Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2nd Semi Final - Germany vs Spain - PREVIEW


6:30 PM GMT, July 7, 2010
Durban Stadium, Durban, South Africa

The average age of the Germany team that started against Argentina in the quarter-finals of the World Cup was only 25 and this says it all. For a team as young as Germany, indeed it is an achievement in itself to have reached as far as the semi-finals of the World Cup outside of Europe.

Moreover, among the four remaining teams in South Africa, Germany have been by far the most impressive side and have also had the most difficult path to the semis. The group stage was relatively easy but England in the last 16 were a tough proposition and so were Argentina in the quarters. However, Die Mannschaft blew away both Fabio Capello's and Diego Armando Maradona's sides, scoring four against each of them. In fact, Germany have scored four goals in three different games in the World Cup so far - they started their campaign with a 4-0 hammering of Australia.

Germany manager Joachim Low described his side's 4-0 annihilation of Argentina in the quarter-finals as a "performance of champions" and in doing so made a statement of intent. His youthful German side are not just at these finals to gain valuable experience but to lift the trophy.

Their defeat of Argentina was the third time in five games that Germany scored four goals in a match - defeating Australia 4-0 in their opening group game and England 4-1 in the second round - and Die Mannschaft go into this match as the team in form. Low's side have developed a quick-flowing, counter-attacking style that has proved too hot to handle for more than one opponent.
The Germans have brought a breath of fresh air to a tournament that has often been bogged down with defensive tactics and their attacking intent will pose a whole new set of problems for a Spanish side that is used to facing massed defences and looks vulnerable at the back.
Spain came into the World Cup finals as one of the two outright favourites but so far they haven't really been on top of their game. Granted, since their opening game defeat to Switzerland, La Furia Roja have won every single match with striker David Villa emerging as one of the best three players of the competition, but Spain haven't really been very convincing.

Goals haven't come with ease and the midfield too has been bullied by defensive sides. Striker Fernando Torres has been woefully out of form and the defence has looked vulnerable on occasions. However, so far Spain have had to confront sides who would park the bus in front of their goal and against them Vicente del Bosque's side have struggled.

While Germany were romping to a famous victory over Diego Maradona's previously unbeaten Argentina, the below par Spaniards fought out a 1-0 victory over Paraguay following a similarly attritional 1-0 win against Portugal in the second round. It's fair to say the Vicente Del Bosque's side are yet to hit the form that enabled them to win Euro 2008, coincidentally with a 1-0 win over Germany in Vienna, and the sorry sight of an out-of-sorts Fernando Torres is emblematic of that.
The subdued Liverpool striker has started the last four games for Spain since recovering from injury, but has been hauled off around the 60-minute mark in every match after failing to make an impact. It can be no coincidence that his exit against Paraguay coincided with an improvement for Spain and it would be no surprise if Del Bosque opted to start Fernando Llorente or Pedro instead.
It may be late in the day to start making unforced changes but something needs to be done or Spain, who will be playing in their first ever World Cup semi final, face the prospect of being swept aside by a German side high on confidence and talent. But Low must make a significant change of his own with man-of-the-moment Thomas Muller, who jointly leads Germany in both goals and assists, suspended. The Bayern Munich starlet will be a big miss.

Germany               Spain
Argentina 0-4 GermanyParaguay 0-1 Spain
Germany 4-1 EnglandSpain 1-0 Portugal
Ghana 0-1 GermanyChile 1-2 Spain
Germany 0-1 SerbiaSpain 2-0 Honduras
Germany 4-0 AustraliaSpain 0-1 Switzerland

Competition Stats

GoalsMiroslav Klose 4David Villa 5
AssistsThomas Müller 3David Villa 1
YellowsThomas Müller 2Gerard Piqué 1
RedsMiroslav Klose 1

Germany player to watch: Bastian Schweinsteiger - Argentina singled out German midfielder Mesut Ozil for special treatment in their quarter-final clash and so Schweinsteiger assumed the role of creator-in-chief with devastating effect. The Bayern Munich star provided the assists for Germany's first and third goals and was imperious in midfield throughout the match. With Muller missing against Spain Schweinsteiger will again have to deliver a top notch box-to-box performance.
Spain player to watch: David Villa - It may be an obvious selection but Barcelona's new €40 million signing has carried Spain this far and all eyes will be on him as he attempts to do so once again. Villa has scored five of Spain's seven goals in South Africa and is well on the way to winning the Golden Boot. Already recognised as one of Europe's most fearsome strikers he is now making a substantial impact on the world stage.
Key battle: Miroslav Klose v Gerard Pique: Germany striker Klose has mustered more goals in this World Cup than he managed in the entire Bundesliga season and in doing so stands on the brink of making history. The often derided Bayern Munich forward has already overtaken Pele in the World Cup's all-time goalscoring charts with 14, and just one more will see him tied for first place with Ronaldo. Hoping to stop Klose will be Barcelona centre-back Pique, who had torrid time against Paraguay and resorted to hauling down opponent Oscar Cardozo. Fortunately Cardozo failed to score from the resulting penalty.
Trivia: The last encounter between these two nations was in the Euro 2008 final. Spain won 1-0 thanks to a Fernando Torres strike.
Stats: All 14 of Miroslav Klose's World Cup goals have come in open play and been scored from inside the box. Half of them have been headers.
Odds: Germany (2.80), Spain (2.62) and the draw (3.20) are all on offer at Bet365. But a 2-1 win for Germany will get you 11.00.
Prediction: These two sides both love to attack but while Spain have been stuttering, Germany have hit their stride and that could be the crucial difference.

My prediction      Germany 0-1 Spain

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