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Spain end 44-year title drought

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. – AFP

 

AFP

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