Posted: 6/30/2008


     Fernando Torres' wonderful goal after 33 minutes past Jens Lehmann in the Ernst Happel Stadion in Wien was enough to earn the Spaniards a trophy after 44 years of pain, and send their fans into a country wide Fiesta of Joy.

     Nobody could argue that the better team won the Henri Delaunay Cup after a show of skill, power, strength and attacking football, that the Germans couldn't match. However, 300,000 fans did show up Monday afternoon at the Brandenburg Gate to salute Joaquim Loew, Michael Ballack and their heroes on their return from the Austrian capital.   Xavier, the Barcelona player, who has been with the club since 11 years old, was annointed Castrol Player of the Tournament by a panel of 'experts' led by the Scottish born UEFA Technical Director of Football, Andy Roxburgh, and 69 year old coach Luis Aragones- a contrast to the Peter Pan figure of Loew- bows out of his job to take the reins of Fenerbahce of Istanbul.

    We have had a wonderful tournament with a theme of RESPECT, three and a half weeks of attacking football, mainly uncontroversial refereeing, and international friendship with fans of the host nations and visitors mingling in fans zones large and small. Only one goal was from a set play and although there were the same number of goals as at Portugal 2004, more were from open play. The fact that the majority of stadiums could only fit 30,000 was partially made up by the ease of access to large screen televisions and entertainment and the festive atmosphere throughout, from the opening match in Basel to the final in Vienna. King Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain joined UEFA President Michel Platini- a former champion with France, on the front row with Angela Merkel, Sepp Blatter, and  IOC President Jacques Rogge, leaving Franz Beckenbauer, and other lesser lights to row three and beyond with Michael Schumacher, Harrison Ford, Placido Domingo and Henry Kissinger.

    Platini flies out tomorrow on a 2 day inspection tour to Warsaw and Kiev, respective capitals of 2012 suprise co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, with 42 hour train journeys in store for fans. What he can learn in two days in these vast countries is hard to fathom, but perhaps his annual haircut will be much cheaper way out EastPoland is plagued by racist fans and Ukraine by divided factions over the reconstruction of the Olympic Stadium, supposed site of the next final. Roads are in bad shape, there are no high speed trains, and at present insufficient infrastructure.  One rumour is that Ukraine may bow out and leave it to Poland and Eastern Germany-say Berlin, Leipzig, Rostock and  Dresden.

For 40 year old referee Roberto Rosellini, it was the climax of his career so far. Even though the Turin born hospital manager has a Croatian mother, he refereed the important Croatia v Turkey quarter final. With my experience of Italian Rail in the last few weeks, lots of 60 minute delays on long distance trains, perhaps he can switch jobs and make Italian trains run on time for the first time since Mussolini's rule.  Now THAT would be a career high.