'Happy day for Spain'

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

VIENNA, AUSTRIA -- It didn't matter how it looked.

They didn't care what price they had to pay.

All the Spanish cared about was leaving Ernst Happel Stadium as European champions.

Finally, Spain's personal inquisition is over. It can now stop having to answer questions about why it continually failed to produce major tournaments wins. No longer will Spain be known as a world-class underachiever.

After yesterday, Spain is a world-class power.

Spain won its first major championship in 44 years, beating Germany 1-0 in the Euro 2008 final yesterday.

"We have composed a group which plays well and is difficult to stop," Spanish coach Luis Aragones said. "We work well together and we manage to get there. This is a happy day for Spain. We won in a brilliant way.

"We will be able to start saying now we can win, a European championship or other things."

Aragones rarely shows emotion. Yet at game's end, it was as if a giant weight had been lifted off the collective shoulders of a nation. It was Aragones' last game as the national team coach. His players grabbed him and tossed him in the air repeatedly.

El Sabio, "the Wise One" actually cracked a smile. He was certainly wise at this tournament. "I am full inside. I am delighted. I don't normally show my emotions," Aragones said. "But I am extremely happy."

This was a much-anticipated final. Celebrations were at a fever pitch before the game began. But the fever never reached the pitch.

It was a mediocre end to a sensational tournament. But Spain, which was the most consistent of the major soccer nations, deserved to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy.

The final produced little of the magic that has been a staple here. But all it took was a magical few seconds by Spain's striker Fernando Torres.

It came late in the first half when Xavi Hernandez chipped a hopeful ball into the German penalty area.

Defender Philipp Lahm had position, but Torres is one of the best strikers in the world. Lahm made the fatal mistake of letting up. In two steps, Torres had shouldered his way past him to the ball.

German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann came out to help. He dove at Torres' feet, but somehow Torres delicately flicked the ball over Lehmann. It took two bounces and settled a foot inside the post.

It was a moment of skill that ensured victory -- the kind of skill Spain had shown throughout this tournament.

Just before the goal, Torres had headed a ball against the post.

"All those that love football, want just that," Aragones said. "People that make good combinations, that come to the penalty area and score goals. Maybe people will look up at Spain as a model of football."

The goal was what Spain needed. It forced Germany to come forward and not be satisfied with merely blunting Spain's offensive ability.

Spain then was able to run to the open spaces.

But Germany was only a shadow of the team that beat Portugal and Turkey after the preliminary round.

Michael Ballack was a game-time decision with a calf injury, but it was obvious he wasn't 100 per cent.

No other German player stepped in to take up the slack. Players like Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who had excellent tournaments, were sleepwalking through the final.

Germany had nothing to threaten the Spanish defence.

Strength and power only go so far. Germany needed more skill and it couldn't find it.

Spain managed to create many more chances in the second half and was clearly the better team.

German coach Joachim Loew recognized what everyone in the stadium saw.

"We have to recognize the high quality of the Spanish players," he said. "They were playing very well during the whole tournament . . . They deserved the victory."

It might not have been a worthy final, but there's no doubt Spain is a worthy champion.


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