By JAMES CLARK
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Prediction: Germany 3, Spain 1
By JAMES CLARK
A very entertaining Euro 2008 wraps up today with a final pitting Joachim Loew's Germany against Luis Aragones' Spain. Two "traditional" soccer nations make for a heavyweight match-up (although, who could have denied the helter-skelter Turkey a place in the spotlight, had they advanced past the Germans?) Loyal readers of this blog -- all 12 of you! -- know that I rate Spanish forward Fernando "El Nino" Torres as one of the top players in the world right now, and with Cesc Fabregas, Carles Puyol and Iker Casillas he has plenty of help around him to make Spain the tournament's champions (even without the injured David Villa). And, who knows? A Spanish win could help that nation heal its ever-present wounds: Basque and Catalan separatism, the legacy of Franco and the Civil War, etc. But, it must be said, the Germans present a huge obstacle for Spain. Playing on near-home territory in Austria (without even getting into the historical fact of the Anschluss), Germany will have a comfort level not afforded to Spain. Then there's the pedigree and mental toughness of the side as multiple World Cup and European champions. Germany's win over Alan Shearer and host England in the Euro 96 semifinal after going down 1-nil will always be, for me, an example of digging in and prevailing against the toughest sporting odds. And although they may be missing their talisman Michael Ballack through injury today, Germany still has the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger (pictured above), Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose and a wily-if-unpredictable Jens Lehmann in goal. The sport's purists would revel in a win for Spain, but it's very difficult to bet against the Germans. A wonder goal from Italy's Alessandro Del Piero in extra time denied the Germans an appearance in the 2006 World Cup Final on their home soil. Today, they finish the job. 3-1 and Euro 2008 champs. (So, if any of you have offshore betting accounts online, quickly pour tons of cash on a 4-nil win for Spain!!)
For those of you reading in the States, John Harkes and co. are broadcasting the DC United v. L.A. Galaxy MLS match live on ABC at noon Eastern ahead of the Euro final. Check it out.