European champions Spain have beaten Germany 1 – 0 to book their place in the first World Cup final in their history. The first timers will face Brazil-beaters Holland on Sunday night in Soccer City.
Neutral onlookers were rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of this classy looking semi final between two of the best teams of the tournament. The hype machine decreed that the Germans had a point to prove after losing out to Spain in the Euro finals two years ago; and the Spanish were determined to end their poor record of underachievement in the biggest competition in football.
The stage was set therefore for an historic semi final and after a stuttering first 45 mins, the game delivered on its promise, exploding into a fan fair of relentless, ‘end to end’, high-tempo football.
Predictably Spain came out of the blocks first, as they had against Portugal and Uruguay on their route to the semi, keeping the ball for most of the first 25 minutes and pressing Germany hard if dispossessed. Defender Puyol came closest to scoring in the early period, surging into the box on a corner but directing his header just over the bar. David Villa followed up minutes later as Spain set about pushing for an early goal, but their opponents soaked up all that was thrown at them and even had a penalty claim denied right at the end of the half after Ozil was brought down inches outside the box.
This late tempo picked up again in the second half and after a few long range efforts from the boot of Xavi Alonso in the first ten minutes, the Spanish unleashed a unremitting onslaught of quick passing, offensive football. Three chances one after the other left the typically steady Germans in disarray, the best chance seeing the ball skid agonisingly across the goal line just out of reach of David Villa.
The Germans bounced back and the game took on a frantic pace as both sides surged forward leaving themselves exposed at the back to make a wonderfully open, free flowing semi final, that always slightly favoured Spain’s close passing game. The opening finally came for them in the 73rd minute and ironically it was a goal as far removed from tiki-taka finesse as you could get. Despite the warning early in the first half, the German defence left Puyol unmarked from a corner and the heroic defender thundered into the box to connect with an unstoppable header.
The single goal again proved to be enough for the Spanish in this game despite the efforts of the most prolific goal scoring side in this tournament. Spain succeeded where Australia, England and Argentina so glaringly failed in keeping the clinical German finishers at bay and with the likes of Villa, Torres, Pedro and now Puyol queuing up to make their mark, Holland will have a tough time denying the European champions the glory of a world title on Sunday night.
Holland: Neuer, Lahm, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Trochowski, Ozil, Podolski, Klose.
Spain: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila, Busquets, Alonso, Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro (Silva 85), Villa (Torres 81).