Torres wins Euro title for Spain

Liverpool striker scores only goal as Spaniards prove too good for Germany.

torres 88 (photo credit: AP)
torres 88
(photo credit: AP)
VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Fernando Torres finally lived up to his billing as one of the world's great strikers Sunday by scoring to give Spain a 1-0 win over Germany and the European Championship title. Torres, who had been overshadowed by teammate David Villa all tournament, scored in the 33rd minute of the final to down the three-time European champions and earn his nation's first major title in 44 years. Touching a sliding pass from Xavi Hernandez past Philipp Lahm, Torres turned and ran past his marker on the opposite side, collected the ball and lifted a shot over sliding goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and into the far corner. "My job is to score goals," Torres said. "I want to win more titles and be the most important player in Europe and the world." Spain had more chances but the goal was enough to give the country its first title since the 1964 European Championship. "Spain played very well during whole tournament. and they were technically excellent," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "They fully deserve victory." In the end, Spain was a deserved winner of the 13th European Championship. Long known as an underachiever that peaked between tournaments rather than at them, the team reached the final at Ernst Happel Stadium with a string of beguiling attacking displays orchestrated by a vibrant midfield - and held true to its values in the highest pressure match. Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva swapped positions constantly against a midfield marshaled by Michael Ballack and eventually wore out their opponents until it seemed Spain was simply counting down time until the final whistle. Red-shirted fans started to greet each successful pass with cheers of "Ole!" before erupting into relieved delirium on the whistle. The overjoyed players gathered to throw 69-year-old coach Luis Aragones into the air in celebration, while the massed ranks of Spanish fans sang themselves hoarse with "Viva Espana" as fireworks went off overhead. "It is the most imporant day in Spanish football in many, many years," Torres said. Germany, playing in its seventh European Championship final, had a strong appeal for a first-half penalty turned down but, despite Ballack's imperious performance, could not find a way past the Spain defense. Ballack's tender right calf had meant that, until right before kickoff, it looked like he was about to add a missed European Championship final to the World Cup final he sat out in 2002. But he took his place in the lineup and, against a team with even slightly less skill and passion, could have been the driving force in another German win. "We had a great tournament, but made one mistake too many," Ballack said. "We were lacking of power against a great Spanish team, we couldn't keep up with them." Germany dominated the opening exchanges until a lucky break in the 14th gave the Spanish their first chance on goal and a boost that clearly lifted their play. "We controlled the game for 15 minutes, but had no answer after Spain found to its rhythm," Loew said. "Spain played better. We couldn't match their level." On a rare foray forward, Iniesta sent a cross into the box from the left and Germany defender Christoph Metzelder stuck out a boot to send the ball rocketing toward his own goal. Only a diving reaction save by Jens Lehmann kept it out and prevented an own-goal. Spain never looked back. Per Mertesacker had to dispossess Torres in the area with a well-timed sliding tackle before Torres found space for a couple of dangerous headers. He put the first just over the bar before sending the second against the foot of the post with Lehmann beaten. Germany then was left to rue its luck in what could have been the decisive moment of the match in the 29th. Fullback Joan Capdevila mis-controlled the ball and it clearly bounced up to hit his hand, but referee Roberto Rosetti waved away the appeals. Moments later, Torres showed why he is rated one of the best strikers in the world. With leading tournament scorer Villa absent because of injury, Torres was again the sole outlet in attack. He took Xavi's pass and finished off his chance by flipping the ball over Lehmann and watching it roll softly into the corner for his second goal of Euro 2008. Germany replaced the struggling Lahm with Marcell Jansen at halftime but Silva still got in a 54th-minute shot that right back Sergio Ramos almost deflected in with a back heel. Ballack, who had already received treatment for a head wound and was railing against every decision in Spain's favor, shot past the post and almost set up substitute Kevin Kuranyi with a cross that goalkeeper Iker Casillas just tipped away. "We wanted to come back in the second half, but we just couldn't do it," Ballack said. "For us, to reach the final was a great achievement. We have to be satisfied with that regarding the quality of the other teams competing." But aside from isolated passages of play, it was all Spain. Ramos sent a diving header onto the bar from Xavi's deep cross, Iniesta almost scored with a near post shot that Torsten Frings just managed to block, and Senna just missed a cross in front of an open goal in the 82nd. It was a dramatic change from the start of the match, when all the attacking had come from Germany. Exploiting space left by Ramos, who was pushing forward down the wing and leaving captain Carles Puyol to cover, Miroslav Klose, Lahm and Ballack all found openings. Klose could have had a shot in the third, but his poor touch took the ball out for a goal kick, Lahm sent a cross too far across the area, and Ballack beat Puyol before the recovering Ramos got a toe to the cross to deflect it from danger. "We will analyze the next couple of days what went wrong and work on that for the near future," Loew said. "Overall, the team had a great result, considering the other contenders, like Italy, France, or the Netherlands."