This time there were many heroes on this phenomenal Spanish side that not only won the group, never lost a game, scored the most amount of goals. Diego Maradona writes.sports Updated: Jul 01, 2008 00:29 IST
It was bound to happen sooner or later. The Red Furies, La Furias Rochas, of Spain, broke a 44-year-old jinx to defeat the German panzertruppen 1-0 and bring home the European championship. The last time they won, Luis Suarez was their best player bought soon after by Angelo Moratti on his way to making la Grande Inter.
This time there were many heroes on this phenomenal Spanish side that not only won the group, never lost a game, scored the most amount of goals (12), and let in the least (3) and had the top striker of the tournament in David Villa.
Goalie Iker Casillas showed his worth against Italy in the quarter-final. Carles Puyol, star of Barcelona, showed why he was the best centre-back in the tournament. Sergio Ramos was phenomenal at right-back. How many balls did Marco Senna block as defensive midfield! How many miles did Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandes and Xabi Alonso run! How many passes did Cesc Fabregas make as a substitute and a starter! How effective were David Silva, David Villa and Fernando Torres as a striking force!
Aragones reminded me of Mario Zagalo and Spain reminded me of a great Brazilian team in that they played one-touch football, had total control of the ball and pace, and could score with deadly force. The 69-year-old coach created a solid team in which everyone could be substituted and a better or equal player brought in. For once the most spectacular and solid team won the Euro 2008.
Russia & Turkey surprise
There were great surprises, brilliant play and let downs in this tournament .The great surprises were Turkey and Russia. Turkey survived on the edge of a razor again and again versus Switzerland, downing brilliant Croatia on penalties, and only losing to the Germans with at least six men unavailable. Faith Terim showed his brilliance in rallying a fit team that seemed to enjoy playing on the brink of defeat, but with players of great heart such as Hamit Altintop of Bayern Munich and Tuncay Sanli of Middlesbrough.
Russia defeated a superior Dutch team that had been the best side all through group C defeating Italy, France and Romania. They came into the game with an obvious sense of superiority that proved unfounded. Russia showed it had two great stars on their team, playmaker Andrei Arshavin and striker Roman Pavlyuchenko. The Dutch didn’t mark them at all and paid the price. The Spanish put Puyol and Marchena on them and neutralised them out of the game.
What to say of Portugal who easily beat Turkey and the Czech Republic only to lose to Germany. Ronaldo disappointed in that he couldn’t win the tournament by himself. Portugal did not have a striking force up front and had to rely on Ronaldo and Deco to create something brilliant. In the end the Germans proved more efficient defeating both Portugal and Turkey. Germany was the second best team in this tournament. They had the same team as in World Cup 2006 but with Bastian Schweinsteiger in great form, a renewed Lukas Podolski, Michael Ballack and the superb Philipp Lahm at left-back.
The group of death turned out to be the group of retirement. France was the biggest disappointment with talented players like Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri left running aimlessly around the field. Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram and Nicolas Anelka showed their age and lack of pace. The Italians did slightly better surviving the qualifiers only because of Gianluigi Buffon’s brillant penalty save from Adrian Mutu and losing to champions Spain on penalty kicks. If Andrea Pirlo had been playing, Italy might have done better, but they lost Fabio Cannavaro before the tournament and could squeeze little out of their old veterans such as Luca Toni, Gianluca Zambrotta, Gennaro Gattuso, Alessandro Del Piero and co.
Hosts Switzerland and Austria showed why they are the best hoteliers in the world, and still average football players.
The tournament was beautifully organised, great cool climate for football and excellent fields and stadia.
Shortest team won
In a time where managers look for tall players, the shortest team won. Football is still played on the ground after all. Spain proved once and for all that it was through with the inferiority complex that dates back to the time of Franco. It is a young, quick team with real superstars such as Casillas, Ramos, Puyol, Iniesta, Fabregas, Senna, Xabi and Xavi, Villa and Torres. They play beautiful attacking and controlling football and now have the confidence to match their abilities. They will be the favourites to win the World Cup in South Africa. Viva Espana y Viva el Football de Europa 2008.
See you in South Africa 2010!