After 30 games spread over nearly three weeks, this is what it has all come down to- Germany vs Spain in Vienna. Joachim Loew vs Luis Aragones. Three time European champions against a one time champion. And going by form, it will be Spain who will walk into the game as favourites, having won all their games so far.
Spain have the chance to emulate France’s Euro 1984 feat. France, with the legendary Michel Platini in their ranks, were the last team to win the tournament after winning all their group games. Spain are unbeaten in this tournament, chalking up five wins on the trot. They started off their campaign by steamrolling Russia 4-1, then saw off Sweden 2-1, and beat Greece 2-1 in their final game. They beat the Italians on penalties in the quarters, and then broke Russia down again 3-0 in the semifinals. Young Cesc Fabregas was a revelation in the semifinal against Russia, and with David Villa tearing a muscle in his right leg, the Arsenal midfielder is expected to get the nod ahead of Dani Guiza. There are no other injury worries for Spain. Fernando Torres will look to exploit the nervousness shown by Germany’s two central defenders- Mertesacker and Metzelder. Both have looked far from assured, especially Metzelder. In midfield, Marcos Senna has been a revelation while Iniesta and Xavi have destroyed opposition with their precise passes.The defence is reasonably strong, with Puyol and Marchena at the heart of it, but they will have to be wary of Germany’s strength with set plays.
German skipper Michael Ballack is a huge doubt for this game with a calf injury. Should he not be present, many will feel that the trophy has already gone to Spain even before the kickoff. Germany without Ballack have looked pedestrian despite some good performances from Lahm, Podolski and Schweinsteiger.However we will see the battling Torsten Frings start, with Simon Rolfes making way for him. Germany are likely to play a formation that allows Klose to be the main target man, with Podolski working his way down the left. Podolski against Ramos will be interesting to watch, and so will Capdevila vs Schweinsteiger on the opposite flank. Thomas “der Hammer ” Hitzlsperger- the man who delivered the killer pass for Lahm to score the winning goal against Turkey, should retain his spot in midfield. Jens Lehmann has looked unsettled in goal, and could be found wanting if he plays the same way he did against Turkey.
Germany last won this tournament in 1996. Spain won it in 1964. Germany have had their share of luck in this tournament, and many pundits agree that going by form, they shouldn’t be in the final. But this German side, like all in the past, has the habit of coming up trumps when the odds are stacked against them. Still, I think Spain will be too strong for Germany. Spain to win by two goals, with Torres and Xavi scoring.