Espa

Spain caps an exciting European championship tournament with a 1-0 win over Germany.

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Spain is the champion of Euro 2008 and it’s a fitting end. The Spanish are an entertaining team, and this was as entertaining as any soccer tournament has a right to be.

Desperate comebacks were the rule, late in second halves and even in injury time. Out of 31 games there were only two scoreless ties and six 1-0 games, including Spain’s title-match victory Sunday. Rare was the game that saw a team take a 1-0 lead, then sit on it in depressing fashion for upwards of an hour.

That included the final. Fernando Torres, the slumping striker who had hit a goalpost a few minutes earlier, scored in the 33rd minute on a brilliant athletic play, outmuscling Germany’s Philip Lahm for the ball, then chipping it over a diving goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who had come way out to challenge.

Spain didn’t go into a shell for the next 57 minutes-plus, something that surely would have been disastrous against the more powerful Germans, and the rest of the match was an exciting affair. Spain carried the action for most of it, consistently quicker than Germany, and there were several great scoring chances, starting less than two minutes after the goal when David Silva shanked a tough left-footer high over the net.

But after Spain missed on a couple of chances early in the second half, Germany had its best run, keeping the ball in the Spanish half of the field and getting several good scoring chances, though none so good that Spanish goalie Iker Casillas had to make any spectacular saves.

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The best save of the night had been made by Lehmann in the early going, when he had to dive spectacularly to his right to stop what would have been an own goal.

In the 60th minute German captain Michael Ballack missed wide left from near the penalty arc, though Casillas might have gotten to the two-hopper had it been to the right of the post. A minute later Ballack again, suddenly alive after a desultory game on a bad calf, launched a cross from the left that Casillas caught in front of a flying Kevin Kuranyi. A minute after that Bastian Schweinsteiger beat two men on a run down the right side and then laid a cross right on the doorstep, just out of the reach of Miroslav Klose.

That flurry was Germany’s last good chance to tie it up. Spain kept attacking and got far closer to scoring than the Germans did down the stretch. Germany never got into much of an offensive rhythm, and as the game wore on, their legs seemed to wear down. It was all they could do not to lose by more than 1-0.

You have to tip your hat to them. By keeping the game close, they kept Euro 2008 exciting to the very end.

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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