Spain turned the Euro 2008 final into a football fiesta on Sunday, playing a dazzling passing game as they deservedly swept away Germany with a 1-0 victory.A brilliant 33rd-minute goal from striker Fernando Torres graced a magnificent final whose scoreline did not reflect the supremacy of the superb Spanish side.
The long overdue victory in a major tournament sent fans in Madrid and all over Spain pouring on to the streets where they prepared for night-long celebrations, waving red and yellow banners and singing "Viva Espana".
Germany, as everyone knew they would, fought hard in Vienna and occasionally threatened on the break but they could not match the silky skills and swift inter-passing of veteran coach Luis Aragones's team.
In the end, Spain had 13 shots on goal to Germany's four, and seven on target to Germany's one, statistics which better reflected the margin of the Iberian triumph.
Thousands of Spanish fans in the Ernst Happel stadium celebrated ecstatically as they watched Spanish captain and keeper Iker Casillas hold the European trophy aloft after receiving it from UEFA president Michel Platini.
Though long recognized as one of the great soccer nations and producing an endless series of gifted players, Spain's only previous major trophy was the European title in 1964. Their only final since was the European in 1984 when they lost to France.
But they proved to be the delight of the three-week tournament in Austria and Switzerland, their midfield artists Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas producing sublime passing moves which had neutrals drooling with pleasure.
The contrast in the final was clear. The Germans played stereotypically solid soccer. The Spaniards played football of flair and fantasy.
But the difference was also Torres, a superb striker who had been mostly misfiring in the tournament until the final with just one goal and a barrowload of misses to his name.
His electric pace earned him his goal as he raced on to a great through ball from Xavi, touched it on and then sprinted round defender Philipp Lahm, stretching to dink the ball with his right foot past advancing German keeper Jens Lehmann and just inside the far post.
It was a great goal worthy of a great final and of a great tournament.
"This is the most important title after the World Cup. I am going to enjoy this, this victory is good for football," Torres said afterwards.
Germany, as Russia before them in the semi-final, were simply outclassed. Though injured captain Michael Ballack overcame a calf muscle injury to play, he was never able to exert his full influence on the match.
He was consoled afterwards with words of commiseration from German chancellor Angela Merkel as he picked up his loser's medal.
Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, seated nearby in the VIP stand, cheered their national team and were on their feet to celebrate Torres's goal.
After the match the entire Spanish squad danced a conga inside the stadium as they sang "Viva Espana".