Spain beats Germany 1-0 to reach World Cup final

Carles Puyol soared high to head in the goal that sent Spain

into the World Cup final for the first time with a 1-0 win over

Germany on Wednesday.

In a rematch of the 2008 European Championship final that Spain

won by the same score, Puyol’s powerful header in the 73rd minute

from Xavi Hernandez’s corner kick finally gave Spain the lead after

it dominated from the opening whistle.

“The group deserves this but we want more,” said Spain striker

David Villa, who is level with Netherlands playmaker Wesley

Sneijder with five goals as the tournament’s top scorer. “We are

happy to be in the final, that was our objective, but now we want

to be champions.”

Spain’s best previous World Cup finish was fourth in 1950, when

the final round consisted of a four-team group.

In Sunday’s final at Soccer City, Spain will meet the

Netherlands, which has also never won football’s biggest

trophy.

Spain controlled throughout with its precision passing game,

playing just the way it hoped to, but had trouble finishing until

Puyol’s late strike.

At the final whistle, the veteran 32-year-old Puyol raised his

arms in triumph as goalkeeper Iker Casillas jumped on the center

back’s shoulders.

For much of the game, three-time champion Germany sat back and

waited patiently to snuff out Spain’s attack, hoping to launch a

counterattack that worked against England and Argentina but rarely

took off in Durban.

Germany sorely missed suspended winger Thomas Mueller, who had

scored four goals so far and was often able to outsprint

opponents.

“In the last two or three years they have been one of the best

and most united teams,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “They

circulate the ball well and we couldn’t play the way we like to

play.

“We had great plans but it didn’t work out.”

Loew seemed to think that Spain will also beat the

Netherlands.

“They’ve won all the big games in the last year. It’s a good

team that has played together now for two or three years,” the

Germany coach said. “I am sure the Spanish can win any game

because they are dominant and it’s hard to contain their

attack.”

Spain, which had 13 shots on goal to Germany’s five, had never

beaten Germany at the World Cup in three previous attempts.

“From defense through to attack I think we played a great

game,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. “We’ve got another

game in front of us, let’s see if we are able to control the ball.

We’re in good shape physically, so let’s see if we can win.”

At Euro 2008, Spain broke a 44-year major title drought, and the

team has lost only two games since November 2006 – the last coming

in its World Cup opener against Switzerland.

“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.”

On a comfortable evening inside Moses Mabhida Stadium, Queen

Sofia of Spain looked on from her seat between South Africa

President Jacob Zuma and FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

The match got an early jolt when a fan carrying a vuvuzela ran

onto the field four minutes in – suspending the match briefly until

security officers forcibly removed the intruder.

Out of form Liverpool forward Fernando Torres was dropped from

Spain’s lineup and Pedro Rodriguez was given his first national

team start, complementing David Villa in attack. Torres hasn’t

found the net in this tournament.

Spain set the tone early with its quick passing and Pedro set up

Villa with a well-placed through ball in the sixth minute, but

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer did well to leave his net and block

Villa’s shot.

In the 13th, Spain threatened again when a dangerous header by

Puyol from the edge of the box went over the bar.

With Spanish players swarming around in bunches in midfield,

Germany struggled to launch its counterattack, its passes either

too short or too long to break through the defense.

The first serious threat from Germany didn’t come until the 32nd

minute when Casillas dived to his left to push wide a long, low

shot from Piotr Trochowski.

Germany playmaker Mesut Oezil strode through the center of

Spain’s defense in first-half injury time but was muscled off the

ball by Sergio Ramos. Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai turned down

penalty appeals.

The second half started much like the first, with Spain taking

the initiative.

Xabi Alonso sent a long shot wide in the 48th, then pulled in a

little closer for another more dangerous attempt two minutes later,

forcing Neuer to dive to his left, but the ball again sailed

wide.

In the 58th, Spain produced two more chances – one right after

the other.

First, Neuer saved an attempt from Pedro, then Andres Iniesta

slid a cross through the box but Villa couldn’t reach it for what

would have been a sure goal.

Germany hardly even approached Spain’s area until Lukas Podolski

passed to second-half substitute Toni Kroos in the area in the 69th

and Casillas stopped Kroos’ shot by the post.

Torres replaced Villa for the final nine minutes and immediately

made an impact, sending Pedro striding upfield in the 82nd. But

Pedro refused to give the ball back to Torres, wasting a chance to

double Spain’s lead.

Germany will face Uruguay in the third-place match Saturday in

Port Elizabeth.

“Tomorrow, we’ll have to try and encourage the team,” Loew

said. “Because there is one game left to play.”

Lineups:

Germany: Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Arne

Friedrich, Jerome Boateng (Marcell Jansen, 52), Bastian

Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira (Mario Gomez, 81), Piotr Trochowski

(Toni Kroos, 62), Mesut Oezil, Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose.

Spain: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique,

Joan Capdevila, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Carlos Marchena 90),

Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez (David Silva, 85),

David Villa (Fernando Torres, 81).