España : Campeóna! Champion!

Campeones! Oooé
Campeones! Oooé
Campeones! Oooooé

Campeones! Oé Oé Oéeee!!!
1-0 was how it ended. Ended 44 years of futility. They always had the skill and the game to challenge the best. Yet, they would find trouble in one form or the other. A team that believed in winning in style. Winning not only the games but winning the hearts of their supporters and their opponents as well. They always had the style, skill. But they would be found wanting in physical ability to last the 90 minutes. To last a long tournament like this. Their ability to react to adversity would come into question and with no answers forthcoming.

Not this time around.
Spain answered all the questions. Disproved the doubters. Self-belief. And I am sure deep down many a critic of yester years wanted Spain to succeed. Because they are dying breed of those who want to entertain and then win. Reminds you of a team from South America that wears yellow shirts (when they used to play well that is..).
Its true, they didnt play their best game against Italy. They only game in which they failed to score. Credit to Italy and poor Donadoni. They devised the perfect game plan mix-and-matching fullbacks and auxiliary midfielders to subdue the nimble-footed Villa and his cohorts in the midfield. But Spain wouldnt be cowed down.
They take down the Italians in the same fashion they won the last World Cup 2 years ago. Penalties.
Let us talk about the final :).
With Villa ruled out, Aragones reverted to a 4-1-4-1. Senna between the lines. Fabregas and Xavi in the middle, Iniesta and Silva wide to support Torres upfront. Germany didnt make any changes. 4-2-3-1. Poldi-Ballack-Schweini supporting Klose upfront.
Contrary to what many pundits thought (that Villa injury is a blessing in disguise to let Fabregas start), I thought it wasnt the ideal formation for Spain. Simply because Xavi and Fabregas are made for the same position and Xavi has a more patient passing philosophy the famous 'tiki-taka' of the Barcelona school. Fabregas has a more vertical approach always looking to pass it upwards to the striker. With the height advantage the germans have over the Spaniards, that would never work. Germany would be very happy with that. (Ok, I didnt write this early enough and one might accuse i am talking in hindsight. which is fine, all it means is >> early bird catches the worm :)).

The Germans started briskly. Spain trying to probe the opposition looked as if they were running on eggshells..barefoot. Soon enough the killer (almost) backpass from Sergio Ramos almost had Klose poking home the first goal. Luckily for Spain, Klose's first touch was too heavy and Puyol had no difficulty dealing with it.
After about 10 minutes, Xavi started coming into the game. Then Silva who gives a wonderful pass to Torres who controls it expertly but he couldnt get a good shot off. Good stuff and this is where the momentum started shifting rapidly. Torres has matured a lot as a striker. From his inconsistent play in the World Cup 2 years go he has evolved into a very dangerous striker whether he is on his own on supported by another forward.
He beat the Merte and Metze central defence pair of Germany repeatedly. He would get the ball in great position but a cautious start by Spain meant they werent attacking in numbers and he would get isolated and forced to a low percentage shot. But that changed very quickly. One quick byline lob by Sergio Ramos had Torres leaping over the tall Metzelder to head onto the inner edge of the post and the ball would bounce out.
The bad luck of Torres continues. But it was a great leap by the Liverpool striker. Spain are on the ascendancy around the half-hour mark.
Poldi and Schweini are frustrated as the spanish midfield gradually imposed themselves on the game and the tiki-taka short passing game of Spain was in full follow.
Minute 33 - moment of brilliance. Xavi passes a ball to Iniesta or Silva who passes it up for Torres to come from the righside. At the outset it looked like a 50-50 ball for Lahm and Torres. But Torres literally ran around Lahm, who when he realized Torres is past him he was already in the penalty box and Lehmann was rushing towards the ball now at the feet of Torres. Lehmann dives to take the ball away from Fernando's legs. Too late. Torres flicks the ball majestically over Lehmann. the ball makes it into the back of the net, eventually.
Gooooooooooooooooooool!!!! España!!!! Torres has scored for Spain. And what a goal. !!
0-1 Spain.
Spain raised the tempo of the game and a few minutes later Iniesta had a great chance but get caught on his wrongfoot and by the time he switches, it was too late.
Spain is in total control of the game by now.

Germany have to change something here. They are not evening getting meaningful possession. Germany sub Lahm due to injury. But they keep their shape. A brief 5-10 minutes where Germany tries to impose their mark on the game by some surging runs and physical play. Loew brings a 2nd striker in Kuranyi. But the coach can only do so much. If Germany dont have the ball, they cant score. It was as simple as that.
A few moments of little clashes between players. Silva is slightly lucky to not to see red for his head-butt with Poldi although, Poldi seemed to have initiated it by sticking his head into the face of Silva. Aragones has seen enough. He has seen enough of the great German comebacks to let this slip by.
He sends in Xabi Alonso for the off-colour Fabregas (much to displeasure of the crowd) and Santi Cazorla in place of Silva, to calm down the nerves of the Spanish.
Spain settle down into the 2nd half and dominate the ball for sustained periods of posession. Numerous opportunities to score goals go begging. This is where they sorely missed Villa. Torres meanwhile was menace and causing havoc in the german area everytime he got the ball. He gets booked for a strange foul and Aragones has seen enough of him. In comes Dani Guiza. And immediately he gets a chance.
A note about Guiza - this dude might look clumsy at times but he is one of those strikers who are always there or thereabouts around the goal.
One of the characterstics of Aragones and Spain in this Cup is his confident changes and not caring for reputations. He has his gameplan and he stuck to it. Of course, it helps if you have the likes of Cesc, Guiza and Xabi on the bench.
A great move started by Santi culminates in Guiza heading across an empty goal mouth for Senna to poke home a well deserved goal and end the misery of the Germans, but the misses making contact by centimeters.

Germany get increasingly frustrated as the Spain keep passing the ball around, changing the pace and Xavi was a master controlling everything from the middle.

Its over. Se acabó!!!!
España Campeón!
Spain wins 1-0, The margin is too flattering to the Germans, they were never really in the game after the first 10 minutes.
Spain deserved this. The Germans tried their best, in the end they dint have enough quality to overhaul this talented Spanish Armada and even their luck deserted them a bit today.
Spain won the power of their midfield and their marauding fullbacks Sergio Ramos all over the pitch and the steady and steely Joan Capdevila, never afraid of going up to support the strikers at the same time keeping it simple at the back. Another Excellent game by Marcos Senna.
What a game!!! for the neutrals it would have been boring a bit if they expected this to be like one of those runaway games we have seen in this tournament like Russia-Dutch, Germany-Portugal etc.. but Spain were never going to let Germany dictate the pace. The posession stats UEFA spews out dont tell the full story. Most of the german posession was in their own box, doesnt mean a thing. Ballack tried gamely but I am not sure it is a good decision to play a half-fit player just because he is eager to play and he is the captain.
Spain has done it.
To cap off, Here is an excerpt from one the Spanish Papers after the historic victory over the Italians in QF. Of course this is the translated version >>
Face painted, Spain flag between his teeth, and performing a V-sign like a grinning tourist, AS's resident loony Tomás Roncero was letting it all out: "Take that historic inferiority complex! Take that Spanish victimism! Take that Buffon and Cassano! Take that June 22 curse! Take that 88-year jinx against the unbeatable Italians! Take that pessimists! Take that disbelievers! Take that Tassotti! Take that Pagliuca! And long live King Juan Carlos of Spain!"
Viva España! Felicidades!

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