Now you're gonna believe us: Spain are no longer the great under-achievers, says Casillas

Captain Iker Casillas believes Spain's successful Euro 2008 campaign has enabled the country to shake off their tag as perennial underachievers.  

Luis Aragones' men clinched their first major title in 44 years by beating Germany 1-0 in the final courtesy of Fernando Torres' first-half goal.  

It was a fitting outcome as Spain were the best team in Austria and Switzerland. 


Iker Casillas:'We've shown we are great players'

Casillas, arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, was well protected by a back four in which Sergio Ramos shone at right-back, the midfield was a master class of 'pass-and-move' while tournament top scorer David Villa led the attack.  

The final was a one-sided affair apart from a late German onslaught as they tried unsuccessfully to force extra-time.  

'We have done a great job together as a team,' said Casillas. 'I'm delighted for my team-mates and for myself because we have shown we are great players. 

'I think we needed to prove that point in Europe. We have done our nation proud.' 

Despite being home to one of the top domestic leagues in the world, Spain have struggled in international competition.  

They were knocked out in the first round of Euro 2004 and two years later they lost to France in the quarter-finals of the World Cup with Aragones in charge.  

Spain have waited 24 years for a return to a European final and the side were eager to deliver.  

After cruising through the group stage, Spain held their nerve against world champions Italy to prevail in a penalty shoot-out, in which Casillas emerged as the hero by saving two spot-kicks.  

Spain then surprised many by thrashing Russia, who until then had been impressive, in the semi-final.  


What we have, we keep: Casillas lifts the ball clear of the attacking Kevin Kuranyi of Germany during the final

Guus Hiddink's team were excellent in their 3-1 quarter-final win over Holland but they were no match for Spain, who won 3-0 - the first time since 1964 that a 3-0 result had been registered at that stage of the competition.  

Spain were without Villa for the final and most of the semi with Russia, during which he sustained an injury.  

Villa struck four goals to become the first Spaniard to win the golden boot at a European Championship, with an injury-time winner against Sweden adding to a hat-trick against Russia in the opening group game, but fortunately Torres took over the mantle to fire Spain to glory.  

Fluidity and creativity have been Spain's trademarks in Austria and Switzerland and Casillas believes that was the only way Spain could finish the job in Vienna. 

'I believe we have played great football,' said the Real Madrid goalkeeper.  

'Had we not played so well we wouldn't have been able to win this European Championship. 

'I think every player in this team has been crucial in this tournament. I think Torres is a fantastic player and so is Villa. 

'But it's unfair to say that Torres has been the best player because I think every player has been crucial and above any player there's the team.' 

Casillas hailed 69-year-old Aragones, who leaves his post on a high.  

'Aragones has done a great job,' Casillas said. 'He made us believe that it could be done from day one.' 

The victorious squad will return home today to parade the trophy through the streets of Madrid.  'I don't think what we have achieved will sink in until the next few days,' Casillas added.

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