The second Semi-Final of the World Cup 2010 has all the elements to make it a classic. It sees a young, vibrant, new-look German side who have been stamping their authority on the tournament round by round take on Spain who have not hit top-form in the tournament yet.
The fixture is a repeat of the 2008 European Championship Final in which Lukas Podolski was head-butted by David Silva in an incident missed by the officials and a Fernando Torres strike broke German hearts settling the match 1-0 in Spain’s favour. The Germans would like nothing more than to turn the tables on Spain today.
Spain who are often labelled as ‘underachievers’ at major tournaments, ‘partly’ got rid of that label with 2008 Euro win but their real test will be winning the World Cup, something they have never done before. Interestingly, Germany who are almost always favourites haven’t won the World Cup since reunification and will want to win it this time with their vibrant, multi-ethnic team.
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Germany have been the surprise of the tournament. Joachim Loew’s team with so many young players coming in to replace injured experienced players and most players playing at changed positions was written off even before a ball was kicked. However, Germany in their first match against Australia won with an impressive 4 goals and single-handedly lighted up a World Cup which was till then looking quite drab. Doubters like me, continued to believe that the win was more courtesy of a poor performance by Australia than phenomenal German play. However, to prove that the performance against Australia was no fluke, Germany have since then repeated the feat of scoring 4 goals as they knockout heavyweights Argentina and England out of the tournament, on their way to the Semi-Final.
Its tough not to support this German side which quite sensibly favours youth and pace over the oft overrated experience and today will be another test for them. Germany are without the suspended Thomas Muellar while both Cacau and Sami Khedira have shaken off their injuries and will be available for today’s match. Thomas Muellar will most likely be replaced by Toni Koos on the right.
Germany manager Joachim Loew will go with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Manuel Neuer in goal and Arne Friedrich, Per Mertesacker, Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng at the back. Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger will look to control the midfield. Mesut Ozil and Toni Koos will combine with Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose to form Germany’s attack.
For Germany to win today, they need Khedira and Schweinsteiger to control the formidable Spanish duo of Iniesta and Xavi Alonso in midfield. Another interesting battle will be the one down the German right and the Spanish left between David Villa and Philip Lahm. David Villa has been absolutely stunning in the World Cup and if the German captain can contain the Spaniard, he would have negated Spain’s most potent goal threat.
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Spain came into the World Cup as one of the favourites. They have won every single game since their shock defeat against Switzerland in their World Cup opening match. However, La Furia Roja have yet to have as authoritative a win as Germany’s wins in their matches. Spain have struggled to find goals with Fernando Torres not being able to find form and defensive teams being successful in containing their midfield. Even Spain’s defence hasn’t looked its best. The free-scoring Spain have a reputation to protect today, with Germany’s 13 goals being more than double the number that Spain have managed so far.
Vincente Del Bosque will be faced with a tough decision about whether or not to keep Fernando Torres in the starting line-up. The striker has struggled to find form and playing him today might be Spain’s undoing. However, he did score the winner in the 2008 Euro and is a super finisher when he is in form. If the Liverpool striker is dropped he will most likely be replaced by Cescs Fabregas (who probably isn’t 100% fit) or David Silva (of Lukas Podolski headbutt fame).
Spain will go with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Iker Casillas in goal and Sergio Ramos,Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Joan Capdevila at the back. Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso sit ahead of them. Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and David Silva will make up Spain’s attacking midfield with David Villa up front.
Spain’s Carles Puyol who has been known to lose his focus sometimes cannot afford to do so today as he tries to keep Germany’s ‘national’ goal scoring machine Miroslav Klose at bay. Sergio Busquets is another player whose performance could be crucial for Spain. The Barcelona star must contain one of the stars of the 2010 World Cup and the most likely to win ‘the best young player’ award for this World Cup Mesut Ozil from supplying to Germany’s attackers, for Spain to frustrate Germany.
Spain have the best midfield in the tournament while Germany have the best attack in the tournament. Spain must not make the mistake Argentina and England made against Germany and need to control the game and keep their organisation to win. So far, Germany have been defying the odds and winning. However, Spain are still Spain and can’t be written off just because they aren’t in top-gear yet. They can turn it on anytime and are dangerous even when they aren’t at their best.
“Spain do not have one Messi. They have more than one Messi. Especially in attack there are many players who can decide a game. Spain are not like England and Argentina, teams that make mistakes.” – Joachim Loew, Germany manager
“We know we can play better than we have done so far, hopefully it will be an open match and a good advert for football.” – Vincente Del Bosque
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Okay, so the octopus has ditched Germany by predicting a Spain win. However, Germany have another potent weapon in Joachim Loew’s blue jumper which the manager was wearing when Germany beat Argentina and England. Loew will be wearing the blue jumper today and so far whenever he dons the blue sweater, Germany score 4 goals. Spain you have been warned.
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If Germany have their blue sweater, Spain have Rafael Nadal. Yep, the Spanish tennis star. The last time Nadal won the Wimbledon (his first Wimbledon title), Spain won the Euro. He has won the Wimbledon again. Germany you have been warned.
Stars to Watch Out For
Germany: Miroslav Klose, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski
Spain: David Villa, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos
Thomas Müller could be missed – he has scored four goals from four shots on target in this tournament
David Villa is one goal away from equalling Raúl’s record as Spain’s all-time top scorer (44)
Xavi has completed more passes at the World Cup (404) than any other player
All 14 of Miroslav Klose’s World Cup goals have come in open play and from inside the box, and half of them have been headers.