Euro 2008 Final Preview
By David Harrison
There will be massive celebrations in either Germany or Spain on Sunday. The two nations will square off tomorrow in the Euro 2008 final, with the victor being crowned champions of Europe.
Germany advanced to the final after a tight 3-2 victory over Turkey in the semis on Wednesday. The Germans and the Turks fought tooth and nail down to the wire before Philipp Lahm scored the game-winner in the 90th minute. Also scoring for Germany in the win were Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose.
Spain had a much easier time in their semifinal match against Russia. Spain’s quick passing attack was too much for Russia to handle, and the Spaniards easily vanquished them 3-0. Scoring for Spain in the rout were Xavi Hernandez, David Silva and Daniel Guiza. However, Spain’s win didn’t come without a price. Striker David Villa, who is the tournament leader in goals with four, suffered a muscle strain while making a free kick and is expected to miss Sunday’s final.
It’s been a long time since Germany and Spain have met up in a game that actually meant something. The last competitive match between Germany and Spain was played in the 1994 World Cup. That match ended as a 1-1 draw.
The Germans head into Sunday’s final looking to win a record fourth Euro championship, and their first since they won in England back in 1996. Spain’s berth in the final ends a long run of disappointment in the Euro championships that saw them get knocked out in the quarterfinals of the last five tournaments. Spain has only one previous Euro win, which took place back in 1964.
Even with Villa expected to be sidelined for Sunday’s final, Spain enters the match as a +120 favorite. The Germans are a +225 underdog, while the draw odds have been set at +210.
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Spain's Villa to miss Euro final with thigh injury
Vienna, Austria (Sports Network) - Spain striker David Villa will definitely miss the Euro 2008 final against Germany due to a thigh muscle injury picked up in the 3-0 semifinal defeat of Russia.
The tournament's four-goal top-scorer limped out of Thursday's semifinal success in the 35th minute and will play no part against Germany in Vienna.
Despite the blow, the Valencia striker has vowed to remain positive as Spain look to secure their first piece of silverware since the 1964 European championship.
Villa scored a hat-trick in Spain's opening 4-1 group stage win over Russia and was also on the mark in the 2-1 success over Sweden which booked their place in the knockout stages.
"All I want to do now is enjoy Sunday," he said. "I'm a little sad that I won't be there to take part but it's better that a teammate who is fit plays instead of me, particularly as my injury has left me limping quite badly."
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Germany's Captain Ballack Doubtful
VIENNA, Austria -- Germany captain Michael Ballack missed his team's last practice Saturday because of a calf injury, putting him in doubt for Sunday's European Championship final against Spain.
The German soccer federation said Ballack hurt his right calf Friday and did not train that day either, adding that he was receiving treatment at the team hotel. No other details were immediately available; Friday's practice was not open to the media.
"We have to see how it develops overnight," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "They are working around the clock on him.
"It was unthinkable that he would have been able to train today."
The 31-year-old Chelsea midfielder, a key factor in Germany reaching the final, missed out on the 2002 World Cup title game because of a suspension. Brazil beat Germany 2-0 for the championship.
He also missed the opening game of the 2006 World Cup because of a calf injury.
"I have not written him off yet," Loew said. `When I saw him this afternoon, he was very optimistic despite everything. He was not too down because the doctors say there is still a chance he could play. But of course, it's a disappointment for any player."
Ballack, who can both orchestrate and finish off his team's attacks, has scored two goals in five matches at Euro 2008. He hit a blistering free kick against Austria in a first-round match, and headed in the winning goal in the 3-2 quarterfinal victory over Portugal.
Germany flew to the Austrian capital earlier Saturday from its base in southern Switzerland. The federation did not release any information on Ballack's injury until he did not show up for the last practice session before the final match.
Ballack's absence would be a severe blow to Germany's hopes of lifting a record fourth European title. Spain is also missing a key player, forward David Villa.
Loew revealed little about his possible starting lineup during the practice session. Loew had been expected to start the same group that beat Portugal in the quarterfinals and then Turkey in the semifinals, except for midfielder Torsten Frings returning in place of Simon Rolfes. But if Ballack is unable to play, Loew could reshuffle his team in more ways.
"I expect a win. We are going into the game with self-confidence," Loew added. "But Spain has been the most consistent team here, they have had almost no fluctuations in their level. They may be somewhat of a favorite, but we are confident and we are going in with a very positive approach."
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Euro 2008 final: Germany vs. Spain analysis and pick
By GIANT CAUSEWAY
Germany +240, Spain +145, draw +220
It’s been an excellent tournament for pure entertainment with goals galore and sublime football in comparisons with previous World Cups and European Championships. We are at that final stage and I have to wonder will both teams continue to play attacking football or will tensions and the fear of failure prevent the sides from playing the way that has got them to this stage?
Before I go on, I have Germany at 5.1 on the exchanges and have seen a Germany/Spain forecast finalists at 11.5 cashed in. I’m already involved and whatever direction I decide to go, I have three options: I can let the bet ride at 5.1 to lift the trophy or trade out for an all green book which means a profit regardless of winner or trade out for stakes returned and have a free bet on Germany.
Germany has lived up to their stereotype of clutch performers with a long history of successes and therefore has bred generations of players with a winning mentality. Spain, on the other hand have yet to succeed on the world stage and have earned the mantle of bottlers/chokers.
To believe those stereotypes Germany would have to be the logical pick. But as in sports anything can happen, the improbable BoSox 4-3 comeback vs. the Yankees in the ALCS, the Giants claiming the Super Bowl, the romanticism of the horse racing Triple Crown which captures fans’ imaginations beyond the sport, Man United claiming the Champions League on the untimely slip by John Terry and of course, England not qualifying for Euro 2008.
On to the analysis for Sunday's match.
Germany had the easiest route to the final pre-tourney and that has still proved true. At first, I never really thought Portugal who were their main opposition to a final place, had the right ingredients to be crowned European Champions. The coach has tried to play expansive football but his players are just not technically good enough or speedy enough to gain the similar applause that Spain, Holland, and Russia had received.
What they have done is grind out results from weak oppositions and exploited the glaring weaknesses of their opposition in clinical fashion whilst exposing their own weaknesses at the back. Against Portugal, they had the advantage of physical attributes over the Portugese and exploited that fully at set pieces. Against Turkey they faced a defence that was not the most reliable or the strongest in the world and exploited that with clinical but typical German efficieny.
I could only really remember two real chances created and they got two goals. The Klose header though can only be attributed to goalkeeping error as Rustu Recber suffered a rush of blood to the head by coming out for a cross he was never going to reach.
However, they do have weaknesses of their own which can be exploited by Spain. Their defense has looked immobile and slow throughout the tournament with Lehmann, a big weakness in goal. Lehmann does not command the same confident presence his predecessor Oliver Kahn did and appear to have an uneasy vibe about him, which is making the defenders jumpy rather then commanding. His shot stopping is still top notch on his day but his decision making on crosses, positioning has to be severely suspect. The defenders of Mertesacker and Metzelder in the centre are big, slow and the type of defenders Spain will relish playing against. Lahm at left back has been solid though he was embarrassingly at fault for the Turkey second goal. Friedich is solid on the whole but prone to lapses of concentration.
The midfield is very functional with Frings being the key man in his holding position, providing simple distribution and more importantly, a defensive shield in front of the back four. The Germans’ passing in the Turkey game was shocking and they looked so slow and clumsy with the ball at their feet. Ballack is another key man and he must surely improve on his Turkey performance as he is so much capable of more. His movement against Turkey was not good, looking more like Van Nistelrooy with his static demeanour.
The attack of Klose and Podolski are proven at the highest level in previous tournaments and present and Klose in particular will be a huge threat in the air as neither Puyol or Marchena are good defenders in the air. Podolski is a more smaller striker with pace to burn but as we have seen in their club games and international matches, Puyol and Marchena should have no problems handling Podolski.
What the Germans must do is adopt the Italy tactics against Spain but with more ambition in their approach as they are not as adept as Italy in the catenaccio style. Loew would be wise to pack the midfield and stop Spain playing whilst hoping their advantage in the air can be translated into goals from corners and set pieces.
They must accept that they will almost certainly not be able to out-pass Spain and attempt to impose their more physical game on Spain. They must also crucially learn to keep the ball better then in the Turkey game. If they gave the ball away to Spain the way they did in the previous game, there is every chance they will tear apart the German defense in better style then the Turks managed.
The Spaniards have been a joy to watch in the tournament but seem prone to dips in performances at times and they also have trouble breaking down packed defenses, but then again, plenty of teams do.
However, teams like Manchester United in particular attack on both flanks with pace, which is Spain’s big failing. Pre-tourney I noted they seem to play too narrowly for my liking and the fullbacks will be needed to provide that crucial width in their play. However, only Ramos has got forward on the right side very well with Capdevilla on the left side a non factor. The problem is that Freidich is Germany’s weakest link on the right side of the German defence and with Capdevilla not bursting forward more, that weakness is unlikely to be unexploited unless Aragones is vigilant to it. Lahm, who is Germany’s best defender will basically match up against the better side of Spain’s attacking play.
The defense is as solid as any international side, however there is a small weakness as all the defenders can be vulnerable to an air attack, given they are not the tallest of defenders.
“What about Toni and Ibrahimovic?” I hear you ask. The two aforementioned players, whilst tall, do not possess the heading ability of say Van Nistelrooy or even Charisteas, who actually scored with a header against Spain, albeit against a second string defence. Klose and Ballack are excellent headers of the ball and both will have excellent opportunities to score from set pieces or corners given a routine delivery.
The midfielders are spectacular, underpinned by Senna, who has proven himself to be a marquee defensive midfielder to rank alongside Gattuso, Makelele and Viera in their prime years. He allows free reign to Xavi, Silva and Iniesta. However, for me, alongside Senna, the key man is Fabregas.
His distribution is fantastic to watch as he rarely wastes a pass and can spot a defence splitting pass given the right movements from his frontmen. I feel he makes Spain tick better then the other midfielders with his energy and drive. Given he is only 20, and already amongst the best players in the world it is time Aragones show him his respect by including him into the starting lineup even if Villa somehow manages to prove himself fit.
The front two of Villa and Torres are likely to become one given the nature of Villa’s injury. Torres can revert to his Liverpool role as the lone striker with Iniesta, in particular relied upon to give him the support he needs. His pace and movement will be a factor and he will relish the chance to shred the likes of Mertesacker and Metzelder to pieces. However, he must show better composure in the final ball if he is to get among the goals. Still, even if he doesn’t grab the goals as he hasn’t really so far, he will still be able to drag defenders out of position thus creating openings for his teammates.
What Spain has to do is attack the flank areas and hope to stretch a German defense alongside their clever movements and intricate passing, they have every chance of dominating this match. However, they must be careful not give away unnecessary free kicks around their own penalty area. They would also be wise to concentrate on executing their game plans rather then get involve in a war of attrition which the Germans would dearly love.
For me, there is only one winner and that is Spain. I would use weaknesses as a deciding factor as often in a game of this magnitude, strengths such as passing, movements can be easily negated as Italy proved but weaknesses are all the more harder to eradicate from their games. I just favour the weaknesses of Germany’s defensive capabilities and lack of creativity against Spain’s weaknesses in the air and attacking width, being a more crucial and ultimately, the fatal factor in the game.
There is every chance the Spaniards may allow tension to creep into their game and get involve in a dogs of war midfield battle, but on the evidence of what we’ve seen in the championships, they have it all - technical ability, big name and big game players, passing, pace, movement, defensive solidity, team spirit, even a sound temperament and above all, the self belief they can win this game. For those betting online, it is often useful to watch the national anthems and players’ head shots as sometimes body language can be used to determine the teams’ mental state.
Does Germany’s big match record and unnerving winning mentality provide doubts? Of course. How can anyone explain a player’s clutch tendencies? Using a baseball example given the term clutch, how can a player batting .250 hit .375 with RISP?
For me, that is the only thing Germany has going for them in this matchup, but it is not enough to persuade me they can win the game. Of course, they can always follow the Italy route and try and win on penalties which they would be likely favourites to do so, should that prove to be the case.
The big question for those in singles and for me is whether Spain can win in 90 mins? At their price of 6/5 it’s not exactly an eye catching price but given they are 8/13 to lift the trophy, it is a better price if you have full confidence in them. A draw/Spain double result pays 4/1, half time draw odds at 10/11 and over 2 goals at 11/10 are other bets under considerations.
Whatever bet I make, from evidence, from my very own eyes, Spain are the better team by far and “should” win. It is only history, Germany’s clutch tendencies that provides the doubt. But as in baseball parlance, no-one has a .1000 record in RISP statistics, even Babe Ruth surely struck out at some point.
I have now traded out the Germany bet at 2.23 for double the initial stakes for an all green book (any winner= profit) with Spain winning garnering more profit and treat this game as a separate bet away from the futures should I decide to get involved again.
Good luck and enjoy the game.
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