x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Spain blew us away playing their own way

2008 review: The key moment of the year in international football fell to a Spanish Armada of a squad in every sense, and its fleet of world-class players.

Spain were by far and away the best team and worth winners of Euro 2008.
Spain were by far and away the best team and worth winners of Euro 2008.

Spain and Euro 2008 were made for each other. The key moment of the year in international football fell to a Spanish Armada of a squad in every sense, and its fleet of world-class players. After travelling the world to dock at such competitions over the past 44 years, Luis Aragones's side finally found themselves during a windswept but utterly epic June. His experience and the youthful image of his side together became a potent blend.

It was a victory for lovers of sweeping football, and Spain unfurled themselves regally. Austria and Switzerland became a Spanish heartland. They seemed to abandon the tactics truck in favour of expressing themselves. The rain fell for much of this tournament, and Spain wallowed in a deluge of wins. Spain have found trying to win a major competition as difficult as attempting to clamber up an Austrian ski-slope without any skis, but not this time.

Enrique Iglesias could be found singing before the final with Germany in Vienna. Some people prefer his dad Julio's back catalogue, but Spain were every neutral's favourite. Their last hit came in winning the European Nations' Cup in 1964. They all turned up this time. Fernando Torres is a pin-up player, and, in the final, uncorked a winning goal of some quality. His effort was a moment of delicious opportunism, but none of Spain's players were wasteful.

Xavi was a true force at the heart of their midfield, and was named Uefa's player of the tournament. David Villa bobbed and weaved his way to becoming top scorer. Their goalkeeper Iker Casillas was assured in the key moments. Spain play the game properly. Aragones has had hairy times in his new role with the Turkish club Fenerbahce, but was in his element in running his country. Guus Hiddink remains a manager whose stock continues to rise despite his Russian side going down 4-1 to Spain in the opening game of the tournament, and suffering a 3-0 caning in the semi-finals.

The nature of Russia's 3-1 win over Holland in the quarter- finals was exhilarating. The world champions, Italy, were beaten up by the Dutch 3-0 and lost on penalties in their quarter-final with Spain. Roberto Donadoni was relieved of his position as Italy manager after his attempt to sedate the Spanish in the quarter-final was foiled in a penalty shoot-out. The defensive stance was not enough. Marcello Lippi was brought back from cold storage to oversee their attempt to reach the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010.

Croatia conquered England in qualifying, but could not get past Fatih Terim's dashing Turkey. The Germans contributed wholeheartedly to the tournament, but they were all left slightly dazed by the technical superiority of the winners. dkane@thenational.ae