won the second ever European Championships, in 1964, but have been waiting for a major trophy ever since.
They came close in 1984, but were eventually defeated by hosts France in the final of that year’s tournament.
Spain have been the most consistent team at Euro 2008. An impressive 4-1 win over Russia in the opening match was followed by 2-1 victories over both Sweden and Greece.
But a tougher task awaited them in the quarter finals when a scorned Italy held them to a goalless draw, only to be beaten on penalties with Iker Casillas saving two.
The semi final – again with Russia – was possibly Spain’s best as Guus Hiddink’s men were sent home with a convincing 3-0 result.
While Germany don’t seem to have any real injury worries, Spain have had less luck as star striker David Villa tore a muscle in his leg during the semi final and is ruled out for Sunday.
But the Spanish will be confident nevertheless as Cesc Fabregas, who replaced Villa in the semi’s, proved to be a good addition to the team and helped leading them to the final.
It does seem likely though that Fabregas, a midfielder, starts on the bench once again in order to enter the action at a later point in the match.
The attack should once again include Fernando Torres, but the Liverpool striker may now be joined by reserve striker Daniel GuÃƒÂ¯za. La Liga’s top scorer has netted two goals at Euro 2008 and will be confident ahead of the final.
Midfielder Marcos Senna explains why Spain seem so much better all of a sudden: “I think the players are more united now and more experienced as well. We were all known already, but now it is different, we have players with international experience and it makes a difference.”
Germany and Spain met nineteen times before, with Germany winning eight and Spain five games.
Their last competitive match was at the 1994 World Cup, when the two giants held each other to a 1-1 draw in a group match.
The match will be played at the legendary Ernst Happel stadium of Vienna, Austria. It will be the seventh game to be played at this venue after three group matches, two quarter finals and a semi final.
Italian referee Roberto Rosetti has been given the responsibilities to oversee the game, helped by Alessandro Griselli and Paolo Calcagno as linesmen and Swedish Peter FrÃƒÂ¶jdfeldt as fourth official.
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