"El Niño lofted the ball with such care that it looked as if it was never going to hit the back of the net."
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As former Atlético Madrid, Liverpool and Chelsea forward Fernando Torres announces his retirement, we reflect on his seminal goal against Germany in the UEFA EURO 2008 final that ended 44 years of hurt for Spain.
What made it special?
Torres was arguably the world's best striker going into the tournament. He had just enjoyed an explosive debut season with Liverpool, netting 24 times in the Premier League, and his electric pace, touch and eye for goal were the stuff of nightmares for defenders. This was a goal that epitomised Spain; starving the opposition of possession, a neat through ball from Xavi Hernández and the calmest of dinks over Jens Lehmann.
What did it mean?
Aside from winning the European Championship in 1964, Spain were perennial underachievers. Group stage or early knockout phase exits at international tournaments followed over the next 44 years, but 2008 was different. After finally overcoming their perceived glass ceiling with a quarter-final victory against Italy, they were unstoppable. Torres's strike gave La Roja the title and set them on their way to a historic treble.
How Torres remembers it …
"I knew Xavi was going to pass because when he has even a metre of space he gives you the ball. To chip it over the keeper was the only option because he'd gone down. On a dry pitch maybe it would have gone wide the way I hit it, but it shot through and ended up in the back of the net, right next to the post."
Luis Aragonés, Spain manager at the time
"A lot of people look at this side for the way they play. We have put together a group that plays well, that keeps the ball and mixes their passes very well – that is difficult to stop. This is a happy day for Spain – we've won this tournament in style and we're very happy. Now we will start expecting to win on this sort of stage."
David Villa, Spain forward
"We had a great tournament and we were superior in all our games. There was not a single game we won through luck, it was all done on merit."
What the papers said
"On the half-hour Xavi linked up with the Liverpool forward, who ran behind the German defence. Torres left them in his slipstream, including Lahm, less stocky than his comrades in the trenches. With Lehmann coming out, El Niño carefully lofted the ball with such care that it looked as if it was never going to hit the back of the net." El País
"Spain, champions of Europe. It sounds strange, but it is true. For once a top-level tournament rewarded the national team who played the best football over the competition. A Fernando Torres goal after 33 minutes gave Spain their second European Championship. A lovely story to tell the grandchildren." Diario AS