Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna, as 2:30 Eastern Standard Time approached here in New York City, people all over the world tuned in. All of them watching the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship or the EURO 2008.
Held every four years, the tournament brings together the national teams of Europe, featuring the best players in the world. It started with 16 teams in the tournament and two remain. Spain and Germany are the final two competing for the championship.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “But Chris the Yankees are playing the Mets!” and “who cares about soccer? This is America!” Well so far for the 30 matches held, the average attendance is 36,316 per match. Just over a million fans have filled stadiums for the tournament. The number of people who are watching this around the world will surely shock anyone who thinks 16.8 million for a world series (Game 1 2007) is great.
In 2004 the final between Greece and Portugal was watched by… ready for this? 153,000,000 people. One hundred and fifty three million. I’m sure the ratings will only increase this year.
Fernando Torres scores for Spain in the 33rd minute of the game which until then had been dominated by a more experienced German team. He put just enough touch on the ball to get it past Philipp Lahm and over Jens Lehmann. Shortly thereafter Michael Ballack came to the ground after a head to head collision with Senna. He was bleeding profusely and was ordered off the field only to come back with a new shirt and some dry blood.
Going into half time Spain leads 1-0 in search of their first title since 1964 when they hosted it.
Coming into the second half Philipp Lahm is subbed out, most likely for the costly error he made allowing Torres to score. Minutes 53 through 55 were non stop action. Xavi drilled a shot which Lehmann tipped away for a corner kick in the 53rd minute. In the 54th minute a corner kick goes wide from Spain which would of put them up 2-0. In the 55th minute Torres come through and almost scores another goal in the same fashion. This time he gets past Mertesacker but Lehmann comes out in time to stop it.
In the 64th minute tensions flare between the two teams. David Silva almost pulled a Zidane and attempted to head butt Lucas Podolski.
After a handball by Christoph Metzelder Spain takes a free kick. Xavi drills it and it hooks to the far side. The 22 year old Sergio Ramos sneaks in and gets a header towards the goal but Lehmann makes an amazing save to keep the score at 1-0.
This time Santi Cazorla takes a shot at Lehmann close in the box but Lehmann makes yet another save. With under 15 minutes left in regular play time Germany is getting desperate.
Germany who is seeking their 4th Euro Cup title has to score to stay alive. Inside the final 10 minutes Germany trails in the European Championship Final. Spain is on the attack, this time Senna slides in to make it a two goal game but misses by inches!
With 5 minutes left in regular time, the crowd starts coming to life. The red and yellow sections of Spanish fans behind the German goal are going insane. They can not believe they are this close to seeing their team win the championship. Many of these fans weren’t even born the last time Spain won.
There are 44 million people in Spain right now watching or listening to this game, hanging on every word, living and dying with every kick. If Spain wins tonight the parties will rage from Barcelona, to Valencia to Madrid and Cadiz.
With the 90 minutes over we go into stoppage time. Stoppage time is time allotted to play for the time the game was stopped either because of a call, or a ball going out of play.
It’s over! It’s all over! Spain wins!
For those 44 million, those 44 years are finally over! Spain is crowned the champion of Europe for the next four years.