Germany-Spain feels more like a World Cup final
Leave it to the Germans to make things interesting.
Spain has gone out of its way to downplay the rematch of the
2008 European Championship title game in Wednesday night’s World
Cup semifinal, refusing to even acknowledge the grudge match
Not Germany’s Lukas Podolski.
“We want revenge for 2008,” Podolski said Tuesday night.
“When you are in a final you want to win. We still think about
that defeat, and it still hurts. We want to reach the final and
we’ll do all we can to achieve that.”
Spain ended a 44-year major title drought with its 1-0 victory
over Germany two years ago – a win that wasn’t nearly as close as
the score indicated. But Germany is a far different team now – in
age and in attitude.
Youngsters such as Mesut Oezil, Sami Khedira and Thomas Mueller
have given Germany the speed and sharpness it lacked in 2008.
Despite their youth – with an average age under 25, this is the
second-youngest team Germany has ever sent to a World Cup – the
Germans are playing with discipline and a seamless chemistry that
makes their plays unfold like a symphony.
Their spacing in the midfield is awe-inspiring, their passing so
exquisite it almost looks as if the ball is on an invisible wire
from one player’s foot to another’s. As for the defense, it’s
simply scary. Whenever Argentina’s Lionel Messi or Carlos Tevez
appeared on the verge of doing something in the quarterfinal,
German defenders swarmed around to force a turnover or a bad
And when Germany is on the counterattack, look out.
“In 2008, my team may not have been as consistent,” Germany
coach Joachim Loew said. “We were fluctuating a little bit in
terms of the quality, and might not have had the quality at all
positions compared to the team we have today. The players we have
now are incredibly skilled technically and tactically.
“Our flow is clearly superior to what we had in 2008.”
Germany made old rivals England and Argentina look downright
silly in their knockout round games, routing them by a combined
score of 8-1 to reach a third straight World Cup semifinal.
Miroslav Klose has regained his old form and, with two goals
against Argentina, moved into a tie with Gerd Mueller for second
place on the all-time scoring list.
The Germans are also showing an appealing swagger. Before
playing Argentina in what’s fast becoming one of the nastiest World
Cup rivalries around, the Germans accused the Argentines of being
“Self-confidence is always a good thing,” Podolski said. “If
you are self-confident, you can play much more strongly. We were
very convincing in our win against England, and we had a lot of
pressure there, too.”
But Spain is a more formidable foe than England.
More formidable, even, than Argentina.
The Spanish have lost all of two games since November 2006.
David Villa has five goals – tied for most in the tournament with
the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder, and Spain’s defense hasn’t
allowed a goal in the knockout stage.
Spain hasn’t had quite the same flair that it did at Euro 2008.
It was stunned by Switzerland in the group stage, and needed a late
goal from Villa to beat Paraguay 1-0 in the quarters after both
teams had penalty kicks saved.
But Spain is winning, and that’s all that matters at this point
in the World Cup.
Spain also caught a break Tuesday, when Cesc Fabregas was able
to work out with the rest of the team. Fabregas had taken a ball
off the exact spot where his leg was broken in March during
practice Monday night, but tests ruled out any bone injuries and
coach Vicente del Bosque said he’s available for the game.
“I don’t think there are favorites at this stage,” Andres
Iniesta said. “What they say about us, we can also say the same
thing about them. You can say they are a great team, a team that
has players of a very, very high level. For that, it will be a
The winner earns the right to play the Netherlands in Sunday’s
final at Soccer City. The Dutch beat Uruguay 3-2 on Tuesday in the