How Europe's new king will be crowned

Martin Rogers

After three weeks, 30 games and 14 nations with shattered dreams, Euro 2008 reaches its climax at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna on Sunday.

Germany and Spain have battled their way through the continent's finest teams to reach the final and no matter which team emerges with the trophy, the event will go down as one of the most memorable and exciting major tournaments we have seen.

This time there will be no surprise champion like Greece four years ago. The last two teams both stand as giants of the European game.

Here we break down the key battles – some of them internal – that will decide the ultimate contest to select the champions of Europe.


The battle of the goalkeepers appears to be a mismatch on paper – Real Madrid's first choice in the prime of his career against Arsenal's aging and departing backup. Casillas is the backbone of the Spanish team and its captain, whereas Lehmann does things his own way.

In terms of current ability, the Spaniard must get the nod. He appears to be on a personal mission to bring home the trophy and was outstanding in the quarterfinal against Italy. Lehmann looked out of sorts in Germany's semifinal win over Turkey.


Torres is explosive and flamboyant and deserves to be mentioned in any argument about who is the world's best central striker. Klose is more compact and with perhaps less natural ability, but he has a tremendous sense of anticipation and timing and a proven record in major tournaments.

If chances are few and far between, then much will rest on the shoulders of these men when their opportunities inevitably present themselves.


In Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, Spain has a trio of creative midfielders that are short in height but huge on talent. They will be charged with unlocking the German backline and providing chances for Torres.

Germany's main attacking thrust comes from the line of Lukas Podolski, Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger. They will operate just in front of the two holding midfielders, with their approach being slightly more conservative but not necessarily any less effective.

Ballack is listed as doubtful with a calf injury, but the belief of some in the German media is that the Chelsea midfielder will play.


The Real Madrid defender is the player that his head coach, Aragones, worries about more than any other on his team. His doesn't like Ramos' attitude, feels he is undisciplined and fears those traits may manifest in a poor performance when it matters most.

Despite Ramos' strong showing in the semifinal, Aragones is still thinking about dropping him to the bench on Sunday, but knows he leaves himself wide open to criticism if it backfires. As for Ramos, he has been doing his best to remain out of the coach's way this week – and that smart move should be enough to see him keep his place.


Frings is clearly a more accomplished player than Rolfes, and German coach Joachim Loew's decision on who to pick would be a no-brainer if both men were fully fit. However, Frings is still nursing a cracked rib, despite loudly and vehemently pronouncing himself ready to start at Germany's media session on Friday.

Rolfes has done a steady if unspectacular job since coming into the side to replace him. The Bayer Leverkusen man is emerging fast and is seen as a long-term midfield solution, but he may have to wait his turn here and make way for his more senior colleague.


Few nations can match Germany's record in major tournaments. With their ability to perform on the big stage, the Germans boast three World Cups and three European Championships on their resume.

Spain, however, has only managed one major title – at the 1964 Euros. The Spanish have more momentum and a desperate desire to give their soccer-mad public at home the title it craves.


Spain would love nothing more than a wide-open game, but Germany knows it can't afford to let that happen. Loew will do all he can to turn this into a physical encounter and knows that it will be to his team's advantage to take some pace out of the match. However, an early goal for Spain would force Germany to open up and could turn it into a classic contest.


Spain is the form team coming into the final. Germany has a habit of relentlessly grinding out titles. Having picked the Germans to win it all at the start of the tournament, it would be hypocritical to turn against them now despite their struggles in the semifinal.

So look for Germany to edge Spain in a tense and tactical game with a goal from a set piece and an efficient defensive display.