Monday, June 30, 2008

The Reign in Spain

Spain 1, Germany 0
Euro 2008 Finals
June 30, 2008

It had been 44 years since Spain last won a major championship, 1964's European Championship, but thanks to a burst of speed and a moment of brilliance from El Nino, Fernando Torres (Liverpool)...

...Spain are now reigning European champions. The best team won Euro 2008. Spain played the most attractive, attacking football the entire tournament - even when they were trying to kill the clock and hold their tenuous lead, they couldn't help but move forward and menace German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann (Arsenal), as their 11 shots on goal attest.


But perhaps the most unsung hero of the star-studded Spanish side - rich with strikers (Torres, David Villa, Daniel Guiza), attacking playmakers (David Silva, Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez) and forward-surging backs like Sergio Ramos - was holding midfielder Marcus Senna (Villareal). This Brazilian-born ball-winner is an indefatigable workhorse who just may be the new Claude Markele, the Chelsea and French national who's universally acknowledged as the world's best defensive midfielder (and perhaps the one transfer Real Madrid regrets it made). It was Senna whose steady marking and incredible work rate kept Russian playmaking star Andrei Arshavin (Zenit St. Petersburg) and German strikers Miroslav Klose and Lucas Poldoski (Bayern Munich) under wraps - and the guy who knocked heads with Michael Ballack (Chelsea) on a nasty header that resulted in stitches for the bloodied German captain. And he even had a chance to put the game away at 2-0 when, surging forward, he just missed a tap-in in front of Lehmann late in the game.

Sunday's victory lifted up a nation and clearly inspired other Spanish athletes. Over in London where the Wimbledon tennis tournament was entering its second week, Tennis Channel announcer Bill Macatee jokingly asked world No. 2 Rafael Nadal what all the fuss was over the weekend in Spain, to which avid soccer fan Nadal replied with a Chesire cat grin, "We won! After 44 years of not having won a trophy, but playing good football, and maybe not helped out by referees [no doubt a reference to South Korea's controversial win against Spain in the 2002 World Cup], we won. All Spain is proud." To which Macatee could only add, "Viva Espana!"

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