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Spain v Germany Euro 2008
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Spain v Germany: Euro 2008 Final Revisited

Ahead of a blockbuster Euro 2024 quarter-final between Spain and Germany, we take a look back on the Euro 2008 final between the two nations.

Friday evening will see two of European football’s heavyweights clash in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024, with the tournament’s most impressive team to date Spain taking on hosts Germany in Stuttgart.

In anticipation of this hotly-anticipated last eight showdown, we take a look back upon the last meeting between the two countries at the Euros – the 2008 final in Vienna.

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The build-up: Serial winners v nearly men

The collision of Germany and Spain in the final of Euro 2008 saw the competition’s most successful team faced with arguably the biggest underachievers in international football history.

Three-time Euros winners in 1972, 1980 and 1996, and twice runners-up in 1976 and 1992, Germany entered the 2008 final as favourites against an opponent in Spain who had so often flattered to deceive on the international stage.

Since being crowned European champions on home soil in 1964, the Spanish national team had only once progressed past the quarter-finals stage of a major tournament – finishing as runners-up to France at Euro 84.

Despite their much publicised reputation as the nearly men of international football, Spain were second favourites heading into Euro 2008 with manager Luis Aragones boasting a star-studded squad undoubtedly capable of achieving great heights.

La Roja had been able to back up their pre-tournament billing, blitzing through the group stage with three victories over Russia, Sweden and Greece, before navigating past Italy and a second encounter with the Russians in the quarter-finals and semis respectively.

Spain’s quarter-final win over Italy on penalties was particularly symbolic, as it marked their first triumph over the Italians in a competitive match in 88 years, giving rise to a feeling that this Spanish side had the mettle to become champions at long last.

Their final opponents Germany had not enjoyed as smooth a path to the final, finishing second in their group after losing to Croatia before two narrow 3-2 victories in the knockout rounds, first edging past Portugal in the quarter-finals before toppling Turkey in the last four.

The meeting of the pre-tournament favourites and second favourites set up a mouthwatering Euro 2008 final, with two squads stacked with quality going face to face.

Much of the build-up to the final itself centred around who would not form the starting line-ups as opposed to who would be playing, with tournament top scorer David Villa ruled out for Spain with a thigh injury and the Germans sweating over the fitness of captain Michael Ballack.

In the end, the Spaniards would elect to replace David Villa with Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, with German midfield general Ballack passed fit to play in the final staged at the home of Austrian football – the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna.

The match: El Nino on the mark

Spain starting XI (4-1-4-1): Casillas (c), Ramos, Marchena, Puyol, Capdevila, Senna, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Silva, Torres.

Germany starting XI (4-2-3-1): Lehmann, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Metzelder, Lahm, Frings, Hitzlsperger, Schweinsteiger, Ballack (c), Podolski, Klose.

Faced with a possession-oriented Spanish side who had demonstrated their capacity to dictate the tempo of matches throughout the tournament, it was in fact the Germans who began the Euro 2008 final on the front foot.

A confident start from Joachim Low’s Germany was met with indecision from Spain, with La Roja unable to exert their characteristic control in the early stages.

Although Germany had started on top, it was Spain who did create the first meaningful openings – first forcing a smart save from Jens Lehmann in goal from a deflected Andres Iniesta shot before Fernando Torres hit the post with a header.

Apparently buoyed by their ability to hurt the German defence, it was Spain who made the telling breakthrough in the 33rd minute, with Torres capitalising on an error of judgement from an onrushing Lehmann to dink the ball over the goalkeeper’s head and into the back of net.

It was a moment of superb instinctive striking play from Torres, who was able to take centre stage in the Vienna final with only his second goal of the tournament, in contrast to his injured strike partner Villa who had registered four.

With what was to prove the final’s match-winning goal, Torres was able to cap off an outstanding individual season in which he had scored 24 goals in his debut Premier League campaign for Liverpool, eventually being named in FIFA’s World XI for 2007/08.

Aside from a Ballack volley from outside the box which flew just past Iker Casillas’ right-hand post, Germany were unable to muster many chances of real note as Spain were able to assume superiority.

The Spaniards came mightily close to doubling their advantage through Barcelona’s Iniesta in the second period, with his powerful right-footed drive crashing off the post.

In the end, Torres’ first half effort was enough to see Spain edge the 2008 final, with their substitutes bench spilling onto the pitch upon the final whistle as La Roja ended their 44-year wait for major silverware.

As captain Casillas became the first ever goalkeeper to lift the Euros trophy, Spain had officially turned the corner – from perennial underperformers to undisputed winners.

The aftermath: The dawn of a dynasty

They may have not fully recognised it at the time, but Spain’s Euro 2008 triumph marked a seminal moment for arguably the greatest international football team of all time.

Now led by a new manager in Vicente del Bosque, with Aragones having stepped down following Euro 2008, Spain’s revered tiki-taka approach continued to topple all before them.

Winning their first World Cup title in 2010 in South Africa as part of a record-breaking trio of trophies which also included Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, Spain emerged as the unconquerable force of international football.

Spain’s spectacular trophy run coincided with a similar golden era for Barcelona at club level, with the Catalan giants winning La Liga in three of four seasons between 2008/09 and 2011/12 along with the Champions League in 2009 and 2011.

At the heart of this dual success for club and country were diminutive midfield duo Xavi and Iniesta, with one of the godfathers of Spanish football Aragones establishing a national team set up to play to the strengths of such technically gifted talents.

Named Player of the Tournament at Euro 2008, the legendary Xavi paid tribute to the faith Aragones placed in Spain’s famed footballing technicians.

Aragones was the turning point. He took a gamble on the little guys. Perhaps it's a word too often used in football but the truth is the way we played to win in 2008 was beautiful.

-Xavi Hernandez, 2008 (

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