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My money is on Spain

Spanish coach Luis Aragones has not lost a game with this team in 20 matches. They defeated Russia 3-0 to reach their first final since their Euro victory in 1964. Diego Maradona on why he supports Spain. Tonight's the night | Special: Euro 2008

sports Updated: Jul 01, 2008 01:42 IST

Euro 2008 has been a tournament of spectacular games, unexpected results, upsets and sparkling play. It is only fitting that two of the pre-tournament favourties, Germany and Spain, should meet in the final on Sunday night. The Spanish Matador is ready for the charge against the German Panzer bull.

Special: Euro 2008

Germany got to the final defeating a depleted Turkey in a very close match that was decided at the very last minute by a goal by Phillip Lahm, the best left-back in Europe. The Germans played poorly in their loss to Croatia, brilliantly against Turkey and Portugal. They will have to play much better to beat a top team of champions such as Spain.

Coach Luis Aragones has not lost a game with this Spanish team in 20 matches. They defeated Russia 3-0 to reach their first final since their Euro victory in 1964. In their last seven matches against Germany, Spain has won once, lost four times, and tied twice. The Germans have won the Euro championship thrice and the World Cup as many times. Spain have been crowned Euro champions only once, and carried the brand of underachievers ever since.

However, the victory over world champions Italy, has given this Spanish team confidence.

Iker Casillas was splendid in goal against Italy and Russia. Spain has displayed the best defence of Euro 2008 led by Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol. He was superb against Luca Toni and annulled Russian revelation Roman Payvlyuchenko and could be player of this tournament. His partner in the centre will be the solid Carlos Marchena of Valencia.

Sergio Ramos has shown why he is considered the best right-back in the world. On the left, Joan Capdevila has been nothing but solid. I can’t praise Marcos Senna enough as a defensive midfielder. He has won many a battles in the midfield. Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and David Silva run the midfield with speed, talent and flair. With striker David Villa out, Cesc Fabregas should finally start behind the forwards. It’s time for the genius of Arsenal to start the final. Up front, David Silva and Fernando Torres should make their mark. Torres has not done particularly well, but his size and strength have worn down defenders. Look for substitute Daniel Guiza to come in off the bench when he tires.

German Coach Joachim Loew has just signed a contract with the federation until 2010. There have been scares against Croatia and Turkey but Germany has been the disciplined and organised team the one we are used to see. Jens Lehman had a poor game against Turkey and will have to pull up his straps against Spain. He lived under Oliver Kahn’s shadow for a decade and his current form shows why.

Captain Michael Ballack did not do much against Turkey and will have to spark this team against Spain if they are to win. Bastian Scheweinsteiger, the revelation in the midfield, and Thomas Hitzbelger complete the midfield. Lukas Podolski has regained his World Cup form.

If we compare the teams position by position, Spain has the better keeper in Casillas and the better central defender in Puyol. The Germans have the better left-back in Lahm, the Spanish on the right with Sergio Ramos. Marcos Senna has played better than Torsten Frings. Schwiensteiger has excelled as right midfielder as against Iniesta. Ballack has been steady but not exciting in contrast to Fabregas who has been spectacular. Podolski has been excellent in contrast to a very good David Silva. Klose has appeared sparingly, similar to El Nino, Fernando Torres.

As for the coaches, I admired Aragones. He showed patience and the intelligence Van Basten lacked in his loss to Russia. Loews against Portugal was brilliant but not against Turkey. Both these teams are very solid allround and that’s why they are playing in the final.Not much separates them and there is no clear favourite. Solid teams make it to the final. Spectacular teams entertain but lose.

The only spectacular team I ever saw win a major championship was Brazil in 1970 and they had Pele, Tostao, Rivelino, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto. Personally, I favour a Spanish victory. Their goalie is better, their defence is better, their midfield is better and they are finally due for a championship after all these years.

The Germans play with swagger and strength but the games with Croatia and Turkey showed their defensive lapses. You can never count out these tough men, but I think the Euro 2008 trophy will belong to the 69 year old, who finally broke the Spanish jinx, Luis Aragones.

PMG