Spain's class eventually tells

Society Materials 28 June 2008 19:31 (UTC +04:00)

Every team that has faced Spain at Euro 2008 has finally come up short and, on the evidence to date, there is little reason to believe a competent if inconsistent Germany can halt the march of Luis Aragones' free-passing side in Sunday's final.

Spain may not have won a European Championship title since 1964 but immediately signalled their intention of ending this barren run in the opening 4-1 hammering of Russia in Innsbruck.

A last-minute winner from David Villa, who netted a hat-trick against the Russians, secured a 2-1 victory against Sweden in Spain's next match in Group D.

But the result hides the reality that Lars Lagerback's side spent the entire second half defending in numbers in the vain hope of salvaging a draw.

"In terms of passing the ball, I believe that Spain are the best team in the world," said an impressed Lagerback afterwards.

The result meant qualification to the quarter-finals was assured with a game to spare so Aragones rested his first-team players for the final group match against Greece in Salzburg.

But even with a second-string side, Spain proved too strong for the defending champions Greece, with coach Otto Rehhagel admitting that, even though his side took a first-half lead, once Spain started exerting pressure in the second period, Greece couldn't cope.

"We defended too deep, especially for the second goal," said the veteran German, in reference to Daniel Guiza's effort that made it 2-1.

The story was similar in Spain's quarter-final penalty shoot-out win against Italy, with Spain controlling much of the possession against the defending world champions.

Even if the Azzurri defence proved too tough a nut to crack, Italy coach Roberto Donadoni - who has since been sacked and replaced by Marcello Lippi - repeated pretty much what Rehhagel and Lagerback before him had said.

"We defended too much," he said. "There was no more energy left in any of the players."

Donadoni added that he saw no reason for Spain not to make it all the way to the final, especially because of the team's fighting qualities and strength in depth.

Both qualities were in plentiful evidence in the 3-0 semi-final victory over Russia when the first-half loss of striker Villa simply saw Aragones bring on Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas and change to a five-man midfield.

"By bringing the striker off and the midfielder in, they got more mobility and its very difficult to play against that," said Russia coach Guus Hiddink.

"The thing is Spain can do everything at a very good pace. We simply didn't have the options to change anything so it was only a matter of time. That is their class.", dpa reported.