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Germany Aim to Cap Euro Revival With Championship Win

Germany take to the field Sunday when they meet Spain in the final of Euro 2008 with a great chance of winning their first European Championship title since 1996.

Germany's Simon Rolfes, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Michael Ballack, from right, celebrate Miroslav Klose, left, scoring Germany's 2nd goal during the quarterfinal match between Portugal and Germany

Germany are showing the resilience and team spirit which could drive them to the title

Germany take to the field Sunday when they meet Spain in the final of Euro 2008 with a great chance of winning their first European Championship title since 1996.

Coach Joachim Loew knows his team faces a tough task but Germany's improving record at the tournament gives the nation reason to dream.

Loew said he was impressed by Spain's performance in the 3-0 semi-final win over Russia. "Spain gave an impressive performance. They played on a very high level throughout the tournament and were very skillful," said Loew, after watching the game with other members of the coaching staff at Germany's training base. Chief scout Urs Siegenthaler was in the Vienna to run his eye over Germany's prospective opponents.

Left back Philipp Lahm, who was the hero in Germany's 3-2 success over Turkey in the other semi-final on Wednesday with his 90th-minute winner, echoed his coach's thought. "This will be a tough game," he said.

Spain may prove tough competition but Germany have already proved that their dreadful run in European Championships is at an end, and that the target is still in sight.

While the team's record in World Cup tournament's has been good over the last decade – one final and one semi-final – much has been made of their inability to apply the same consistency to the Euros.

The 2000 championship was a horror show for Erich Ribbeck's team. Reigning champions Germany finished bottom of Group A with a single point gained from a draw with Romania. Four years later and Rudi Voeller's boys suffered a similar fate; they were eliminated in the group stage with two points after drawing twice and losing once with just two goals to their name.

Loew's team overturn poor Euro record

Germany's head coach Joachim Loew gestures during the group B match between Germany and Poland

Loew watched his side stumble through an opening win

This year, however, Jogi Loew's team has come through a shaky start, which included a confidence-shattering defeat to Croatia, to knock-out Portugal -- seen as one of the best teams in the tournament -- and overcome Turkey, one of the toughest. Now they approach a final which could result in a first title since that Euro 96 victory in London.

Germany came into the tournament with a lot of confidence. But after a seemingly unstoppable start to qualifying, Germany had a couple of brief aberrations and suddenly found themselves behind the Czech Republic, reaching the finals as runners-up in Group D.

Much of what had come before added to the sense that the giant strides made during the 2006 World Cup would be elongated in Switzerland and Austria. The attacking verve introduced by Loew and Juergen Klinsmann had paid dividends, turning the stereotypical grind of defensive German soccer into an attractive, offense-minded game.

While many of the marauding, attacking instincts from Klinsmann's brief tenure remained, Loew created a team from those bones which proved to be very hard to beat in qualification and which could run riot if they sensed fear, as the 13-0 record thrashing of minnows San Marino showed.

However, once Euro 2008 proper got under way, Germany looked to be suffering from a case of stage fright.

In the opening Group B game, Loew went for a traditional 4-4-2 formation, keeping midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger -- a star of the 2006 World Cup -- on the bench until half-time, playing Lukas Podolski behind the two German strikers.

Poldi in the hole gets Germany off the mark

Germany's Lukas Podolski, second from left, scores during the group B match between Germany and Poland

Podolski, operating in midfield, scored twice against Poland

The move paid off as Podolski gave Germany an extra attacking option supporting front men Miroslav Klose, the top scorer at the last World Cup, who was partnering VfB Stuttgart‘s Mario Gomez up front. Poldi hit both goals in the 2-0 win but the performance on the whole was far from exhilarating. But points were on the board and the campaign was off to a winning start.

As it turned out, that winning start would not continue past the second match. In a game where Germany looked clueless and way off the pace, Croatia chalked up one of the shocks of the first round by beating Loew's team 2-1. Slaven Bilic's team looked more mobile, hungrier and more skillful than the Germans and rushed into a 2-0 lead.

It was Podolski again who showed the only attacking credentials on show in the Germany team, upstaging both Klose and the increasingly woeful Gomez from his left midfield position. Poldi's third of the tournament turned out to be only a consolation and Germany were suddenly put in a position where elimination was a possibility.

After Croatia defeat, Germany fight for survival

The pressure was tangible. Going into the last match against Austria, the game opened with Germany again chasing the match. Austria, playing for pride and an unrealistic chance of progressing, made life very uncomfortable for the Germans.

Germany's Michael Ballack, 13, scores the opening goal after shooting a free kick during the group B match between Austria and Germany in Vienna

Ballack thumps in a rocket free-kick to put Germany in the quarter-finals

Heads were in danger of being lost on and off the pitch and indeed, much to everyone's surprise, it was Jogi Loew who cracked first. The Germany coach was sent to the stands, along with his Austrian counterpart Josef Hickersberger, for a row with the fourth official.

The rage that was simmering obviously worked to Germany's favor in the second half as Germany seemed more fired up. Finally, a Michael Ballack rocket free-kick separated the teams and sent Germany through with a 1-0 win.

Finishing second to Croatia in the group meant that Germany faced Group A winner Portugal, as team which had showed great attacking flair and speed – not the best style of play to face when things were looking rocky.

Germans stand up to be counted against Portugal

Loew shuffled his pack and the effect was devastating. The revitalized Germany stormed into a 2-0 lead with goals from Schweinsteiger -- back from suspension after being sent off against Croatia -- and Miroslav Klose.

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger, second from left, scores the opening goal past Portuguese goalie Ricardo, left, during the quarterfinal match between Portugal and Germany in Basel

Bastian Schweinsteiger opened the scoring against Portugal in style

Portugal fought back with a goal from Nuno Gomes but the momentum Germany had enjoyed in the first half continued in the second with Ballack's close-range header restoring the two-goal lead. The tension increased when Helder Postiga netted an 87th minute goal which set German hearts aflutter but Loew's team survived the frantic final onslaught to reach the semi-finals.

After such a performance, everyone expected the semi-final against Turkey to be more of the same but Germany started against the hardy Turks in much the same fashion as they had against Croatia. Germany were wasteful in possession, rash in the challenge and as the game crept away from them, the Germans lost their confidence.

Turkey push Germans to the edge until Lahm strikes

It looked to be another shock when Turkey went ahead but Schweinsteiger hit back, giving Germany hope. Klose added a second to make it 2-1 and as the clock ran down it looked as though Germany would hang on until Semih Senturk got in front of per Mertesacker to steer the ball past Jens Lehmann.

Germany's Philipp Lahm, center left, scores the decisive goal past Turkey's Rustu Recber

Lahm bursts through to hit the winner against Turkey

Extra time beckoned but Lahm would redeem himself by dribbling through a sea of red shirts before slamming the ball high into the Turkish net to grab a dramatic 90th minute winner.

After showing their best and worst so far this tournament, it is hard to say which Germany team will show up on Sunday. But we can rest assured that which ever one takes the field, it won't go down without a fight. And who knows – maybe it's time the Henri Delaunay trophy came back to Berlin for a while.

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