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Spain´s Class of 2008 out to prove its a classic vintage

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 28 Jun 2008

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A black political figure later to become president was sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa, Can’t Buy Me Love was number one in Britain, Cassius Clay upset Sonny Liston to win the world heavyweight title, Tokyo staged the 18th Olympic Games and here in Vienna Inter Milan won the Europe Cup.

The year was 1964 and in Spain it will be remembered as the year La Furia Roja were crowned champions of Europe.

Fans would surely have celebrated the title even more enthusiastically if they’d known that this was to be their country’s one and only trophy in the intervening four-and-a-half decades.

In Vienna on Sunday that title famine could end when a classic Spanish vintage take on Germany in what promises to be a memorable Euro 2008 final.

Spaniards are pinching themselves over their rioja at seeing the national side sweep aside years of pain and frustration at Euro 2008.

Google the words ‘Spanish football’ and ‘success’ and you’ll be staring at a blank page – key in ‘Spain’ and ‘underachievement’ and you’ll be offered up page after page of articles recounting the country’s sorry run at major finals.

Aside from 1984 when they lost the European title to France in the final the Spanish have been nothing if not consistent, folding at the quarter-final stages.

Those last eight losses, all on penalties, came against Belgium at the 1986 World Cup, England at Euro 96 and South Korea at the 2002 World Cup.

At the 2006 World Cup they impressed in the group stages only to come up short against France in the second round.

For a country that produces some of the best players in the world this lack of silverware is an embarrassment that can only be banished by victory on Sunday night in the Ernst Happel stadium.

With all due respect to three-time champions Germany Spain fancy their chances after barely making one wrong move in their journey to the final.

They sent out a clear warning signal to their title rivals with an opening 4-1 rout of Russia before toppling Sweden 2-1 and defending champions Greece by the same score line.

The Spaniards secured top position in their group with another 2-1 win over Sweden to set them on course for a meeting with traditional bogey team Italy in the quarter-finals.

Given Spain’s woeful record over the Azzurri – they hadn’t beaten them since 1920 – an electronics giant in Spain was offering its customers of flat screen televisions a 25 percent money back bonus ‘when’ Spain as usual got knocked out.

But the company hadn’t counted on the mental strength of Aragones’ team which laid to rest their Italian hoodoo when they held their nerve to win a penalty shoot out 4-2.

Next up were the Russians but in a dazzling second half performance Guus Hiddink’s side had little response as goals from Xavi, Daniel Guiza and David Silva tore them apart.

The Spaniards, relieved of all the psychological baggage they’d picked up over the past 44 years of failure, are intent on claiming a crown they claim is rightfully theirs.

“We deserve to win and we hope we can play well against Germany to take the title,” said Xabi Alonso on Saturday.

“I don’t know what it was like back then 44 years ago but for us one of the keys to our success has been the atmosphere in the dressing room, we’ve got a really strong bond and play like a unit,” added the Liverpool star.

A bond that is about to undergo its toughest test.

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