The first thing I voiced after starting these Spain reviews was the worry that my support for the Spanish squad would jinx their chances. After the conclusion of the tournament, I’m happy to say the opposite turned out to be true.
As I’m sure you’ve read multiple times by now, this is Spain’s first major trophy in 44 years. And the man who scored the goal that sealed the title was Fernando Torres, the reason I started the endeavor of examining Spain’s performances. After misfiring for much of the tournament (and the first 30 minutes of today’s match), Torres produced a moment of brilliance like the many he performed for Liverpool time and time again this season.
For the first 10 minutes of the game it looked as if Germany might overrun the Spanish. Having been in this position before, the Germans seemed to start with less weight on their shoulders, were denying Spain the ball, and pushed towards Casillas’ goal. But like in the last match against Russia, Casillas was rarely threatened, and as the game progressed, the Spanish became more dominant.
Indeed, Spain nearly opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Iniesta’s shot deflected off Metzelder, forcing Lehmann into a reaction save to prevent an own goal. Nine minutes later, Torres did well to get on the end of a Ramos cross, only to see his header cannon off the foot of the post, which summed up how most of the tournament has gone for the #9.
But ten minutes following that chance, Torres finally found his Liverpool form with a goal straight out of Benitez’s playbook. Xavi’s throughball put Torres one-on-one with Phillip Lahm, but Torres was left with ground to make up to get on the end of it. But the striker out-paced the quick fullback and deftly chipped over an on-rushing Lehmann to give Spain the lead.
And it was a lead that would last for the rest of the final. Spain continued to turn the screws, although Germany remained tough to break down. Silva had a chance to get a second minutes after the opener but screwed his volley high and wide.
The Germans brought on left back Jansen for Lahm at half-time in an attempt to change proceedings. Which it didn’t. Kuranyi came on the 58th minute for Hitzlsperger, bringing on a striker for a midfielder, and while it brought the Germans more possession, they still weren’t creating chances.
Ramos should have sealed the game in the 66th minute, sending a free header straight at Lehmann from Xavi’s free kick after the German defense completely fouled up the offside trap. But that was one of the few times the German defense was caught asleep; their resilience was the reason Spain only scored one.
Although there’s always a danger of giving up a soft equalizer, Germany rarely looked like getting it. Iniesta continued to threaten, forcing Frings to clear off the line and eliciting a save from Lehmann minutes later, while Senna nearly got on the scoresheet after Guiza’s knockdown into his path in the 80th, only for the ball to bounce unkindly.
As the minutes wore away, the Spanish simply tried to keep possession and prevent the Germans from getting something undeserved. And if there’s any team in this tournament who can pass the ball around all day long, it’s Spain, leading to a final 10 or so minutes that progressively disheartened the Germans.
One of the best things about Spain’s victory is that it demonstrates that the team with the most eye-catching football can win this trophy. To be honest, after Greece’s victory in 2004 and seeing the Russians and Turks do so well this time around, I feared that the most cohesive “team” would succeed, no matter their strategy. But Spain’s victory is a victory for pretty football, and hopefully it’ll set a precedent for the future.
It’s tough to pick a man of the match, especially when Torres gets the winner, and I’m automatically drawn towards him. But I have to highlight Marcos Senna, as Spain wouldn’t have won anything without him. He’s been a superlative holding midfielder: breaking up the play, protecting the back four, and providing a platform for players like Xavi and Fabregas. Throughout the tournament he gave an absolutely master-class performance, but because of his position in the team, it has been overshadowed by the likes of Villa, Torres, and Fabregas.
But I’ll finish on a selfish note. No matter how happy I am for Spain, and I truly am pleased with their performance and that they broke such a long-standing jinx (next up, England’s 42-year drought!), most important to me is that the four Liverpool players in the squad will come back to Anfield brimming with confidence and with the Euro trophy in the cabinet. And hopefully, none more confident than the game-winning Fernando Torres, who continues to show he can score goals on any occasion.