Tuesday, July 6, 2010

World Cup Semifinal #2: Germany v. Spain

Not sure why, but I'm not as excited about this one as I thought I would be. Could be because I'll be happy if either team win. And here's why:

Spain are the underachievers, never having gotten past the quarterfinals before, even though they are one of the strongest footballing countries in the world. I'm not that up on Spanish footballing history, so I can't tell you why that is.

I've also been cheering for Spain since before they won Euro 2008, and I love to watch them pass and pass and pass, but only as long as there is some intent, some drive, and that killer final ball that cuts open opposition defences.

In Xavi they have the best midfielder in the world, and he's pretty much my footballing hero.

Germany, on the other hand, are young, cocky, capable, and exciting to watch. Bastian Schweinsteiger has become one of the best midfielders in the world this year, transformed as he has been from a traditional attacking winger to a holding midfielder/playmaker role. He was all over the park against Argentina, in both attack and defence. Look for him to have a good game. Also, Miroslav Klose has the chance to equal or better the record for most goals at World Cup tournaments; he has 14, one behind Ronaldo (the Brazilian original, not the Portuguese pretty-boy).

A Netherlands-Germany final would be a repeat of one of the classic matches of all time, the 1974 final (apologies for the music):


I'm not going to go too much into this game, other than to say that yes, the 1974 Dutch team was the greatest never to win the Cup, along with the 1954 Hungarians. World Cup 1974 gave us the Cruyff turn. (Johan Cruyff, one of the best players ever, actually invented this move? So it would seem. Watch the video, it's great.) The Dutch, apparently looking to humiliate their West German opponents, went on to lose after going up 1-0 in the second minute then playing keep-away for the next 20, happy to make the Germans look bad. It didn't work, and Germany went on to win 2-1.

I would love to see the Dutch finally win (unless Robben scores the winning goal; that guy is a whiny bitch, sorry Laurel), but I would also like to see this German team win, fun as they are to watch. I would also be very happy if Spain won tomorrow and then took the Cup, the first team ever to win the Euro then the World Cup.

But who do I think will win? Good question. I am really leaning straight as a post.

The Spanish defence hasn't been airtight, and this German team can and will score. No one has held the ball as much as Spain have though, so Germany's chances will be fewer than against Argentina. And apologies to Heinze and co, but Spain actually have competent defenders, unlike Argentina. Or at least a coach who understands that you have to put some thought into defending.*

Germany did a great job of stifling Messi and Higuain and whoever else Maradona threw on to try and grab a goal. Can they do the same to David Villa, Iniesta and Xavi? Perhaps. Villa seems to be scoring goals at will, so I wouldn't want to count him out. Torres has been crap, other than for 15 minutes against Chile; I imagine del Bosque will start him, as he hasn't varied yet, but at least he took him off earlier last match, and Fabregas added some life to the side when he came on.

I picked Spain to win this match before the tournament started, but I just feel like the Germans have a great thing going and won't let up. They're only the second team to score 4 or more goals three times in a World Cup (un-researched, just repeated). They have defended well against skilled players and they have hit on the counterattack so often and so well that I can just see Puyol and co being pulled apart at the back once or twice, especially if the fullbacks Capdevila and Ramos push ahead too far. Watch for them to be fairly choosey about going forward.

I will say, though, that if Spain can rattle Germany like England did and then keep them rattled, they could just as easily win as lose. After England scored their first, Germany looked a bit shaken, and started to show a bit of nerves. Unfortunately Spain don't play a high-tempo game and could let them back into it if they go ahead.

So with all that rattling around your brain... 2-1 Germany over Spain. Ouch. Could go either way, though (he said, carefully hedging his bet). I just hope it doesn't go to penalties.

* That Javier Zanetti, captain of the Champions League winning Italian side Inter and one of the best right-backs in the world, wasn't picked for the World Cup squad by Maradona is a crime. Guess where all of Germany's goals started? (Yes, all four.) Hey, on Germany's left side, where Zanetti should have been. Fancy that.

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