Spain Strain but Germans Slain


Spain and Netherlands Looking for First World Cup Win

Spain reached their first ever World Cup final with a tense but deserved 1-0 win over Germany in Durban. Carlos Puyol scored the only goal with a header in the 74th minute to ensure that new world Champions will be crowned, as neither Spain nor the Netherlands have ever won the tournament before. It will be Spain’s first final although they are current European champions.

With Cacau having an abdominal problem and Kroos also not quite 100%, Joachim Löw brought Piotr Trochowski in for the suspended Thomas Müller. Spain manager Vicente del Bosque dropped the semi fit and goalless Fernando Torres to the bench with Pedro taking his place. Both sides lined up 4-2-3-1 as seems to be the modern tactical trend. Miroslav Klose was seeking just one more goal to tie Ronaldo’s record for World Cup goals.

Spain started by far the stronger and their first chance came inside six minutes. David Villa snuck in behind the German back four to receive a threaded pass from Pedro. Keeper Manuel Neuer positioned himself well to close down the opportunity.

Spain’s best chance of the first half came seven minutes later. Centre half Carlos Puyol jumped majestically and without encumbrance to head an Andres Iniesta cross goalwards. He headed over and knew instantly he should have done better. So should Klose who swung and missed at the cross. It was a warning Germany were to suffer for failing to heed.

At that point Spain had been measured at 70% of the possession and it was an uncharacteristically slow start by the Germans who were struggling to obtain the ball. Their first chance did not come along till the 22nd minute.  Klose turned to create shooting room for himself rather than feed the ball out right. He became quickly entangled in a Spanish leg or six as he was crowded out without being able to unleash a shot.

In fact Spain managed a fourth shot on the half hour two minutes before Germany’s first. Alonso was way wide with an effort from long distance however. Two minutes on, Piotr Trochowski actually forced a save from Iker Casillas who had to get down low to his left after the replacement midfielder tried a shot from just outside the penalty area.

The pendulum finally began to swing after half an hour of Spanish dominance and Casillas had to make two key punches amid a succession of German corners.

Mesut Ozil found himself bearing down on goal just before the interval. He couldn’t quite get the ball under his own control and by the time Sergei Ramos clipped his ankles the chance had disappeared and his abject claims for a penalty soon followed them.

There was still time for Pedro to shoot straight at Neuer before half time.

Spain continued after the interval to dominate but not threaten. Xavi Alonso fired in two further long range efforts before Neuer was finally made to work in the 57th minute by Pedro. Iniesta then dribbled through the German defence and his cross-cum-shot was just narrowly beyond the charging David Villa. Pedro fired another shot just wide and Spain had out shot Germany 11-2 by that point.

On the hour, Klose had a half chance, firing over after receiving the ball on the volley with his back to goal, however as the game entered its last quarter Germany had clearly failed to find any rhythm or anything close to the form that demolished Argentina. Ironically, their best chance fell six minutes before the decisive goal.

That chance came on 68 minutes when substitute Toni Kroos found himself receiving a Podolski cross and only Casillas in the Spanish goal to beat. He opted to side foot rather than blast. The keeper stood tall long enough to save, and Gerard Pique dealt with the next threat, a Kroos cross which was bound for the head of Per Mertesacker, comfortably.

Sixteen minutes remained when the moment that ensured the world would have first time champions unfolded. Xavi’s corner from the left was met by a huge leap by Barcelona centre back Carlos Puyol with Marcell Jansen unable to challenge because Pique was standing right behind him. Podolski stood rooted to the post,leaving Neuer’s despairing dive as the last hope of preventing it reaching the net.

Spain sat on the lead and endured Germany pressure without too many frights. In fact, the closest to another goal came at the German end when Pedro burst down the right and had only Arne Friedrich to beat, plus Fernando Torres standing unmarked in the middle screaming for the ball. Pedro hesitated, tried to beat Friedrich one time too many and by the time, he had recovered, Kroos had tracked back to intervene.

The Netherlands have reached two World Cup finals before but on both occasions fell to the host country, in Germany (1974) and four years later in Argentina. Spain have long been Europe’s underachievers but ended all that with their win in the European Championships in 2008.

Neither will ever have a better chance to become World Champions for the first time.

Germany: 1-Manuel Neuer; 16-Philipp Lahm, 3-Arne Friedrich, 17-Per Mertesacker, 20-Jerome Boateng (Marcell Jansen 51′), 15-Piotr Trochowski (Toni Kroos 61′), 6-Sami Khedira (Mario Gomez 80′), 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger, 10-Lukas Podolski, 8-Mesut Ozil, 11-Miroslav Klose.

Substitutes: Wiese, Aogo, Tasci, Kiessling, Badstuber, Cacau, Marin, Butt.

Spain: 1-Iker Casillas; 15-Sergio Ramos, 3-Gerard Pique, 5-Carles Puyol, 11-Joan Capdevila; 14-Xabi Alonso (Carlos Marchena 92′), 8-Xavi, 6-Andres Iniesta, 16-Sergio Busquets; 18-Pedro (David Silva 84′), 7-David Villa (Fernando Torres 80′).

Substitutes: Valdes, Albiol, Fabregas, Mata, Arbeloa, Llorente, Javi Martinez, Jesus Navas, Reina.

Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)


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