Germany Mourns Deserved Defeat Spain Crowned Champions of Europe

Spain has been partying through the night after its football team won its first major title in 44 years by beating Germany 1-0 in the European Championship final on Sunday. German commentators admit the victory was thoroughly deserved.

Spain is basking in football glory after winning the European Championship on Sunday with a deserved and easy 1-0 victory over Germany in which they again displayed the speed, tactics and world-class skills that had made them the favorites.

It was Spain's first major title in 44 years -- they last won the European Championship in 1964 -- and the victory ended decades of disappointment that saw promising Spanish sides falter in international tournaments.

The 1-0 score in Sunday's final didn't reflect Spain's dominance. The young, highly talented team forged by veteran coach Luis Aragones outclassed a tired-looking German side devoid of ideas in attack and incapable of mustering a convincing defense.

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres scored the goal in the 33rd minute after running into a clever pass from Barcelona midfielder Xavi, shaking off German defender Philipp Lahm and lifting the ball over German keeper Jens Lehmann who had come running out too soon.

Spain continued to create clear chances while Germany failed to mount threatening attacks. The only major chance came in the second half when captain Michael Ballack shot just wide.

The equalizer never came and the final whistle marked the start of a night-long fiesta in Spain where villages and cities echoed to cheers of "Campeones, campeones!"

In Germany, the defeat brought a three-week football carnival to an abrupt end and hundreds of thousands of fans who had partied in public viewing areas trudged off home in their team shirts or wrapped in their national flags. Some burst into tears.

It was Germany's sixth participation in a European Championship final. The side has won the trophy three times, the last time in 1996 in England.

"You Germans are used to getting into the final," shouted Manuel Godon, 30, trying to made himself heard above the cheering in a bar in the Spanish city of Valencia. "But I've never experienced us being in a final. And then we won! That's just the greatest, the greatest. I'm going to party till dawn."

Fans and commentators in Germany acknowledged that Spain deserved to win. "Spain Was Simply Better. We're Still Proud of You!" wrote mass circulation Bild.

Spain dominated the tournament, winning all their matches. They beat a strong Russian side twice and knocked World Champions Italy out in the quarter-final. Germany lost to Croatia during the group stage and struggled in their victories over Austria and Turkey.

Their impressive 3-2 victory over favorites Portugal in the quarter-final had fanned hopes that they could lift the European trophy for the fourth time. But they couldn't raise their game enough to rival a more skilful, fresher-looking and tactically superior Spain on Sunday. "In the end we lacked the strength," Ballack told German television after the match. "It was a long tournament."

German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, who won the World Cup with Germany as a player in 1974 and as coach in 1990, said Spain had deserved to win the tournament.

"The Spanish were better. But still: the team that came second in this strong tournament is world class. The English didn't even qualify. The French, Italians and the Dutch were knocked out. So there is no reason for the coach, players and fans to be downhearted," he wrote. "We as vice European champions must now look to new goals. The next World Cup is in two years…"

The German team and coach Joachim Löw will fly to Berlin on Monday to thank their supporters at the Brandenburg Gate, Europe's largest public viewing area, where 600,000 fans watched the team lose on Sunday.



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