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Opinion: UEFA Biggest Loser in Euro 2008

With a victory for Spain against Germany in the final, Euro 2008 has come to an end. What kind of a tournament did it turn out to be? Deutsche Welle's Wolfgang van Kann has these thoughts.

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That was it -- the 13th European Championship. And, for the Germans at least, it wasn't quite the summer fairytale the 2006 World Cup was.

The weather gods were partly responsible for spoiling it, as were the small stadiums, which couldn't draw as many fans into the two host countries. Most of all, however, the Austrians and the Swiss just didn't quite come through as hosts like the Germans did two years ago.

While the Germans had opened their doors and hearts to guests from around the world, the Austrians and Swiss withdrew into their own four walls and observed the whole spectacle with suspicion.

The fans didn't feel like it was "a time to make friends," like the German motto in 2006 said.

Nevertheless, soccer was the focal point and, without a doubt, we experienced the best European Soccer Championship of all time. The triumph of the defensive was celebrated in Portugal in 2004, but the Euro 2008 was definitely the most offense-driven international tournament fans have ever seen.

Striking was the name of the game. Those who just tried not to lose a match were punished in the end -- especially Greece, the 2004 European champions. Statistics show that there were more scoring chances in the Euro 2008 than in any other tournament and the final count of 77 goals in 31 games speaks for itself.

Great soccer, good sports

Spanische Fans nach dem Spiel

Spain can celebrate; UEFA needs to look at what worked and what didn't

For the most part, we saw beautiful, fast soccer played by real teams working together. Of course the top teams have their stars, but stars alone can't win a match these days. They can only shine within a team that functions as a whole and presents itself as a single unit. The Alpine event marked the continuation of a trend that has been evident for some time.

The Euro was also quite sportsmanlike; there was little hostility on the pitch and just three relatively painless red cards.

What did we learn? European soccer is apparently going through a generational shift. The old stars have had their time in the limelight and new names are come to the fore -- like Russia's Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko or Turkey's Nihat.

What's more, a strong start evidently doesn't mean everything in a tournament and sending in the B-team can only backfire. Being the favorite is often too heavy a burden. And Turkey showed that a match really can last a whole 90, or even 120 minutes, as former national coach Sepp Herberger once warned.

But a tournament wouldn't be a tournament without losers. Next to the 2006 world champions and vice-world champions, Italy and France, the biggest loser in the Euro 2008 is UEFA itself.

UEFA stumbles

That may seem paradoxical, considering the 700-million-euro profit the European soccer association made from the event. Still, there are a few scratches on the shiny surface.

Of course, UEFA couldn't do anything about the bad weather that led to an embarrassing interruption of the global television broadcast. But UEFA is responsible for stipulating that all the cables had to run through Vienna and that there was no viable backup.

It's also UEFA's fault that the quality of the grass wasn't great and apparently hadn't been tested under extreme conditions.

UEFA's regulation overkill ruffled feathers in the Austrian and Swiss business communities and came to a head on the pitch with the completely senseless and unbearable patronizing of coaches on the sidelines -- something Germany coach Joachim Loew experienced personally.

And finally, TV viewers felt they got the short end of the stick when they found out that UEFA had prevented images it didn't like -- such as those of a streaker or illegal fireworks in a stadium -- from being broadcast.

The 13th European Championship is now history. Players and fans throughout Europe, especially those in Spain, can now celebrate. It's only those in UEFA's offices that should now take some time to ruminate and perhaps rework a few things for the next time.

Wolfgang van Kann covers sports for Deutsche Welle (kjb, jam)

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