This semi-final clash at the beautiful Moses Mabhida Stadium was built up as an exciting, attacking game, with both sides gifted going forward. It played out much differently, as Germany’s glorious form-after dispatching England and Argentina in the previous rounds, deserted them and they struggled to break down a well organised Spanish defence. The stars of the Nationalmannschaft – Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira – failed to impose themselves on the game and the suspended Thomas Muller was badly missed. Germany had no creative output and the one, notable chance they had fell to substitute Toni Kroos – another youngster to watch out for in the future. Unfortunately he side-footed the ball when he really should have volleyed it. Miroslav Klose could not break Ronaldo’s World Cup goals record, although he still has the third/fourth place playoff in which to do it. The team as a whole did most things right, managing to hold Spain to long-range efforts, however the defending on the goal was disappointing. Nobody picked up the unmarked Carles Puyol, whose powerfully driven header from a corner was the only difference between the teams.
It was always going to be tough for this young German team to beat the European Champions. However they did show signs of the exciting counter-attacking skills they possess, albeit in patches. They can nevertheless feel proud of their accomplishments, as they were written off at the start of the tournament only to confound the critics. They can still bow out in style, by beating Uruguay and coming third and helping Klose to become the all time leading scorer in World Cup history. The youthful core of the team – Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Marko Marin, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Ozil, Muller and Kroos will be around for many years to come (added together with other promising youngsters like Serdar Tasci and Christian Trasch, who did not appear in the squad due to injury), years which should prove successful indeed.
Spain, just like in the previous knockout rounds, have been steady yet unspectacular in their approach. They lack the creativity and flair of the team of 2008, when they went on a world record unbeaten run. Fernando Torres is struggling for form and fitness, yet the Spaniards always seem to find a way to win. It is a side built to grind out results, with the occasional moments of brilliance mixed in. The team were reduced to shooting from way out and did not carve out any meaningful chances before the goal. They did look more dangerous towards the end, but only because Germany left holes at the back when pressing for an equalizer. Spain seemed to want to score the perfect goal and was frustrating at times. Yet again they lacked width, with Jesus Navas and David Silva sitting on the bench, the latter making an appearance late on. Too many of Vicente Del Bosque’s star players are central players and prefer to cut inside, even when in congested areas. Nevertheless they still remain a threat, especially with joint top scorer David Villa in their ranks.
A new name is guaranteed to be etched onto the World Cup, as the Netherlands and Spain do battle on Sunday for the ultimate prize in football. It should prove to be a fascinating encounter, with both teams known for attractive styles that are much more toned down and organised than years past. Holland could be the team to break down the stubborn Spanish defence. Conversely the European Champions will feel stopping Wesley Sneijder, a player similar to Ozil – although more experienced and dangerous – will be the key to winning the game. Joan Capdevilla will have to be at his best to neutralize the mercurial Arjen Robben, who he will come up against down the left flank. The Dutch defence has not really been tested and Villa will feel he can be the one to do that.
Sneijder and Villa will battle it out for the top scorer honours (both are on five goals) and it will be a tense affair which may well be decided by the odd goal, an outcome the Spain of 2010 will be more than happy with if it means lifting their first World Cup trophy.