Thursday, July 8, 2010

Super Spain beats Germany and moves into Final

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

0 - 1

For all of Spain's brilliant passing in their semi-final against Germany, it was a Carles Puyol header from a corner that put La Roja into their first ever World Cup final.

The Euro 2008 winners dominated possession in Durban but initially struggled to create clear openings against Joachim Low's impressive young side. But after failing to break through with their subtle approach, Spain eventually brought out the sledgehammer in the second-half.
Iker Casillas deserves plenty of credit for his fine save to deny Toni Kroos moments before the goal.

But when midfield schemer Xavi curled a corner deep into the German box, 32-year-old Puyol showed the German young guns what experience can bring as he rose highest and then powered an unstoppable header beyond Manuel Neuer.

For Germany it was a game too far. But with their impressive victories against England and Argentina, they have signalled a new dawn for their national team.
Spain's prowess has been known for some time. That is why they had the strength to leave out a strangely shot-shy Fernando Torres.
And against Holland at Soccer City on Sunday, they will attempt to confirm their class, as FIFA waits to crown a new champion, no matter what the outcome.

It was one of those games that is usually described as being for the purist. An alternative assessment would be boring. There was nevertheless a bewitching tactical battle that Spain started in the ascendancy and Germany slowly hauled their way back into.
The format was fairly predictable. Spain dominating possession, Xavi and Andres Iniesta attempting to pierce their opponent's defence with intelligent and incisive close passing, while Germany looked to hit back with greater power on the counter-attack.
Aiming to become the first team since West Germany in 1972 and 1974 to follow up a European Championship triumph by lifting the World Cup as well, Spain's problem was the ferocious discipline of their opponents' defence.

On their charge to the last four, Mesut Ozil, suspended wide-man Thomas Muller and Miroslav Klose have captured most of the headlines. But Germany could not function without Arne Friedrich and Per Mertesacker doing the business at the back.
Having axed Torres, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was putting more responsibility than ever on the shoulders of David Villa. Yet the Barcelona-bound forward had just one sight of the German goal, when Torres' replacement Pedro threaded a pass through for him to run onto. Neuer was out just as quickly to make a brave block.

Germany hardly touched the ball for 25 minutes and as it turned out, would have probably benefited from a more English-style route one approach. But when Spain finally paused for breath, Piotr Trochowski, the man entrusted to fill Muller's right-sided berth, forced Iker Casillas into a scrambling low save and thereafter the Spain skipper was the busier goalkeeper until the break.
The interval just triggered a repeat of the opening to the first half, as Spain totally dominated their bewildered opponents without making it count.
Their best opportunity came when Pedro let fly with a speculative effort that was too strong for Neuer to hold. Andres Iniesta was onto the rebound in a flash, drilling the ball across goal from the left to where Villa, sliding in at the far post, just failed to make contact.

Germany did their best to press for an equaliser but in the end, they lacked enough nous.
Indeed, had it not been for the greed of Pedro, who could have presented substitute Torres with a late tap-in, the margin of victory could have been greater.

Scoring Summary

 Carles Puyol (73')

Man of the Match: Pedro


  • Man of the Match: Pedro - The Barcelona forward was picked ahead of Fernando Torres and justified the decision with a lively start. His mazy runs and slick interplay caused the German defence multiple problems and he maintained that level throughout the match. When Spain eventually made a change in attack it was David Villa that went off, not the 22-year-old.

  • Germany verdict: Joachim Low's side couldn't get their game going early on as Spain pressed high up the pitch and the absence of the suspended Thomas Muller deprived them of width on the right. Although the Germans happily surrendered possession they maintained a threat on the counter-attack, but after the break they lost that threat. Low tinkered with his team to try and find a spark but were reduced to hopeful punts into the box as time ticked away.

  • Spain verdict: Vicente Del Bosque's decision to finally drop Torres initially seemed to hamper Spain as the change meant goal-machine David Villa had to abandon his normal tactic of cutting in from the left and instead led the line. After the break Del Bosque got it right as his team upped the tempo and began to carve through Germany. It was only a matter of time before they got the goal their slick possession football deserved. However, when it came it was from a corner - Carles Puyol heading in after 73 minutes - not from open play. But another 1-0 win will do.

  • Could do better: Piotr Trochowski - The Hamburg SV midfielder was unable to fill the rather large boots of Muller, refused stay out wide and deprived the Germans of their safety valve. He couldn't really get into the game and was replaced by Toni Kroos after 62 minutes as Germany looked to get something going.

  • Stat attack: Since the statistic was first tracked starting in 1966, Spain have now become only the third team to complete 3,000 passes at a single World Cup. (Brazil, 1994 & Netherlands, 1998)

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