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Germans felled

Spanish class too much for Bayern men

Germany’s dream of a fourth European championship title lay in tatters on Sunday evening after scintillating Spain deservedly won a thrilling EURO 2008 tournament with a 1-0 victory in the final. A 51,428 full house at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna, with keen football fans Federal President Horst Köhler and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among their number, saw Fernando Torres strike the winner on 33 minutes.

Bayern quintet Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marcell Jansen and Lukas Podolski thus have to be satisfied with a domestic treble of the Bundesliga title, DFB German Cup and League Cup from the 2007-8 season. Summer signing Tim Borowski also arrives in Munich with a European runners-up medal to show for his efforts.

Lahm off injured

Lahm’s misery was compounded by a cut on the left foot sustained in the first half, causing him to be substituted at half-time. The FCB defender’s wound was stitched in the dressing room by German FA medic Dr Josef Schmitt, allowing the Munich-born player to watch the remainder of the match from the bench. Jansen played the second half for his team-mate in the left-back position.

Germany boss Joachim Löw opted for the same 4-5-1 formation which had seen off Turkey in the semi-finals, with just one line-up change as Torsten Frings replaced Simon Rolfes. That meant Klose again starting as a lone striker with Podolski on the left side of midfield and Schweinsteiger on the opposite flank. Former Munich man Michael Ballack passed a late fitness test and shook off a calf injury to start the match.

Torres strike settles it

Löw’s men enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges as the seemingly nervous Spaniards took their time to settle. Klose’s close control let him down when the Bayern striker caught the Spanish defence napping after just four minutes, but the unbeaten Iberians settled into the groove with 20 minutes played and looked the far more accomplished team on the ball after that.

Torres, who had seen a glorious header cannon back off the post a few minutes earlier, chased down Xavi’s incisive through pass, shaking off Lahm’s challenge and thrusting out a toe to poke the ball past the onrushing Jens Lehmann and open the scoring on 33 minutes, a moment which in hindsight shaped the course of the entire match. For all their efforts, Germany were unable to penetrate the lithe and supremely skilled Spanish midfield, Klose cutting a forlorn and lonely figure up front against the solid rearguard expertly marshalled by veteran Carles Puyol.

Praise for Spain

As it was, the previously potent German attack mustered a paltry four shots at goal in the entire 90 minutes, Ballack hitting the side netting with the best opening on the hour from a Schweinsteiger assist. By contrast, the Spaniards created chances almost at will as the north Europeans chased the game, and only poor finishing stood between Luis Aragones’ men and a greater margin of victory. However, nothing was to stop the Iberians deservedly collecting their second European crown to go with the 1964 trophy.

“You need time to get over a match like that. I think we have to acknowledge the Spaniards’ greater quality today,“ Löw frankly admitted afterwards. Nevertheless, the coach and his six Bayern players can look back on a thoroughly creditable tournament. “Obviously we’re disappointed at losing, but I want to praise the team for a fantastic six weeks together,“ Löw summarised.