VIENNA, Austria - Fernando Torres finally lived up to his billing as one of the world's great strikers Sunday by scoring to give Spain a 1-0 win over Germany and the European Championship title.
Torres, who had been overshadowed by teammate David Villa all tournament, scored in the 33rd minute of the final to down the three-time European champions and earn his nation's first major title in 44 years.
Touching a sliding pass from Xavi Hernandez past Philipp Lahm, Torres ran past his marker on the opposite side, collected the ball and lifted a shot over sliding goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and into the far corner.
"Fernando is a great player," Spain coach Luis Aragones said. "He can go anywhere. Why not? He really has extra speed, he knows how to dribble and we always tell him he is so young he can learn everything and be one of the best players in the world - no doubt."
Spain had more chances but Torres' goal was enough to give the country its first title since the 1964 European Championship.
"We had some good matches, but the Spaniards were constantly good throughout out the tournament and played at a very high level," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "So they deserve to be champions."
In the end, Spain was a deserved winner of the 13th European Championship. Long known as an underachiever that peaked between tournaments rather than at them, the team reached the final at Ernst Happel Stadium with a string of beguiling attacking displays orchestrated by a vibrant midfield - and held true to its values in the highest pressure match.
"I hope this is good for football as well as for Spain, because the best team won," Torres said. "This is not always the case. We are doubly happy."
Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva swapped positions constantly against a midfield marshalled by Michael Ballack and eventually wore out their opponents until it seemed Spain was simply counting down time until the final whistle.
Red-shirted fans started to greet each successful pass with cheers of "Ole!" before erupting into relieved delirium on the whistle.
The overjoyed players gathered to throw the 69-year-old Aragones into the air in celebration, while the massed ranks of Spanish fans sang themselves hoarse with "Viva Espana" as fireworks went off overhead.
"It is the most important day in Spanish football in many, many years," Torres said.
Germany, playing in its seventh European Championship final, had a strong appeal for a first-half penalty turned down but, despite Ballack's imperious performance, could not find a way past the Spain defence.
Ballack's tender right calf had meant that, until right before kickoff, it looked like he was about to add a missed European Championship final to the World Cup final he sat out in 2002.
But he took his place in the lineup and, against a team with even slightly less skill and passion, could have been the driving force in another German win.
"We had a great tournament, but made one mistake too many," Ballack said. "We were lacking of power against a great Spanish team, we couldn't keep up with them."
Germany dominated the opening exchanges until a lucky break in the 14th gave the Spanish their first chance on goal and a boost that clearly lifted their play.
Iniesta sent a cross into the box from the left and Germany defender Christoph Metzelder stuck out a boot to send the ball rocketing toward his own goal. Only a diving reaction save by Jens Lehmann kept it out and prevented an own-goal.
Spain never looked back.
Per Mertesacker had to dispossess Torres in the area with a well-timed sliding tackle before Torres found space for a couple of dangerous headers. He put the first just over the bar before sending the second against the foot of the post with Lehmann beaten.
"The first 10 minutes today we were quite nervous and Germany was better," Aragones said. "But from the shot on the post, I saw we could win and that we could score any moment."
Germany then was left to rue its luck in what could have been the decisive moment of the match in the 29th. Fullback Joan Capdevila mis-controlled the ball and it clearly bounced up to hit his hand, but referee Roberto Rosetti waved away the appeals.
Moments later, Torres showed why he is rated one of the best strikers in the world.
With leading tournament scorer Villa absent because of injury, Torres was the sole outlet in attack but flipped the ball over Lehmann and watched it roll softly into the corner for his second goal of Euro 2008.
"Lahm was in a better position, but for a moment he relaxed and that was to my advantage," Torres said. "It was a little detail. We have grown and can control these little details."
Ballack, who had already received treatment for a head wound and was railing against every decision against Germany, shot past the post and almost set up substitute Kevin Kuranyi with a cross that goalkeeper Iker Casillas just tipped away.
But aside from isolated passages of play, it was all Spain.
Sergio Ramos sent a diving header onto the bar from Xavi's deep cross, Iniesta almost scored with a near post shot that Torsten Frings blocked, and Senna just missed a cross in front of an open goal in the 82nd.
"All those that love football want just that," Aragones said. "Teams that make good combinations, make it to the penalty area and score goals. I think people will look up to this Spain and how we play."