Germany seeks 'revenge' for Euro loss
The World Cup semifinal Wednesday between Germany and Spain is a rematch of the European Championship final two years ago, a loss that Germany striker Lukas Podolski still recalls with bitterness.
"We want revenge for 2008," Podolski said Tuesday. "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."
Germany has changed a lot more than their Iberian opponent since Spain won the European trophy 1-0 on a first-half strike by Fernando Torres.
The German squad has been rejuvenated with talented youngsters such as playmaker Mesut Oezil, striker Thomas Mueller and defensive midfielder Sami Khedira. It has also adopted a more attacking style than in 2008.
Spain still relies on its trademark possession game and crop of skillful players that won the European trophy, including strikers David Villa and Torres and midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
"Winning the European Championship was a very important moment for Spanish football and for the Spanish players," Iniesta said. "We are lucky to live this moment of history and it's a privilege for us."
If Spain is enjoying a good moment, World Cup history is emphatically on the side of Germany - one of the most successful nations in the tournament.
Germany has played seven World Cup finals and won three of them. Spain has never reached the final and has never beaten Germany in the World Cup. The Germans won in 1966 and 1982, while Spain managed a 1-1 draw in 1994.
Still, Germany coach Joachim Loew said "history is not important" for his young squad, which has an average age of under 25.
"They know these matches from the history books but they don't have a personal experience," he said. "The present is what counts, the here and now."
The World Cup's two most impressive strikers - Villa and Miroslav Klose - will go head-to-head in Durban.
Villa leads the scoring chart with five goals in five games for Spain, while Klose has hit the target four times for Germany and needs only one more goal to pull even with former Brazil forward Ronaldo as the top World Cup scorer of all time with 15 goals.
Torres has been out of touch and may be left out of Spain's team, while Mueller is suspended for Germany, meaning the scoring onus will fall even more heavily upon Villa and Klose.
Villa missed the 2008 European Championship final against Germany due to injury but still led that tournament with four goals. The 28-year-old forward is one goal away from matching Raul Gonzalez's Spain record of 44 and is looking to cement his place as his country's greatest striker.
"He's very self-assured, and a menace for every defense," Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso said. Coach Vicente del Bosque said Villa is in such spectacular form that he "scores when he wants."
Whereas Villa has scored all but one of Spain's six goals at this tournament, Klose's four strikes represent less than a third of Germany's impressive 13-goal output.
Germany beat Australia 4-0 in its opening match, and had routed England 4-1 and Argentina 4-0 in its past two matches.
"It's probably the most complete team in the World Cup. A team that has changed since the 2008 final, with young and fresh faces," backup Spain goalkeeper Pepe Reina said. "It's the most dangerous rival at the moment."
Besides Mueller, Germany could also be without Khedira and central defender Arne Friedrich. Khedira is nursing a left hamstring injury and Friedrich has a right foot problem.
Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas is available to play despite injuring his leg during a training session. The Spanish football federation said scans on Fabregas' right leg had ruled out a bone injury after he was hurt it in a closed training session on Monday.