Well, well, well...Here we are. A month of sometimes exciting, sometimes mundane, yet always interesting football has left us with this.
One more game.
The German side is peaking at the right time staring down at the Spanish side trying to do what they've failed to do for so long. There was a lot of drama, quite a few upsets, and two pesky underdogs in the semifinals, but in the end, it's two of the pre-tournament favorites left standing.
Who's going to take home the hardware and succeed Greece as the champions of Europe?
The Germans enter this match with heaps of momentum, dispatching the favored Portuguese with relative ease in the quarterfinals before slipping past a feisty Turkish squad in the semis. While Jens Lehmann continues to cement his status as a liability in the back for the Germans, the rest of the team has stepped up when they needed to the most.
I also like the Germans' experience in these sort of lose-and-go-home games, both in this tournament and in years past. They have essentially been playing for their lives for the past three matches, including their final group game against the Austrians.
This is also more or less the same team that went to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup.
The Spaniards had a much easier time in the semifinals, easily dispatching the Russians 3-0. While they had a bit of a struggle with the Italians in their quarterfinal game, they have looked crisp all throughout the tournament. Spain easily won Group D, and rarely looked in danger of conceding during the elimination rounds.
So, who's going to win it?
Spain is the more technically skilled of the two squads, although the Germans have a bit of flair to accentuate their straightforward, pragmatic style. The Spaniards also appear at times to be a little bit too concerned with playing beautiful soccer, and are content to knock the ball around the middle of the pitch rather than attempt a final pass into the area.
That said, they undoubtedly have the control and vision to make opportunities seemingly from nothing, and aren't afraid to have a hit from distance if the opportunity presents itself.
The Germans, for their part, are tremendously efficient with their chances—the three goals against the Turks were probably their most clear-cut chances of the game. With classy finishing, and ability to victimize opponents off of set pieces, the Germans don't need to commit many men to the attack to get on the scoresheet.
However, their defense looked quite shaky against the Turks, as their fullbacks were routinely victimized, and Jens Lehmann looked foolish between the sticks. Even if he recovers to play well in the final, one has to wonder if he's lost the confidence in his teammates.
Can I bring myself to do it? Can I find the stones to pick Spain to actually win an international competition?
I've been asking myself this for the past two rounds—once I underestimated them (quarterfinals), and once I forecasted their success (semis).
I like their team speed and collective ball skills. I like that they've already come through penalties once in this tournament (a part of the tournament often overlooked).
I think that the Spaniards be fresher than the Germans, having had a much easier game in the semifinals. I still can't shake the fact that history is strongly against them, and I can still see them getting bogged down in midfield by the Germans, but I can live with that.
So, here it comes, with baited breath and through gritted teeth—Spain will be champions of Europe.