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Page last updated at 22:00 GMT, Saturday, 28 June 2008 23:00 UK

Football fever grips finalists

As Germany and Spain prepare to clash in Euro 2008's football final in Vienna on Sunday, the BBC's Tristana Moore in Berlin and Steve Kingstone in Madrid gauge the mood among football fans in the two countries.

EXCITEMENT AND SURPRISE IN GERMANY

"Where are you going to watch the final, at the Brandenburg Gate, or in a pub?" a girl asked her friend in the supermarket.

German fans celebrate in a Fan Mile in Berlin their team's win over Turkey on 25 June 2008
The German players are already being treated like national heroes

Behind her, there was a long queue of people with trolleys packed with bottles of beer.

Given the showers and gloomy weather on Saturday, a lot of Berliners are organising private parties so that they can watch the match in the comfort of their sitting rooms.

The news that captain Michael Ballack might not be able to play against Spain because of a calf injury has sent football fans into a tailspin.

But, despite this last minute hiccup, football fever has gripped Germany, just as it did during the World Cup in 2006.

Germany flags are fluttering on cars and buildings all over Berlin, and the organisers of the Fan Mile at the Brandenburg Gate are expecting up to 500,000 fans on Sunday night.

Another giant screen has been erected on the Fan Mile around Berlin's Tiergarten Park to cater for more fans.

Football fans gear up for Euro 2008's final between Germany and Spain

Despite the air of excitement, many Germans are surprised that their team has reached the final of Euro 2008, given their patchy performance.

But the German players are being treated like national heroes. On Monday, whatever the outcome, the German team will be coming to the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate with fans.

Once again, like in the World Cup, Berlin will grind to a halt.

'Schweini' buddy

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit summed up the mood when he told reporters this weekend: "The whole city is looking forward to the German team."

Footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger (left) Chancellor Angela Merkel at a stadium in Vienna on 16 June 2008
Chancellor Merkel will again be in Vienna, rooting for Germany

Even the German Chancellor has been gripped by football fever. Angela Merkel watched Germany beat Turkey 3-2 in the semi-final and after the match she was interviewed by a German sports reporter, giving her verdict on the players' performance.

It didn't take long for the German tabloids to pick up on the new football groupie.

The Bild newspaper ran a story poking fun at Mrs Merkel, claiming she'd struck up a friendship with the star player Bastian Schweinsteiger, or "Schweini".

So, the chancellor has already booked her place at the stadium in Vienna - and, of course, she's banking on a German victory.

As for me, well, it's tricky, but I think I'll be backing Spain, thanks to my Spanish blood. Viva Espana!

But one thing is for sure, I'll be keeping my head down when the whistle blows for kick-off.

Although the German team had its ups and downs during this tournament, you can never write them off.

NO LONGER 'PERENNIAL UNDERACHIEVERS'

On the eve of Euro 2008, I sought an assessment of Spain's chances from a waiter in a spit-and-sawdust restaurant.

Spanish fans celebrate their team's victory over Russia in Madrid on 26 June 2008
Spaniards are preparing for a big party on Sunday night

"They'll be knocked out in the group stage," came the gruff reply. As I mumbled something about the virtues of Torres and Fabregas, my underwhelmed analyst was already pouring vino tinto at another table.

For decades, pessimism has been hardwired into the footballing psyche of this otherwise proud sporting nation. Only once, as hosts of the 1964 European Championship, have Spain won a major tournament.

In subsequent competitions, talented Spanish teams have shone brightly early on, only to burn themselves out or self-destruct when it really mattered.

The tag of "perennial underachievers" hurt because Spaniards, more than anyone, knew it to be true.

Voodoo trickery

No longer. "We are the best!" proclaimed the respected sports daily Marca, following Spain's semi-final demolition of Russia.

Voodoo doll of Italy, defeated by Spain in the quarter final
Spain's past victims are represented by voodoo dolls
In opinion columns, the Spaniards' artistry was likened to an orchestral symphony, a ballet and (inevitably) a bullfight.

"Whoever wins the final," declared Marca's editorial, "Spain is the best team in Euro 2008."

What has most delighted fans here is the way they have done it.

Occasionally criticised for a lack of physicality, Spain's triumph in reaching the final has been one of style and guile over brute force - at times, the passing and movement of the "bajitos" (little guys) has bewildered bigger, stronger opponents.

Whatever happens on Sunday night, Euro 2008 has marked a new start.

Podemos! (We can do it!)
Spain's La Cuatro Television
In past tournaments, Spain's failures have produced angst-ridden debates about alleged refereeing conspiracies, player cliques and the very commitment of footballers to their national team, in a nation which remains politically and regionally fractured.

This time, a fresh generation of players have quite simply gone out and had fun.

Tens of thousands of young Spaniards will throng Madrid's Plaza de Colon for the final, while King Juan Carlos will lead the travelling support in Vienna.

Millions more will watch the match on La Cuatro Television, whose studio is adorned with voodoo dolls in the colours of Spain's past victims. Already, a Germany doll has a pin through its heart.

But for most Spaniards, voodoo trickery is an unnecessary evil.

Instead, there is a mounting belief in the ability of Spain's players to secure their own destiny. The mood is best summed up by La Cuatro's one-word tournament jingle - "podemos!" ("we can do it!")


SEE ALSO
Germany v Spain
28 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008
Spain consistency impresses Low
28 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008
The best is yet to come - Alonso
28 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008
Germany team guide
15 May 08 |  Germany
Spain team guide
15 May 08 |  Spain
Germany performance analysis
31 May 08 |  Germany
Spain performance analysis
31 May 08 |  Spain
Pick your Germany XI
23 May 08 |  Germany
Pick your Spain XI
23 May 08 |  Spain
Russia 0-3 Spain
26 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008
Germany 3-2 Turkey
25 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008

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