Posts Tagged ‘Euro 2008’

Marcello Lippi, The Return

Friday, July 4th, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, the man responsible for the FIGC 4-Star logo is back! With him, the hopes of an entire nation to defend a World Champions title, obtained less than 2 years ago and somewhat tainted by Italy’s mediocre performance at Euro 2008.

If they want to have any hope of repeating their 2006 success, the Azzurri will have to make serious improvements before their South African adventure: defensive organization, physical preparation, and more importantly fighting spirit, were all lacking last month in Austria/Switzerland. However rest assured people: if there is one man capable of bringing the boys in blue back to glory, that man is Marcello Lippi.

Gazzetta dello Sport was there on Tuesday, for the press conference with Italy’s new manager. Here are some excerpts:

ROME, 1 July 2008 – Tanned, a few kilos overweight, enthusiastic (as he repeatedly pointed out) and confident. This is how Marcello Lippi presented himself as the new Italy boss, successor to Donadoni, having won the World Cup with the Azzurri only two years ago.

Talking for over an hour, the topics Lippi covered in his press conference ranged from anything to everything.

PREAMBLE – “Good to all see you again. I’m very happy to be taking up where I left off. This means that things didn’t go very well at the recent European Championships unfortunately, or I’d still be on the beach in Viareggio. Have I settled into an easy life? I’ve put on a couple of kilos, that’s all. I’ve greatly enjoyed this past two years. But I’ve also watched a lot of games, and worked on TV with Sky to keep myself up to date with international football

RETURN – “You’re asking if these two years been lost, both for me and the national team? I would never have left the national side if I hadn’t had to do so for certain reasons not connected with the outcome of the World Cup. But these two years haven’t been wasted for the Azzurri. Donadoni integrated important new players into the world champions group. The true expression of a nation’s football isn’t found in its clubs but in its national team. Why did I want to come back? For a year I didn’t even consider a return to management, despite the many offers, including those from other national sides. As the European Championships approached I felt a great desire to take up the place I had left, and I made myself available should the circumstances arise for my return. I felt a certain debt towards the FA. And turning down other offers in order to return was a way for me to pay that debt.”

CHOICES – “To those asking me ‘Which group should be the focus, the “old” or the “new” group?’, I say this: we have a group of players who won the World Cup two years ago, and we need to build on that strength. We mustn’t casually discard anyone, but nor should we be burdened by a debt of gratitude. Not everyone will continue. This group needs to be integrated: the right balance has to be found.”

STYLE OF PLAY – “Should we play traditional Italian football, or a more expansive game based on the Spanish model which triumphed at Euro 2008? Good question. The Spanish play a very distinctive game, very technical. But they have achieved this great result after a long process of development, going though disappointments along the way. The Spain team is the ultimate expression of Spanish football. What we will do is construct a style of play in which even the big stars (like the Ronaldos or Rooneys) will work hard and sacrifice themselves for the team. Italy aren’t about catenaccio any more, but a modern, down-to-earth game mixed with a bit of open-mindedness. We will try to play an aggressive, expansive and resourceful game. A great side needs to be able to do everything, attack and defend.” (note: in other words, a style of play following that of the 2006 World Cup semi-final, when Italy finished the match by playing with four strikers on the field).

INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLIES – “We have some important tests already arranged. In fact, next February we will play Brazil at Wembley stadium, in England.”

PERUZZI AND FERRARA – “I told the President that I wanted to work with the same people as in the past. That includes Angelo Peruzzi, who is studying for his coaching licence at Coverciano and will then join the FA’s technical staff, as well as Ciro Ferrara, who is now working for Juve but will work for us whenever the national team assembles.”

TOTTI AND NESTA, THE RETURN? - “People’s opinions must be respected, in this case players who have given a great deal to the national team. I am not contemplating a return for either of them, and I won’t be calling them up. If they call me, we’ll discuss things together. As a general advice to everyone, I say never to issue a definitive goodbye to the Azzurri. Every Italian player between 18 and 40 is under consideration, and each one of them should still be proud and ready to wear the national shirt.”

WINNING – “I’m coming back to win, to enjoy the same sensations once more. The feeling of triumph, but also that of unity and group cohesion. We mustn’t assume that qualification for the next World Cup will be a formality, we must focus on trying to replicate our success. My responsibility, as in the past, will be to coordinate the work of all the national sides, including the youth teams.”

On a final note, FIGC president Giancarlo Abete commented:

I would like to thank Donadoni and emphasise his personal and professional qualities. Lippi is the right man to undertake the journey towards the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. His choice was entirely based on technical aspects, not marketing.

With Donadoni we had a mutually loyal relationship. On 20 May we agreed a contract extension with him, including a €900,000 gross compensation clause. Then on 22 May he told me that he didn’t want the compensation clause, and returned to the original proposal of an automatic renewal if Italy reached the semi-finals of the European Championship.

There were no other pre-established situations, we had no contracts with anyone else. If an extra penalty kick had been scored [against Spain] the automatic renewal would have operated, as it didn’t happen I had to make a choice. But there was no sacking.”

Euro 2008 – 20 Pictures of the Spanish Triumph

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

By now, you’ve probably figured (i.e. me) likes pictures. Needless to say, I am a strong believer that “a powerful image can speak louder than a thousand words“.

So presenting to you, a selection of 20 images giving tribute to Spain’s Euro 2008 triumph in Sunday’s final.

Enjoy. And once again, ¡Viva España!

(Left picture) Spain's Raul Albiol and Carlos Marchena (R) celebrate after their Euro 2008 final soccer match victory over Germany at Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna, June 29, 2008. (REUTERS) (Center picture) Spain's Iker Casillas, right, celebrates with teammates Pepe Reina, left, and Andres Palop their side's 1-0 win at the end of the Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain in the Ernst-Happel stadium in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, June 29, 2008, the last day of the European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. (AP Photo by Jon Super) (Right picture) Spain's David Villa and Pepe Reina (L) kiss the trophy after their Euro 2008 final soccer match victory over Germany at Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna, June 29, 2008. (REUTERS)


Euro 2008 FINAL – Germany 0-1 Spain, ¡Viva España! and Breathing Fully

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Germany 0-1 Spain. The chokers are no more.

In a hard-fought but dominated battle in Vienna, La Selección wiped all of their historical fears and under-achieving inhibitions away: one swift movement (as swift as Fernando Torres‘s run behind Philipp Lahm, and swifter than his finishing touch over Jens Lehmann) to swipe the European Cup right from under Germany’s nose. A nose which was missing the essential contribution of their team captain tonight, an unrecognizable Michael Ballack who had opted to play -poorly- despite his recent muscular problems. However one has to wonder, whether even an in-form Ballack could have stopped Spain’s asphyxiating ball possession, superior technical display, and rendez-vous with destiny.

At the end of the night and 44 years after José Villalonga, Luis Aragonés became the second Spanish manager to lead La Furia Roja to an European title win. A title which, considering this month’s tournament as a whole, Spain deserved to win more than any other. ¡Viva España! indeed.

Note: I apologize for the lack of updates since Sunday. I’ve been on the move, getting ready to leave for 3 weeks’ vacation in Southern Italy and things have been very hectic. I’m currently in Italy now making final preparations, but expect the number of weekly articles to drop considerably during the month of July. I’ll still drop by to say hello though. :)

Euro 2008 - Germany 0-1 Spain

Euro 2008 gave its final verdict on Sunday night, and it fulfilled all expectations of style and betting odds: Spain beat Germany 1-0, thus earning their second ever European title after their 1964 triumph. Among the protagonists of the match a name stood above all others, namely a certain Fernando Torres who, by scoring in minute 33, became the match’s “pichichi” of sorts and a hero in the entire Iberian peninsula. Germany started the match well but quickly disappeared, unable of withstand the invincible power of Luis Aragonés’s men.

Jens Lehmann makes a save on Metzelder's deflectionGermany vs. Spain was a battle of playing styles, pressuring down the wings for the former and asphyxiating ball possession (almost to the point of nausea) for the latter, but it was also a battle of tactical choices. Those forced upon managers Joachim Löw and Luis Aragonés, being forced to deal with key injuries and to ponder on the alternatives. For the Nationalmannschaft, those doubts revolved around captain Michael Ballack (dealing with some muscular problems) and Thorsten Frings (suffering from a broken rib), both essential elements in the German chessboard. In the end, Löw decided to take the risk and fielded them both from the start. For La Selección, the real mind-scratcher was David Villa‘s absence: who was to replace Spain’s topscorer in the competition and more importantly, would he be able to do so with the same efficiency? Eventually, coach Aragonés decided to put his faith in young Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fàbregas, thus reverting his tactics to a one-striker (Torres) formation.

Doubts regarding Villa’s replacement must still have been rambling the Spanish minds however, because the start of the match was all in favour of Germany. Successful in cutting down the short passing game of their opponents, the Nationalmannschaft was exploiting the initial “fear” of the Spaniards by playing simple, direct football and it worked. In minute 3, a mistake by Sergio Ramos set up Miroslav Klose for a good chance, but Carles Puyol intervened just at the right time to defuse the situation. 6 minutes later Klose was once again at the heart of the action, setting up Hitzlsperger for a mid-range effort… wide. It was quite evident by now that Spain were having a tough time: Carlos Marchena was getting dizzy from all the 18-yard box action, all the while Philipp Lahm and Lukas Podolski were having a field day on the left wing, overlapping their runs to perfection.

Fernando Torres rises over Mertesacker to bang a powerful header onto the postIt was time for the boys in red to wake up and sound the charge. Andrés Iniesta decided to do just that in minute 14, as he got through on Germany’s left-wing and almost caused Christoph Metzelder to score an own goal. Jens Lehmann was vigilant. It was however the reaction Spain needed, and slowly (but surely) the balance of play shifted back in favor of Aragonés’s men. Efforts down the wings notably doubled in efficiency, particularly thanks to the pinpoint crossing accuracy of the players involved. In minute 23, Sergio Ramos delivered from the right side and found Fernando Torres on the second post, ready for a jumping header… onto the post! A great chance for Spain, followed just a second later by Capdevila’s follow-up effort… wide. Spain were back in command and loving it.

They undoubdtedly would love it even more in minute 33, when Fernando Torres got behind another good pass (low on the ground this time) and did not fail. Receiving from Fàbregas about 10-15 meters past the midfield line, the Liverpool striker burnt his marker (Lahm) with a burst of speed and finished with a delicate touch over the rushing-out keeper. 1-0 Spain.

Fernando Torres's chipped shot over Lehmann puts <i>La Selección</i> in the lead. 1-0 SpainSpain could have doubled their lead shortly after, but David Silva wasted a very good chance (served to him on a platter by Iniesta) with a rather difficult one-time volley. Numbers spoke very clearly however: Spain’s midfield line was making mincemeat of their German counterparts, and the slowness of the two central-backs (Metzelder and Mertesacker) was becoming all to apparent. As for Lahm, he may have provided the winning goal vs. Turkey but he was at fault on at least two of the Turkish tallies, and seemed in no better comfort in today’s match. It wasn’t too surprising to see him go at the end of the first half (on came Jansen).

Unfortunately for Germany, the substitution didn’t upset the match balance a whole lot and Spain unavoidably and relentlessly continued to press forward. Between minutes and 53 and 55, La Roja obtained three back-to-back chances (Xavi, Silva, Torres) that could have virtually put the game on ice, but lacked in accuracy or luck. Löw tried to instill some life in his team’s attack, substituting Hitzlsperger with Kevin Kuranyi, and it almost seemed to work: in minute 60, Michael Ballack (finally making a “real” appearance in this game) got behind a volley just inches wide of the post. Signs the Germans were still alive.

Spain's Iker Casillas rises to intercept a cross destined for Kevin KuranyiAragonés decided to go for safety, and replaced Fabregas’s playmaking with the interdiction ability of Xabi Alonso (shortly followed by Cazorla on for Silva). Ironically though, it was Spain once again to get very close to goal nº2, as Sergio Ramos slammed a powerful 67th minute diving header onto the crossbar and minutes later, a timely goal-line intervention of Frings prevented Iniesta’s howitzer from sending Spain into delirium. More changes ensued (Dani Güiza and Mario Gomez for Torres and Klose) and more chances for Spain on the counter: Marcos Senna was just one step too late to convert Güiza’s redirected header… the goal was wide open.

Fortunately for the boys in red, that chance would not come back to haunt them. Spain continued showcasing their mastery in ball possession, raising the “olé”s from the crowd and waiting for referee Roberto Rosetti (the only trace of Italy in the European final) to call full time. When that moment arrived, an entire nation could celebrate the break of a 44 year-long fast and start the “fiesta” all-nighter: Spain were champions of Euro 2008!


German Football Federation (DFB - Deutscher Fußball-Bund) GERMANY-SPAIN
[Match Highlights]
Real Federación Española de Fútbol
GOALSCORERS: 33’ F.Torres (S)
GERMANY (4-2-3-1): Lehmann – Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm (46’ Jansen) – Frings, Hitzlsperger (58’ Kuranyi) – Schweinsteiger, Ballack, Podolski – Klose (79’ Gomez). (bench: Enke, Adler, Fritz, Westermann, Rolfes, Neuville, Trochowski, Borowski, Odonkor). Coach: Löw.
SPAIN (4-1-4-1): Casillas – Sergio Ramos, Marchena, Puyol, Capdevila – Senna – Iniesta, Xavi, Fàbregas (63’ Xabi Alonso), Silva (66’ Cazorla) – F.Torres (88’ Güiza). (bench: Palop, Reina, Albiol, Navarro, Sergio Garçia, Arbeloa, Juanito, Villa, De la Red). Coach: Aragones.


Germany 0-1 Spain – MyVideo

Top 10 Flops of Euro 2008

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Top 10 Flops of Euro 2008

Luca Toni‘s topping the charts again… only this time, it isn’t very flattering. English tabloid The Sun just dished out another Top 10 list, regrouping the “Biggest flops” of this Summer’s Euro championship tournament. The Italy striker tops the list, despite receiving a pat on the back from Bayern Munich chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge.

It’s not [Toni's] fault if things didn’t go well, it’s Italy’s” said Rummenigge. “He was only served well in the game against France, he made mistakes but also won the penalty which changed the match. Against Spain he was very criticised, injustly: I did not see a single good pass played to him in that game to even have a chance of scoring. He was all alone, and he was missing Pirlo.” Still not enough for The Sun writers, and who can blame them? Going from 40 goals in his first season with Bayern to zero goals at Euro 2008 surely deserves some criticism…

Number 2 in the list is Chelsea and Czech Republic keeper Petr Cech, earning the spot thanks to his less-than-stellar performance vs. Turkey (Nihat Kahveci is still saying thank you). Completing the podium we find Barcelona and France defender Eric Abidal, who caused the penalty kick against Toni in the match vs. Italy, and the resulting red card that virtually cleared the road for the Azzurri’s victory.

In 4th spot, title holders Greece (knocked out in the first round), followed by Thierry Henry (“the man whose star continues to fade“) and Mario Gomez (“[Germany] were effectively playing with 10 men for their three group games“). At 7th spot are host countries Austria & Switzerland, for getting knocked out in the group stage “and barely raising a cheer from their own fans“.

Completing the “best of the worst” list, Fiorentina and Romania striker Adrian Mutu (who probably still hasn’t swallowed Buffon’s PK save), France’s Karim Benzema (a “wonderkid that failed to impress”) and the host TV broadcaster (for the power outage during the Germany-Turkey semi-final).

Here’s the full list with captions from The Sun article:

TV static Nº10: The Host Broadcaster
A massive electrical storm in Vienna saw Germany’s thrilling showdown with Turkey ruined for millions of armchair fans. At least 10 minutes of the rollercoaster semi-final was lost in the TV coverage, including Miroslav Klose’s goal.

Nº9: Karim Benzema French forward Karim Benzema reacts at the end of the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich . Italy won 2-0. (AFP/Getty Images)
The France striker went into the tournament with a growing reputation as his country’s wonderkid. Fans were told he was the hottest property outside Italy, Spain and England. But Benzema failed to impress during his two dismal displays for the hopeless French.

Romanian forward Adrian Mutu is pictured during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match Netherlands vs. Romania on June 17, 2008 at the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf in Bern. (AFP/Getty Images) Nº8: Adrian Mutu
The former Chelsea striker was tipped to pull up trees with underdogs Romania. And with a penalty against Italy, he was one kick away from sending his side into the quarter-finals. But Mutu fluffed his effort and Romania later tumbled out against Holland.

Nº7: The Co-Hosts Host countries Austria and Switzerland
Austria and Switzerland were both among the first seeds for the tournament as the host nations but they barely raised a cheer for their own fans. Austria bowed out with a single draw, while Switzerland’s only points came against Portugal in a dead rubber following their own elimination.

German forward Mario Gomez (back) lays on the field next to teammate German defender Clemens Fritz during their Euro 2008 Championships Group B football match Germany vs. Poland on June 8, 2008 at Woerthersee stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria. (AFP/Getty Images) Nº6: Mario Gomez
Germany’s route to the final was no mean feat — especially when you consider they were effectively playing with 10 men for their three group games. Gomez contributed next to nothing, with boss Joachim Low seeing sense in the quarter-finals to finally drop him.

Nº5: Thierry Henry French forward Thierry Henry reacts after missing a goal opportunity during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich . Italy won 2-0. (AFP/Getty Images)
The man whose star continues to fade must take some of the stick for France’s disjointed campaign this month. Henry’s goal against Holland masked an ineffective showing, with his deflection against Italy condemning his side to an early exit from the group stages.

German coach of the Greek national football team Otto Rehhagel gestures during the Euro 2008 Championships Group D football match Greece vs. Spain on June 18, 2008 at the Wals-Siezenheim stadium in Salzburg. (AFP/Getty Images) Nº4: Greece
It seems a bit harsh for the surprise winners of Euro 2004 to be here but defeat in all three group games was truly woeful. And Greece’s arch-rivals Turkey rubbed the defending champions’ noses in it by reaching the semi-finals with a series of thrilling comebacks.

Nº3: Eric Abidal Slovak referee Michel L'ubos (L) hands a red card to French defender Eric Abidal (C) next to midfielder teammate Claude Makelele (R) during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich. (AFP/Getty Images)
Playing the world champions in a win-or-bust final group game is never easy, yet France did not help themselves. When defender Abidal chopped down Italy’s Luca Toni for a first-half penalty and straight red card, it was au revoir Les Bleus.

Czech Republic's goalkeeper Petr Cech reacts after their Group A Euro 2008 soccer match defeat to Turkey at Stade de Geneve stadium in Geneva June 15, 2008. (REUTERS) Nº2: Petr Cech
Leading 2-1 against Turkey with just two minutes left, Czech Republic had one foot in the quarter-finals— until Cech’s howler. The Chelsea keeper horribly fluffed a routine cross for the equaliser, before an injury-time winner sent his side packing.

Nº1: Luca Toni Italian forward Luca Toni heads for the ball during the Euro 2008 Championships Group C football match France vs. Italy on June 17, 2008 at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich. (AFP/Getty Images)
The Italian hotshot came to the finals on the back of a golden season with Bayern Munich, notching 31 goals in the Bundesliga. But Toni endured a dreadful tournament, missing countless chances as well as looking like a man running through treacle.

Agree with the list? Tell us what you think below.

Euro 2008 SEMI-FINALS – Russia 0-3 Spain, Could This Finally Be La Selección‘s Year?

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Russia 0-3 Spain. Well Italy didn’t go out for nothing at least. Yet.

The ever-famous (or infamous, I guess it depends where you stand) tournament-chokers really made a statement on Thursday night. Getting three goals past your opponent in a Euro Semi-Finals cannot be ignored, even if that opponent was modest Russia (who in spite of being modest, was one of the most attractive and surprising teams of this tournament). In particular, what was even more remarkable is that Spain scored three goals without conceding any, a feat which against the likes of Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko was far from being a bookie’s favorite.

So ¡enhorabuena! to La Furia Roja, this Euro 2008 final vs. Germany promises to be a tough and exciting battle. The only snag for Spain is that they may have to do it without David Villa (picking up a muscle strain today).

Spain's Daniel Guiza, right, reacts with teammates Marcos Senna, left, Sergio Ramos, second left, and Carles Puyol after scoring the second goal during the semifinal match between Russia and Spain in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, June 26, 2008, at the Euro 2008 European Soccer Championships in Austria and Switzerland. Spain defeated Russia 3-0. (AP Photo by Sergey Ponomarev)

Euro 2008 - Russia 0-3 Spain

(From Gazzetta): VIENNA, 26 JUNE 2008 – A superb Spanish display sunk Russia on a very wet Thursday night, thanks to goals from Xavi, Güiza and Silva. Chants of “Viva España” rang around Vienna’s Ernst Happel stadium as Spanish fans witnessed their national side (who had gotten rid of Italy in the quarter-finals) first tame the Russians, and then finish them off in the second half with an incredible technical display. Hats off to “La Furia Roja” and their perfect team, epitomised by their slick movements and the individual genius of their stars. Cesc Fabregas was the key to the game as the young Arsenal genius came on in place of Villa in minute 35 and put all his class at the disposal of the team, namely in the shape of some sublime passing and two beautiful assists.

GAME OF CHESS – The wisdom of Luis Aragonés pitted against the enterprise of Guus Hiddink, or rather, Spain’s methodical school against Russia’s “mutant” one. Luis Aragones kept faith as always in his solid and fast 4-4-2 formation, which has earned the nickname of “windscreen wiper” in the Iberian peninsula (as it does away with anything in its path). Hiddink meanwhile may well be a mercenary, but when he puts his hands to the job he can certainly work miracles, and the Dutch tactician made only one unexpected change with regards to pre match predictions, preferring Ivan Saenko to Bilyaletdinov, who took his place up front beside Andrei Arshavin -Russia’s new prodigal son with a whole nation at his feet.

SKIRMISHES – Nerves got the better of Hiddink’s youngsters however, as the more experienced Spain attacked and pressed. On 6 minutes Fernando Torres turned well in the area and fired a shot at Igor Akinfeev, who let the ball slip out of his arms. Then again on 11 minutes David Villa fired a thunderbolt from outside the area, stinging the hands of Russia’s number one. The Russian alarm bells ringing. Hiddink was forced to raise his voice to reorganise his side and get them back into the game, and it seemed as Russia got the message when Roman Pavlyuchenko hit a well-struck free-kick from the edge of the area just over the bar (minute 16).

BALANCE – This was certainly not the same Russian side that annihilated Holland in the previous round, but Hiddink’s men did well to close their ranks and leave the opposition with limited space to exploit. Yuri Zhirkov’s tactical acumen provided Russia’s biggest threat as the fullback was given licence to push down the wing and instigate Russia’s attacks. Spain became less adventurous as the half progressed and also had a couple of close shaves. On 31 minutes, Pavlyuchenko had the Russian fans celebrating prematurely as Casillas just got a fingertip to the striker’s scorcher, only to send the ball agonisingly wide. On 34 minutes Villa picked up an injury and forced Aragonés to bring on Cesc Fabregas in replacement, and the Arsenal youngster immediately added quality to Spain’s play by positioning himself behind Torres.

Meanwhile, the rain was not showing any signs of relenting and made the players more heavy-legged, but this didn’t seem to affect the frequency of goalscoring opportunities. Indeed, on 35 minutes Pavlyuchenko controlled the ball with his chest just a couple of yards away from Casillas, but just as the Russian striker was preparing to shoot Carles Puyol managed to get a tackle in. Then it was Torres’s turn, as “El Niño” had Spanish fans on their feet through a clever dummy and shot in the area, only for Akinfeev to save the Liverpool striker’s effort.

DOWN WITH THE MASKS – After all the calculating and caution of the first half, the second half closed the door to such tactics: indeed, it only took 5 minutes past kick-off for Spain to open the score. Andrés Iniesta broke down the left and played in the perfect ball for Xavi, who drove an unsaveable shot past Akinfeev. 1-0 Spain.

Russia tried to reply by unleashing that high tempo of theirs, but in the process opened up space for the opposition to exploit and Torres came close to doubling his team’s lead, after some sublime passing between Silva and Fabregas. Conceding Xavi’s goal really had stunned the Russians. In the end in all came down to a question of experience, which Hiddink’s men were made to pay for their lack of. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Dmitriy Sychev came on for Semshov and Saenko, but not even fresh legs were enough for Russia as Spain now controlled the game and created chance after chance, taking full advantage of a weak and scared-looking Russia.

Spain also made a double substitution, with Dani Güiza and Xabi Alonso coming on for Torres and Xavi, thus giving fresh legs and power to the team. An explosive and lively Spain then proceeded to totally outclass the opposition, as Marcos Senna coordinated the midfield and the wingers revelled in the space afforded to them. Then came Guiza’s goal and Spain’s second, as Cesc Fabregas beautifully touched the ball on for the striker, who sent the Russians packing with a lob over the keeper. 2-0 Spain.

But Fabregas was not done yet. As if to say to Aragonés “You left me on the bench? Now I’ll show you!”, the Spanish youngster exploited a good Spanish counter-attack and played another perfect cross for David Silva, who completed the rout with a third. 3-0 Spain, and what a Spain, were thus in the Euro 2008 final.

Members of Spain's soccer team celebrate after their Euro 2008 semi-final soccer match victory over Russia at Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna, June 26, 2008. (REUTERS)


 Russian Football Union (Russian: Российский Футбольный Союз) RUSSIA-SPAIN
[Match Highlights]
Real Federación Española de Fútbol
GOALSCORERS: 50’ Xavi (S), 73’ Güiza (S), 82’ Silva (S).
RUSSIA (4-3-2-1): Akinfeev – Anyukov, Ignashevich, V. Berezutskiy, Zhirkov – Zyryanov, Semak, Semshov (56’ Bilyaletdinov) – Saenko (57’ Sychev), Arshavin – Pavlyuchenko. (bench: Gabulov, Malafeev, Yanabaev, Berezutski, Adamov, Ivanov, Shirokov, Bystrov). Coach: Hiddink.
SPAIN (4-4-2): Casillas – Ramos, Marchena, Puyol, Capdevila – Iniesta, Senna, Xavi (69’ Xabi Alonso), Silva – Villa (34’ Fàbregas), F.Torres (69’Güiza). (bench: Palop, Reina, Albiol, F.Navarro, Cazorla, Sergio Garçia, Arbeloa, Juanito, De la Red). Coach: Aragones.


Russia 0-3 Spain – MyVideo