Truth is this tournament has been a keeper. No joke about it. There were the flamboyant Dutch with their surgical destruction of both France and Italy. The gritty flair of the Portuguese. The Croatians with their tight attacking game. And then, there were the Turks.
Oh. My. God. The Turks. Those guys were unbelievable. They would just not go down, no matter what. Down two goals against the Czech Republic with 20 minutes to go, and they need to win. So, they do. And this after already coming back from behind in two previous matches. They almost took Germany to extra time in the semifinals with a late equalizer and only had to bow out in exhaustion after the Germans pulled a last minute goal of their own in the 90th minute. My heart goes to the Turks. Their squad was riddled with injuries and suspensions, but they didn't lose the plot until it was far beyond what any other side could've endured. They say no one remembers the losers, but I'll be damned if I'm going to forget them. The Turks were a huge part of Euro 2008, and if you don't believe that just imagine this tournament without them and their fighting spirit.
The other big surprise were Russia. Here was a side that didn't realize it was quite risky to be so attack oriented, and because of that the Russians pulled off some very impressive wins. Their incessant pace and unrelenting counterattacks even did in the tourney favorites, Holland. But Spain had the Russians' number from start to finish, and Arshavin & company finally had to bow out. Still, Russia have put themselves back on the football map, and I look forward to seeing how they progress on the road to South Africa in 2010.
And, then there was Spain. España. Castillian blood flows through my veins if removed by several generations, so it was especially exciting to see la Furia Roja dash all the old jinxes, batten down the hatches, and pull off an achievement to be remembered for some time to come. What Aragonés and his boys did was to confirm the superiority of attacking football. Intelligent attacking football. A game that was a mix of creative artistry with a dab of pragmatism and a sprinkling of luck. It was a joy to watch the Spanish passing game, but it became mesmerizing when the Spaniards started their 'dance' into space and those passes began to slice defenses wide open, like a rapier that finds a chink in otherwise thick armor. To be fair, the Spanish weren't always in top form, but even then, they showed they possessed cojones. This was big in and of itself, because it showed this Spanish side had belief in themselves. They had confidence to see it through, to beat Italy at their own game, as it turned out.
I think what I loved most from watching Spain was that they always attacked, even when other sides would've chosen to sit on a lead. An old military adage says that the best defense is a good offense. Spain showed how that applies to football too. In the final against Germany, the last 10-20 minutes of the match were played almost entirely in the Germans' half. The Spanish just wouldn't quit. I had to chuckle to myself as the Scottish announcer surmised that maybe the need to attack was part of Spanish DNA. Who knows, but it sounded good anyway.
So now it's all celebration in Spain. The trophy is theirs after a 44 year wait. Enjoy it, España, you deserve it.
"Many people will look at this Spain team because it has been a model for playing football. I think all football lovers want people to make good combinations, to get into the penalty area and to score goals. At the beginning I said that if we managed this squad well, we would be champions. The team just thought I was trying to give them confidence. I just hope Spain carry on in this way and have many more victories."