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Germany coach Joachim Löw and his Spain counterpart Luis Aragonés are both hoping UEFA EURO 2008™ will come to a suitably exciting conclusion as their sides prepare to meet in the final this evening.
The first 30 games of the tournament have yielded 76 goals, and the coaches are optimistic that pattern will continue at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion. Germany's Joachim Löw – whose side won 3-2 in both the quarter- and semi-finals against Portugal and Turkey respectively and are looking for their fourth European title – is anticipating an open encounter. "It's going to be a very intensive match," he said. "Both Spain and Germany have good players and like to go forward so it's going to be very interesting. We tried to make certain corrections after we lost to Croatia [in the group stage], but when we're against a team who play attacking football we can reach that level and keep up. Technically speaking, both teams have strong offensive players. It will be a fast, flexible and variable match."
'Long hard road'
German hopes would be damaged by the absence of Michael Ballack, who has missed training for the last two days due to a calf problem, while Thorsten Frings should replace Simon Rolfes in midfield. Despite the doubts surrounding the participation of his captain, Löw is in bullish mood, confidently proclaiming: "I expect to win, of course. We have a long, hard road behind us over the past few weeks. This tournament was tough for all players and all teams, it took up a lot of strength but now we're in the final and we're going to gather all our efforts to win and take the cup back to Germany."
While Germany are familiar faces at this level – this is their sixth European showpiece and four of Löw's squad appeared in the 2002 FIFA World Cup final – for Spain this is unchartered territory. La Furia Roja's last appearance in a major final was 24 years ago, a 2-0 EURO defeat by France, and their sole silverware came in the 1964 UEFA European Championship, yet if their coach is feeling weighed down by history he was not inclined to admit as much. "I'm fine, the players are fine," said Aragonés. "My greatest concern is my team. Germany are very strong, and their set-pieces are very dangerous. We know they don't have such a flowing game as us but they counterattack with speed and we need to learn how to stop that. It might be of concern to me, but I'm sure Germany are concerned the football we play with the ball on the ground could cause them problems."
In the absence of the tournament's four-goal top scorer David Villa due to a thigh injury, Aragonés – who will step down after the match – is expected to stick with the five-man midfield that functioned so effectively in Thursday's 3-0 semi-final win, against Russia, deploying Cesc Fàbregas behind lone striker Fernando Torres. "We'll be able to get into the area less but will be stronger in midfield," he explained. "I haven't decided anything yet, perhaps we'll have two forwards. Every team needs a good atmosphere. I've seen great teams with great players and if you don't have a good atmosphere you can't win. This is what's brought us to the final. Let's just hope we play well and win."
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