Spain 1, Germany 0
David Villa had his chances. So did Andres Iniesta. Even
newcomer Pedro got off a couple of shots.
On a team filled with offensive threats, it was a defender who
finally put Spain in its first World Cup final.
Good luck, Netherlands. Spain might be simply too loaded – and
too good – to lose.
“I am sure Spain will win the title,” Germany coach Joachim
Loew said after Spain beat his team 1-0 in the World Cup semifinals
Wednesday night. “They’re the best team.”
Loew won’t get much argument. Not after the way the reigning
European champions dismantled a team that had been rolling through
South Africa, winning on Carles Puyol’s thunderous header off a
corner kick late in the second half.
Spain has been the best team in Europe – all the world, really –
for much of the last four years. It’s lost all of two games since
November 2006, one a shocker to Switzerland in the group-stage
opener. It clinched its first major title in 44 years by beating
Germany at the 2008 European Championship. By an identical 1-0
score, no less.
But injuries to Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas had robbed the
Spanish of some of their flair, so much so that some wondered if
their time had passed.
This ought to put those doubts to rest.
“We can say Germany wasn’t as good as we thought they’d be
today,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. “But that is due to
the excellent performance of our team.”
The score may have been 1-0, but don’t let that fool you. Spain
dominated this game from the opening whistle. It pressured Germany
relentlessly, and had a 13-5 advantage in shots on goal.
Finally, after coming oh, so close several times – including on
back-to-back plays in the 57th minute – Xavi swung a corner kick
right into the scrum in front of the goal in the 73rd. With fellow
defender and Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique next to him and
screening Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s view, Puyol leaped and
got his head on the ball.
With one mighty swing that sent his trademark long curls flying,
Puyol buried the ball into the net.
As the Germans watched in dismay, the Spanish players gathered
for a group hug at the edge of the box, bouncing up and down and
rubbing each other’s heads. The Spanish fans, Queen Sofia included,
let loose with a roar of jubilation that shook the Moses Mabhida
“We’ve shown that in the big moments we can grow even more,”
Villa said. “We should have scored more goals, but one from Puyol
has put us in the final.”
When the final whistle sounded, the Spanish players on the field
thrust their arms in the air while the substitutes raced out to
join them. Two teammates grabbed Villa, who has scored all but two
of Spain’s goals here, and carried him on their shoulders.
In the stands, Spanish fans partied deep into the night, waving
flags, banging on drums and singing chorus after chorus of “Ole!
Spain will play the Netherlands on Sunday at Soccer City in
Johannesburg, ensuring a first-time champion. The Dutch, who beat
Uruguay 3-2 on Tuesday night, have lost in their only two trips to
The two teams have never met in the World Cup and their all-time
series is dead even.
“This is one of the greatest moments for Spain, for us to be in
the final of the World Cup, it’s history,” said Villa, who remains
tied with Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder for the tournament
scoring lead at five goals apiece. “And we want to make more
history in the final.”
For Germany, it’s yet another disappointment. This was the
three-time champions’ third straight trip to the World Cup
semifinals. Yet just like in 2006, they’re headed for the
“Right now, I really don’t feel like playing for third place,”
captain Philipp Lahm said. “The disappointment is very big. We had
a lot as our goal and we didn’t succeed.”
It certainly isn’t what the Germans envisioned after overhauling
their team following that Euro 2008 loss. Loew brought in
youngsters such as Mesut Oezil, Sami Khedira and goal-scoring
machine Thomas Mueller, who was suspended against Spain after
picking up a second yellow card in the quarterfinals.
The newcomers infused Germany with a speed and smoothness few
other teams could match, and it rolled over old rivals England and
Argentina by a combined score of 8-1.
But there’s something about Spain that brings out the worst in
the Germans. Those counterattacks that were so devastating against
England and Argentina never materialized, and the midfield spacing
that had been so impressive was almost nonexistent.
“They were simply,” forward Miroslav Klose said, “the better