After three weeks of magic involving 16 teams from across Europe, Euro 2008 comes down to Germany and Spain.
Sunday's final from Vienna pits the Germans against the Spaniards for the first time in a major tournament since the two nations played to a 1-1 draw in the first round of the 1994 World Cup.
John F. Molinaro, editor of CBCSports.ca's Euro 2008 website, breaks down how these two nations match up:
GOALKEEPING Spain's Iker Casillas has been sensational at this tournament. The Real Madrid star has conceded just three goals and is coming off of back-to-back shutouts against Italy and Russia in the knockout stage. Casillas made some crucial saves against the Italians in the quarterfinals (including two in the penalty shootout) and has looked completely at ease between the posts. Germany's Jens Lehmann, by contrast, has been less than convincing, especially against Turkey in the semifinals when he gave up an easy goal. The former Arsenal star is too error-prone and is not in the same league as Casillas, who is considered among the best goalkeepers in the world. Advantage: Spain
DEFENCE Spain's defence doesn't get the attention it deserves. Captain Carlos Puyol and his defensive cohorts have been solid (Spain's goal has been breeched just three times at this tournament), and Sergio Ramos is coming on a man-of-the-match performance against Russia in the semifinals. The German defence, led by Philipp Lahm and Christoph Metzelder, has looked suspect at times and shown lapses in concentration at key moments in games. With six goals conceded, including a pair in each of their last two games, the German defence just doesn't match up against Spain's. Advantage: Spain
MIDFIELD Both sides boast plenty of midfield depth with a variety of world-class attacking players (Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger for Germany, Andreas Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez for Spain). Marcos Senna, Spain's defensive midfielder has been outstanding while Thomas Hitzlsperger has been just as effective for Germany. Should any of these stars get injured, both coaches can call upon players on the bench who can take over without their teams losing a step — it says a lot that Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas isn't even a starter for Spain. Advantage: Even
ATTACK Spain leads the tournament in scoring, with 11 goals, while Germany is second, with 10. David Villa, the competition's top scorer, with four goals, likely won't play Sunday due to injury, but Spain has plenty of other offensive weapons, namely, Fernando Torres, Dani Guiza and David Silva. Spain's quick-tempo passing game has been awesome, and the team is also getting goals from its talented crop of midfielders. Forward Lukas Podolski has three goals for Germany, but he's not the only goal-scoring threat the Spanish have to worry about: Ballack, Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose all have scored two goals each. Advantage: Even
INTANGIBLES The Spanish have the edge in coaching (Luis Aragones is more experienced than Joachim Low), but the Germans have more experience on the field. The Spaniards are motivated to shed the under-achiever tag that has dogged them for so long (Spain hasn't won a major tournament since the 1964 European Championship) while the Germans will be shooting for a fourth European title. Germany hasn't been as sharp as Spain at this tournament, but it has still found a way to win. That could be the difference on Sunday. Advantage: Germany
PREDICTION I'm leery of going against the Germans, just because they always seem to find a way to win, to say nothing of the fact they have more experience than Spain. Germany started slow at this tournament but seems to have discovered its rhythm in the knockout stages. But I still think Spain will win. They've been the best team at this competition thus far, playing an up-tempo and attacking brand of soccer that has bee entertaining and effective. The Spaniards are brimming with confidence, and I don't see how the Germans can stop Spain's brilliant attack. Final score: 2-0 for Spain