Sunday, June 29, 2008

Euro 2008: The Final

The better team won.  There's no question.  Spain played well enough to win the final, and consistently played well throughout the tournament.  Unless you are a die hard German homer, you have to say they were second best.

Germany started well.  The Spanish defense looked confused for the first 10-12 minutes, and Germany had good possession in midfield.  Then Spain seemed to relax and get some penetration, and Germany suddenly lost the initiative. Torres hit the post with a header in the 22nd minute, and came back and scored in the 33rd on sheer determination, beating Lahm and then Lehmann on a dead run.

Spain controlled the match for the next 25 minutes with their usual mix of one-touch passing and midfield possession.  They also played brilliant defense -- they were so well-organized that they always seemed to be in Germany's passing lanes, and either Puyol, or Senna, or Sergio Ramos made the plays when they were called upon.  Iniesta and Xavi were awesome in Germany's half.

Around the hour mark, Spain lost it and Germany had their best chances to score.  Germany just had a poor attack.  They couldn't get the build-up against the Spanish defense. I expected better from Kuranyi -- he was weak off the bench.  The German pressure lasted only 6 or 7 minutes, and then Spain went back on the attack: Sergio Ramos had an open header stopped by Lehmann, and Frings stopped an Iniesta bullet right on the goal line.  

Spain closed it out in style.  They were so committed to attack that they almost went up 2-0 in the 80th minute, when Guiza's knock down just missed Senna, the supposed holding midfielder, charging 70 meters on an open goal.  In the 80th minute, up 1-0.  You expect that from Brazil, but not a European side.  Spain had a 13-4 advantage in shots, 7-1 in shots on target.

Man of the Match:  Many candidates.  Casillas played a remarkable match -- but he didn't really have much to do. Puyol was awesome, but only for the first 60 minutes; after that, he had a fair number of howlers and was lucky Germany didn't make more of his mistakes. Xavi provided great service -- including the through pass for Torres' goal. Torres was a fury, scored the game-winner, and could have scored two more, so he's a clear candidate. But for me, Iniesta caused Germany the most problems throughout the match, and when I think about who changed the tenor of the match, it was him.

Spain were fun to watch in every one of their 6 matches -- creative, positive, organized (they didn't concede a goal in the knock-out stage against Italy, Russia and Germany).  Superb offensive production -- 12 goals in the tournament.  The only unbeaten side.

Great final.  Great tournament.  Great champion. 


Edgar Newt said...

Agreed in all respects.

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I guess they weren't completely without quality outside Europe after all, huh?

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