VIENNA, Austria – After winning its first title in 44 years having beaten Italy and Germany, Spain no longer needs to think of itself as an underachieving football nation.
The "Red Fury" won their second European Championship by beating Germany 1-0 on Fernando Torres' first-half goal Sunday, playing with flair, finesse and a determination that the team had lacked in so many previous competitions.
"It is a privilege to be in the national team and to live through the most beautiful moment of getting the Cup," Torres said. "It will be good not only for Spain, but also for football because the team that played best won. We are doubly happy because we won and because the best team won."
The Spaniards may not have as many trophies as the Germans or Italians, but the sparkling performance in Euro 2008 finally gave Spain another major football title after winning the 1964 European Championship at home.
The Spanish team had a weak start to qualifying for Euro 2008 with losses to Northern Ireland and Sweden, but it recovered with eight wins and one draw to claim its group.
Spain's flow continued at the tournament with three straight victories in the group stage followed by a 4-2 win over Italy in a penalty shootout.
That was Spain's toughest test, and the only match in which it didn't score in regular time. It was also crucial for the team's self-confidence as it ended Spain's bad habit of exiting major tournaments in the quarterfinals.
From that moment, there was no holding Spain back as it crushed Russia 3-0 and carried the momentum on to the final against Germany, even with striker David Villa out injured.
The injured Villa, who hurt his right leg when taking a free kick in the semifinal win, finished as top scorer at Euro 2008 with four goals.
"Spain played very well during whole tournament and they were technically excellent — they fully deserve victory," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "We lost today, we acknowledge this.
"The Spaniards were constantly good throughout the tournament, they technically had a very high quality. They always play in the Champions League at the highest possible level and they are very committed to high quality."
Spain extended its unbeaten streak to 22 matches and allowed embattled coach Luis Aragones to end his four-year spell with Spain on a high note.
Jubilant players tossed Aragones in the air after the final whistle as the Spanish fans danced in the stands at Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna.
"I feel delighted," Aragones said. "I usually don't show what I feel — I'm extremely happy. Germany was very complicated to play against as they defend so well. We have a composed group which plays well, adjust very well. We all work well together and we managed to get there."
It was Spain's third European Championship final, after beating the Soviet Union in 1964 and losing to France 20 years later. Since 1984, Spain had not previously advanced past the quarterfinal stage of the any major tournament.