Spain rediscovered its flair in a 1-0 victory over Germany on Wednesday that not only put it into the World Cup final but showed why the European champions are one of the most feared teams in football.
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Spain’s midfield controlled the game at Moses Mabhida Stadium from the start through trademark slick passing and quick touches before Carles Puyol’s 73rd-minute header broke the deadlock to play its first final.
Spain eked out another one-goal victory but in assured fashion after stumbling to find its way after a shock 1-0 defeat to open group play against Switzerland.
"We started in the tournament poorly and we’ve been faced with nothing but finals ever since," defender Joan Capdevila said, referring to a string of must-win games. "And here we are – in the final."
Spain will play the Netherlands on Sunday at Soccer City, where one of the teams will win its first World Cup title.
"It’s going to be difficult to beat Spain," said former coach Luis Aragones, who began Spain’s current rise to the top with the Euro 2008 win. "The most important thing is the team that held the football won."
Although Spain’s possession advantage was only 51-49 percent, it showed how difficult it is to stop one of the world’s best midfields when it really clicks.
"We were superior because we knew how to handle them on the dead ball situations, even scoring from a corner," said goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who made goal-stopping saves either side of the break. "Germany let us play."
Coach Vicente del Bosque dropped Fernando Torres from the lineup preferring to go with a five-man midfield that ran the Germans ragged from start to finish.
Torres’ replacement Pedro Rodriguez showed how rich with talent the roster is with a standout performance as the Barcelona winger started for the first time in only his fifth appearance.
"From defense through to attack I think we played a great game," Del Bosque said. "I believe our triumph is even bigger because of the size of our opponent."
Even David Silva, who hadn’t been used since the opening defeat to the Swiss, created scoring chances from only four minutes on the field.
"I am sure the Spanish can win any game because they are dominant and it’s hard to contain their attack," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "They have shown they can beat anyone."
Perhaps Aragones best summed what Spain’s victory meant.