Ah, the sweet smell of victory. \nI’d like to be humble here, but well, I don’t feel like it. Yes, for the record, I picked Spain – perennial international underachievers – to win the European Championships this year. \nAnd my boy Fernando Torres scored the deciding goal. Wonderful, to say the least. \nThis caps off a rather excellent year for Torres, who scored 24 Premiership goals – the most by a foreign player in their first season in England – and 33 overall in his first campaign for (my beloved) Liverpool. But back to Spain. \nLong considered an underwhelming powerhouse of international soccer, Spain has often been a victim of its own skill – a team with so much logjam in their depth chart that they could never put the right pieces in the right places to keep from tripping over their own proverbial feet. Until 2008. \n69-year-old Luis Aragones finally punched just the right buttons, giving Andres Iniesta and Xavi the allowance to move and create in midfield. He let David Silva do his thing on the wings, while the ageless – and requisite ex-Brazilian – Marcos Senna shut down anything trying to break through. \nCesc Fabregas and Xabi Alonso were brilliant substitutes in midfield, and really the player of the tournament award might as well have gone to all six of the men listed above. \nStill, the ever-struggling Spanish strikeforce did a wonderful job themselves, netting six goals between them for the tournament. Torres and David Villa finally broke through on the international stage because they finally had each other instead of operating one-for-the-other, alone up top. No, this tournament marked a strategic change for Aragones, putting the two prolific club strikers at the top together to provide each other a link to a much more creative and successful midfield. \nSay what you will about an overrated defense, but Sergio Ramos and Carlos Puyol looked nothing but brilliant for much of the tournament. Puyol, the tough and seasoned international captain, anchored a defense that many times lived at the edge of the sword but still looked nearly impregnable. \nRamos was still a better sight, bombing down the wings. He was a far better offensive player than some of his compatriots at times during the tournament. \nAnd goalkeeper Iker Casillas, long considered perhaps second- or third-best in the world, finally assumed the mantle of tops at his position with a flourish, helping to best Gigi Buffon of Italy with a fine performance that resulted in a penalty-shootout win against the world champion Azzuri. \nBasically, Spain were the best team of the tournament, start to finish. Unlike the 2008 New England Patriots, there would be no failure, no stumbling at the final obstacle to a lesser foe. The Spanish had taken themselves to the top of the footballing world, and they would not come back down – just named No. 1 in the world Wednesday. \nJust as when Greece – boring but sharply effective – won the Euros in 2004, the best, most deserving squad took away the hardware. So, when the whistle blew and Spain defeated lucky-just-to-be-there Germany, the right team had won Euro 2008.\nViva la Espana.
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