Spain coach Vicente del Bosque says his players were "magnificent" in the semifinal win over Germany, but urged them to not lose their focus ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final against the Netherlands.
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"Our players carried out their job in a magnificent way," Del Bosque said after Wednesday’s 1-0 win clinched a first ever appearance in a World Cup final for Spain. "Let’s now think what we have pending before us."
A second-half header from Carles Puyol secured victory, but the Spanish were dominant. For large parts of the second half, Germany was pinned back and unable to even cross the halfway line.
The intricate passing of Barcelona duo Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta in midfield and the vision of Xabi Alonso, who became more influential as the game progressed, proved too much for Joachim Loew’s side who never reached the heights of the classy wins over England and Argentina in earlier rounds.
Miroslav Klose, needing just one goal to become the all-time joint highest goalscorer at World Cups, was peripheral. And Lukas Podolski, another attacking threat, was isolated on the left, closed down repeatedly by the Spanish midfield.
Del Bosque hailed his players for not letting the Germans excel.
"We can say that Germany wasn’t as good as we’d expected, but that’s thanks to the excellent work of our team," he said. "We were better than them in the overall count and we played the way we like to play."
Del Bosque said ball possession is key for his side.
"Today we weren’t pressured as much as we were against Paraguay and Chile," he said, referring to hard-fought victories earlier in the competition.
"I think that if we’re comfortable with the ball, we don’t suffer," he said. "Those other teams made us suffer a lot, closing us down, pressing and not letting us play."
Neither Spain nor the Netherlands have won a World Cup, but both sides play fluent and imaginative, attacking football, setting up what could be a memorable final.
Del Bosque said his team would stay focused on the job ahead.
"Let’s celebrate with moderation and with cool heads," he said. "We will endeavor to not be blinded by what we’ve achieved."
But he was clearly eyeing what would be the latest in a long line of successes for Spanish sports.
"It’s time now for the Spanish footballing family to triumph and be at the very top," he said.
Loew had no doubt who would win Sunday.
"I am sure Spain will win the title," he said. "They’re the best team. They will beat the Netherlands,"
He lamented that his defense should have cleared the corner that led to Puyol’s winner, but was magnanimous in defeat.
"I am sure the Spanish can win any game because they are dominant and it’s hard to contain their attack," Loew said. "They have shown they can beat anyone.
"In the last two or three years, they’ve shown themselves to be one of the best and most united teams."