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Japan U19
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LIVE 28'
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Maradona's 'moral' Hand of God

ESPN FC & Howler

48-team World Cup: Good idea or bad idea?

World Cup

Celebrating Euro 2008

Country wins first tournament in 44 years, and citizens celebrate madly. Not a shock story, I hear you say?

Fair enough. But several interesting things emerged from the post-Vienna euphoria.

1. Complete collective amnesia. The same fans who had booed Spain out of the country a few weeks earlier now put the "Yes!" in fiesta without a backward glance at their cynicism and abuse. Rather more impressively, the players held no grudges whatsoever. There was no Father Ted-style "Golden Cleric" speeches, no score settling. The concept of a genuinely unified Spain began to emerge for arguably the first time -- all thanks to football.

2. Pepe Reina is one hell of a showman. He had charge of the microphone on the plane, and the party was wild, alcohol-fueled and funny from the moment Spain left Innsbruck airport the day after winning the final. His crazy nicknames for his fellow players, his jokey songs and his brilliant rabble-rousing master of ceremonies act will live forever in Spain's memory. Pepe Reina reigned supreme.

3. The last goodbye for Luis Aragon├ęs. He had known for a while that his contract wasn't going to be sufficiently improved and that he and the federation were at a standoff. So he took the big payday on offer from Fenerbahce, much to the terrific sadness of his squad. They made their demands to the federation president that Aragon├ęs should get a new, improved deal and chanted El Sabio's phrases ("whoever controls the ball controls the game") over and over. But this was Zapatones' goodbye.

Now he's gone so few years later. But for those who loved or simply respected him, this was his crowning glory. While Spain celebrated, with hundreds of thousands of people crammed into central Madrid, El Sabio laughed, sang and danced. May he rest in peace.