Monday, July 12, 2010

Spain’s victory is a victory for football

Spain’s dramatic 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in Sunday’s World Cup Final was the right result. Spain deserve to be world champions for the very first time, and their triumph was also a victory for football.
The Netherlands took an extremely rough and destructive approach to the game. Several very poor challenges were made, with midfield enforcers Nigel De Jong and Mark Van Bommel, in particular, highly fortunate not to join Johnny Heitinga in receiving a red card.
Bert Van Marwijk’s side were almost exclusively interested in defending, and they did so in an unpleasantly physical manner. Their rare attacking incisions sought to exploit Arjen Robben’s pace on the counter-attack, but over the 120 minutes they did nowhere near enough to merit victory.
Spain, by contrast, tried to get the ball down and play — just as they always do. Despite being forced to withstand a barrage of thunderous Dutch challenges, they refused to deviate from their careful, measured strategy based on maintaining possession and attempting to pass their way through the massed ranks of Dutch defence.
The winning goal, coming just four minutes from time, was worthy of deciding such a grand occasion. Cesc Fabregas slid a wonderfully perceptive pass into Andres Iniesta, whose perfect first touch cushioned the ball and created a shooting opportunity. His second touch demonstrated impeccable technique, as he closely watched the slowly dropping ball before connecting cleanly with a powerful volley that gave no chance to Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
Iker Casillas grabs the ball to stop a Dutch attack. - Reuters pic

It was a difficult skill, perfectly executed, and Iniesta was a fitting matchwinner. Aside from an irritating eagerness to dive under minimal contact, he is a joy to watch — his first touch, vision, passing and dribbling ability are perhaps only matched by his midfield colleagues Xavi and Fabregas, and he was probably the best player on the pitch last night.
There were frenzied Dutch objections to the winning goal, with referee Howard Webb confronted by furious complaints that Eljero Elia had been fouled in the passage of play immediately prior to the goal. They may have had a valid point — Sergio Ramos did seem to block the run of the Netherlands winger — but it’s difficult to have too much sympathy for a team that played in such an aggressive and negative manner.
The Netherlands also failed to dignify themselves with their reaction at the final whistle — rather than graciously accepting defeat they again surrounded the beleaguered Webb, inevitably led by objectionable midfielder Van Bommel, who could easily have been sent off for an outrageous foul on Iniesta in the first half.
With their general approach to the game and their ungracious reaction to the loss, it was not a good night for the Netherlands — yet they could have quite easily won it. Robben had possibly the best chance of the game when he was released through the middle by Wesley Sneijder’s precise throughball, but Iker Casillas did well to stand his ground and divert his former Real Madrid team-mate’s shot wide with his feet.
With less than half an hour remaining, if Robben had been able to convert that opportunity it could have proved decisive. I’m glad he didn’t, because a Netherlands victory would have left a nasty taste in the mouth. They got to the final, but they didn’t win many admirers amongst neutrals.
Not only were Spain the best team on the night, they were also the best team throughout the tournament. A surprise 1-0 loss to Switzerland in their opening game could have led to unnecessary panic, but instead they kept their composure, retained their belief in what they were doing, and started to remind the watching world why they had been regarded as pre-tournament favourites to lift the trophy.
The Spannish have it, the World Cup. - Reuters pic
It didn’t come easily and Spain were rarely at their most fluent best, but after that defeat to Switzerland they always had enough quality to overcome any opponent. The Barcelona pair of Xavi and Iniesta were crucial to their success — always wanting possession, always looking for a measured pass, always trying to create and play constructively.
Spain’s belief in their ability and their tactics lasted right to the end. When confronted with the looming possibility of a penalty shoot-out, it would have been easy for Spain to lose their shape, throw men forward in desperation, and stop doing what they are good at. But they persisted, continued to pass, move, pass, move...and finally — thankfully – they were rewarded.
It might not have been the greatest World Cup Final in history but at least it was settled in style; the best player from the best team scored the winning goal. And we can’t ask for much more than that.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Iniesta puts Spain on top of world

Spain's midfielder Andrés Iniesta celebrates after scoring
Champions of Europe and now champions of the world, Spain captured football's Holy Grail for the first time with a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands thanks to Andres Iniesta’s 116th-minute strike at Soccer City.
       The solitary goal came with penalties looming as substitutes Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas combined to play in Iniesta and the little Barcelona midfielder drove emphatically across Maarten Stekelenburg and into the far corner. With this victory – their fourth successive single-goal win in South Africa – Spain became the eighth name on the FIFA World Cup™ Trophy and also the first European team to have triumphed on a different continent. For the Netherlands, who lost defender John Heitinga to a red card in extra time, there is only the heartache of another tale of what might have been after completing a hat-trick of Final losses.
      This was a match preceded by much talk of two like-minded footballing cultures, of the influence of Dutchmen like Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels on Barcelona, of 'tiki taka' and Total Football. In many ways, as the first 116 minutes showed, it was also a case of the irresistible force versus the immovable object. The Dutch had won 14 straight games to get to the Final, in qualifying and the tournament proper, and Spain 15 out of 16, their only slip the defeat by Switzerland in their first game here in South Africa.
      It was the Spanish found their stride first, living up to their pre-game billing as favourites. Vicente del Bosque's side, playing in navy blue, dominated possession and fashioned the early chances. With the Dutch penned inside their half, Maarten Stekelenburg had to make a save after five minutes, diving low to stop a Sergio Ramos header from Xavi's free-kick in from the right. Gerard Pique looked poised to follow up only to be denied by a combination of Joris Mathijsen and Dirk Kuyt.
     Ramos came again in the tenth minute, beating Kuyt on the right and driving in a low centre that Heitinga deflected behind. From the corner came another scare for the Netherlands. Xavi played the ball back to Xabi Alonso whose ball went beyond the far post to David Villa but the in-form No7 sliced his volley into the side-netting.
      After those near things, however, both defences got on top with none of the flair players on either side able to take a grip on proceedings. Instead the yellow-card count began to rise with Nigel de Jong becoming the fifth player in Howard Webb’s notebook by the time we reached the half-hour mark, the Netherlands midfielder, newly returned from suspension along with Gregory van der Wiel, having clattered into the chest of Xabi Alonso.
     With the orange sections of the 84,490 Soccer City crowd finding their voice, their favourites almost gave them something to sing about from a corner in the 37th minute. Robben rolled the ball to Mark van Bommel on the edge of the box and although he failed to make a clean connection he unwittingly diverted the ball on to the unmarked Mathijsen but the defender missed his kick. As half-time approached, Iker Casillas had barely had a save to make but entering stoppage time, Spain’s custodian had to be alert to deny Robben at his near post as a spell of Dutch pressure ended with the winger spearing in a low shot from the corner of the box.
     Puyol, Spain's semi-final matchwinner, showed his aerial threat once more minutes after the restart when he rose above Heitinga and headed to the far post but Joan Capdevila failed to make contact. The game was gradually opening up and Dutch spurned a golden opportunity in the 62nd minute when Wesley Sneijder sent Robben running clear. Casillas came to Spain’s rescue, deflecting the shot behind with his right foot when falling the wrong way.
      Spain coach Del Bosque had already sent on Jesus Navas for Pedro on the hour and the winger helped pick a hole in the Dutch defence in the 70th minute. Xavi sent him flying down the right and into the box and when Heitinga failed to deal with Navas’s low cross, the ball fell to Villa who looked odds-on to score only to see his effort deflected behind. Ramos was equally profligate after 78 minutes when he headed over a Xavi centre when unmarked, after Villa had forced another corner.
      Spain were looking the more likely winners and it took Sneijder of all people to foil Iniesta with a smart tackle after his jinking run into the box. Yet Robben’s pace is a persistent threat and the Oranje No11 almost embarrassed Puyol in the 82nd minute, speeding clear of the Spain defender when second-favourite to reach a through-ball. Resisting Pique’s attempt to tackle too, he was foiled only by Casillas, the captain saving at Robben’s feet as the Dutchman sought to round him.
     Extra time began with opportunities for Spain. Xavi failed to connect when well positioned and when the ball ran to Villa, his shot went wide off an orange shirt. Substitute Cesc Fabregas then broke clear on to Iniesta’s through-ball but was foiled by Stekelenburg. Mathijsen headed wide from a corner but like waves, Spanish attacks kept rolling on to the Netherlands back line and Navas was close with a shot deflected into the side-netting.
   Fernando Torres replaced Villa midway through the extra period and Spain gained a man advantage four minutes late with Heitinga’s dismissal for pulling back Iniesta on the edge of the box, the offence earning him a second yellow. Iniesta would not be denied, however, as his late strike put  Spain in the history books and shattered the men in Oranje.

Colbie Caillat - Fallin' For You (Official Video)

Netherlands-Spain FIFA WORLD CUP preview

               NED      vs     ESP
The 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Final promises to be quite an occasion, with the Netherlands pitting their wits against reigning European champions Spain. Both sides have produced some good football during their campaigns and have been rewarded with the chance to add their nation's names to the select list of former winners: Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Brazil, England, Argentina and France.
       The match
Netherlands-Spain, Final, Soccer City, Sunday 11 July, 20.30 (local time)
As a glance at the head-to-head record between the two nations shows, tipping a winner is no easy task. Both sides have won four of their nine meetings, with the other game ending in a draw. TheOranje have been here before, reaching the Finals at Germany 1974, with Johan Cruyff, and Argentina 1978, without him, and losing to the hosts on both occasions. For Spain, however, this is new territory, although their confidence at rising to the occasion will be high after ending a 44-year trophy drought at UEFA EURO 2008.
    The Netherlands' record at South Africa 2010 could hardly be more impressive: six wins in six games with 12 goals scored and five conceded. For their part Vicente del Bosque's men have strung together five wins in a row after kicking off with a surprise defeat. But while the Spaniards have found goals hard to come by, scoring just seven in total, they have been far more miserly in defence, letting in just two so far. The winners will also end an old hoodoo, with no European side having ever won the biggest prize in world football outside the old continent.
Players to watch
Wesley Sneijder v David Villa
The leading goalscorers at South Africa 2010, alongside Diego Forlan, Miroslav Klose and Thomas Muller, this in-form pair are in the frame for both the adidas Golden Boot and the adidas Golden Ball. Their goals have been vital to their sides' respective runs to the Final. Can one of them end the tournament with a winner's medal and two coveted individual awards? All will soon be revealed.
The stat
8 -
 Sunday's game will be the eighth all-European Final. In 19 FIFA World Cup tournaments, Europe has been represented in 16 Finals, a record that includes an unbroken run of 14 going back to Switzerland 1954. Only two showpiece games have been all-South American, with the remaining nine pitching together sides from the competition's two dominant continents.
Netherlands 1:2 Spain

Germany pip Uruguay to third place

 Sami Khedira of Germany celebrates scoring his team's third goal
Germany took bronze for the fourth time at the FIFA World Cup™ after beating Uruguay 3-2 in an entertaining play-off for third place. Sami Khedira got the winning goal with eight minutes remaining as Joachim Low's side repeated their success in this same match four years ago.
       There was no shortage of goals as the rain came teeming down in Port Elizabeth with both sides eager to conclude impressive campaigns on a winning note. Thomas Muller and Edinson Cavani traded first half efforts before Diego Forlan and Marcell Jansen did likewise within ten minutes of the restart. Yet it was Germany who came out on top and, in the process, South Africa 2010's leading scorers reached the 16-goal mark, surpassing their total at Italy 1990, albeit falling one short of their tally in 1970, when they also pipped Uruguay to the bronze medal.
      For two of the scorers, Muller and Forlan, their strikes took them to five for the tournament, level with David Villa and Wesley Sneijder at the top of the adidas Golden Boot standings. Forlan will rue the injury-time free-kick against the crossbar that denied him a sixth goal, while Miroslav Klose's absence with a back injury left him rooted on five too.
      Both teams featured changed lineups after their semi-final losses. Germany coach Joachim Low went for a wholly new forward line from that which began against Spain with starting roles for the trio of Muller, Cacau and Jansen. Further back Dennis Aogo came in for Philipp Lahm and goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt for Manuel Neuer. As for Uruguay, they welcomed back captain Diego Lugano from injury together with Jorge Fucile and Luis Suarez, both suspended for last Tuesday's defeat by the Netherlands.
      Muller made his mark early with his fifth goal in South Africa. The 20-year-old had already had one effort ruled out for offside when he fired Low’s side ahead in the 19th minute. Bastian Schweinsteiger sent in a shot from 30 yards that goalkeeper Diego Muslera, seemingly deceived by the swerve and dip, parried straight to Muller who had an easy task to score. A German breakthrough was hardly a surprise given by that stage they had also seen Arne Friedrich head a Mesut Ozil corner against the crossbar yet Oscar Tabarez's side soon responded.
      Uruguay threatened in the 25th minute when Per Mertesacker got a block on Forlan's far-post header. Four minutes later, though, they had their equaliser from a swift counter. Diego Perez dispossessed Schweinsteiger just inside the Celeste half with a powerful challenge and fed Suarez who played in Cavani down the inside left-channel. The Palermo striker took one touch before prodding a low finish into the bottom corner. Suarez should then have put Uruguay ahead three minutes before the break when Forlan picked out his diagonal run but bearing down on Butt's goal from the right, he arrowed his shot wide of the far post.
     Futher changes went begging moments after the restart when Butt saved at Cavani's feet and then got a hand to Suarez’s shot on the follow-up. Butt was left helpless when Forlan made it 2-1 after 51 minutes, however. The Atletico Madrid striker connected acrobatically with Egidio Arevalo's cross on the edge of the box, sending the ball into the rain-sodden turf and back up past Butt. Yet the lead lasted only five minutes before Muslera missed Jerome Boateng's deep cross and Jansen headed home.
     The game was now wide open as both teams chased a third goal. Butt kept out a flying strike from Suarez and came out to save at the feet of Forlan. At the other end Muslera beat away a shot from Germany substitute Stefan Kiessling, who missed two other inviting chances. The winning goal, when it came, followed an Ozil corner. The ball bounced off Friedrich and then Lugano before rising fortuitously to Khedira who headed home.

Friday, July 9, 2010

3rd place play-off : Uruguay vs Germany..........Who will it be ?

      For evidence of just how much the play-off for third place at the FIFA World Cup™ means, you only have to go back to the summer of 2006 and recall the determination with which host nation Germany rounded off their campaign with a 3-1 victory over Portugal in Stuttgart. It was the same for 1990 hosts Italy, who bounced back from the huge disappointment of semi-final defeat to Argentina with a spirit-lifting 2-1 success over England.
     And the showdown for the final place on the podium often proves most rewarding for dark horses that have lit up a tournament, such as Sweden at USA 1994, Croatia at France 1998 and Turkey at Korea/Japan 2002. What's more, with the pressure off and coaches’ tactical leashes loosened, these games can result in end-to-end football, chances aplenty and goals galore.
 The match
Uruguay-Germany, play-off for third place, Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth, Saturday 10 July, 20:30 (local time)
     This is the second time Germany and Uruguay have met to contest third place at a FIFA World Cup, with the pair doing battle at the same stage of Mexico 1970. At the finals 40 years ago, Die Nationalmannschaft had lost a semi-final thriller 4-3 to Italy, while La Celeste had been downed 3-1 by eventual winners Brazil, with the Germans snatching third spot thanks to a solitary 26th-minute strike from Wolfgang Overath.
     The two teams also met in the quarter-finals at England 1966 in a match Germany won 4-0, and again at Mexico 1986, when the pair’s group meeting ended 1-1. In conclusive proof of their historical upper hand, of a total of nine international matches between the duo to date, Germany have won six and suffered only one defeat, which came at the 1928 edition of the Olympic Football Tournament.
    Not that Oscar Tabarez’s charges will let the record books concern them, having exceeded all expectations with the country’s best FIFA World Cup performance since lifting the Trophy for the second time at Brazil 1950. As they seek a victory which would crown their impressive showing on South African soil, striker Luis Suarez returns after missing the semi-final defeat against Netherlands through suspension while captain Diego Lugano should be fit to play after missing said game with a knee injury. Leading scorer Diego Forlan, meanwhile, has been declared fit to play despite a knock against the Dutch and, with four goals so far, is only one strike behind adidas Golden Boot pace-setters Wesley Sneijder and David Villa.
      Speaking of in-form forwards, the spotlight will also no doubt fall on Miroslav Klose, now just one goal behind the all-time FIFA World Cup record of 15, set by Brazil’s Ronaldo. However, his appearance in what will be Germany’s 99th match at the competition is in doubt after suffering he suffered a back injury against Spain on Wednesday, while midfielders Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira's participation is also in doubt. German coach Joachim Low is therefore expected to give a run-out to squad players such as Serdar Tasci, Dennis Aogo and Stefan Kiessling.
Players to watch
Miroslav Klose vs Diego Forlan
This duo of vastly experienced strikers have four goals apiece so far and will be determined to further their respective Golden Boot hopes by finding the net again at the Port Elizabeth Stadium. The lethal pair both picked up knocks in their sides’ semi-final defeats, however, and may struggle to fire on all cylinders come Saturday evening.
The stats
The signs suggest that the match for third place is unlikely to go to extra time, given that Germany’s last ten games - including friendlies - have all had a winner after 90 minutes.Uruguay had never beaten the Germans before while the Germans had already recorded 6 wins against their South American opponents.
The Verdict
I think their lost against Spain will not have anything to do against their match-up today but I believe them to beat Uruguay by 3:1.So Germany for 3rd place.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Netherlands vs Spain....Who will it be ??

                        NED                 VS                  ESP
         This could be the best finals in FIFA WORLD CUP history,a finals that people hoped for,a finals between two teams that never won the World Cup before.
Carles Puyol of Spain (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Semi Final match between Germany and Spain
       Spain reached their first FIFA World Cup finals in 3 decades after a Carlos Puyol header earned them a worth full 1:0 win over favorites Germany. Spain also beat the likes of Portugal and Paraguay on the way.Let's take a look at Spain's journey to the finals.At the first match which was against Switzerland,a team that failed to beat the Spaniards in nearly 48 years,but history was rewritten,Switzerland pulled off the biggest shock so far at this FIFA World Cup™ as Gelson Fernandes's strike against the run of play earned them a 1-0 win against European champions and joint-tournament favourites Spain. Vicente del Bosque's team predictably dominated possession but were hit on the break seven minutes into the second half as the Swiss recorded a first win over Spain.The second match against Honduras was a must win match for them,and they did just that to get their  FIFA World Cup™ campaign back on track with a win against Honduras that was far more comprehensive than the 2-0 scoreline indicated. The Central Americans were the unlucky victims as the European champions returned to the kind of form which placed them among the pre-tournament favorites.The third match against Chile was also a must win match for them,cause the loser of this match will face Brazil.Spain beat ten-man Chile 2-1 to finish top of Group H and book a Round of 16 meeting with Portugal, while their opponents' courageous display was rewarded with a date with Brazil.And then it was a last 16 match-up against Portugal,who are just fresh from a 7:0 rout of North Korea and holding 5 time Champions Brazil to a goalless draw. Well,that didn't stop Spain from beating Portugal 1:0 and reach the quarter-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. In the Quarter Finals they faced harder opponents Paraguay,who managed to edge out Asian giants Japan in a penalty shootout.  Spain set up a potentially thrilling semi-final meeting with Germany but the European champions had to do it the hard way, requiring a lone second-half strike from David Villa to claim a 1-0 win over a resilient Paraguay at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park. And finally Paul the Octopus predicted a Spanish win against it's native nation Germany.Well,that creature was worth the money,cause a 73rd minute Carlos Puyol header ended Germany's hopes and created history for the Amigos.
           Eljero Elia of the Netherlands (C) celebrates with team mates
Next is about the journey of the Netherlands who reached their third FIFA World Cup finals.Nobody expected the Dutch to be so impressive but they really put critics at bay with their world-class performances.First-up its against Denmark.No comments..on this.. the Dutch came out comfortable winners against the Danes as a Daniel Agger own goal and Dirk Kuyt’s late winner earned the Netherlands a deserved 2-0 win over Denmark at Johannesburg’s Soccer City as the Dutch took an early lead in Group E and stretched their long unbeaten run.The second match was a bit tricky cause they face Japan who are fresh from a 1:0 victory over Cameroon.Well the only goal of the game coming from Wesley Sneijder shortly after the break. Despite not having things their own way at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the Dutch – still without injured winger Arjen Robben – will nevertheless be thrilled with their six points from two games and a spot at the top of Group E.The third game was a game that could seal Cameroon's early departure but for the Dutch its a game that they need to win to stretch their unbeaten run as their already in the last-16.Well, Arjen Robben came off the bench to help the Netherlands secure a 2-1 victory over Cameroon that seals top spot in Group E and sets up a last-16 date with Slovakia. Robin van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar were on target either side of a Samuel Eto'o penalty at Cape Town's Green Point Stadium as Bert van Marwijk’s Oranje preserved their unblemished record at South Africa 2010.And its was  the start of the last-16 against Slovakia for the Netherlands.Slovakia is fresh from a 3:2 victory over defending 4 time Champions Italy that handed them an early exit.They are also determine to send the Dutch packing but the Dutch were just too strong.Slovakia's fairy-tale run came to an end at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium on Monday, with Arjen Robben returning to the starting line-up and helping fire the organised Oranje into the quarter-finals with the first goal in a 2-1 win.And then it was like nightmare for the Netherlands as they faced 5 time Champions Brazil in the Quarter finals.The Oranje were already looking at the exit door when Robinho fired the South Americans ahead in the first half,but the Dutch had a surprise for the samba kings in the second half.Well the Dutch came from behind to break Brazilian hearts and take a huge step towards a third FIFA World Cup™ final appearance. Trailing at half-time to Robinho's early goal in Port Elizabeth, Bert van Marwijk's men drew level with Brazil's Felipe Melo's own goal before Wesley Sneijder scored his second of the game with 22 minutes remaining.And then it was another South American giant,this time it was Uruguay,with the deadly Diego Forlan,but they also can't do a thing against the cruising Dutch.The Netherlands will face Spain in the Final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ after beating Uruguay 3:2.
     Now the Finals,Netherlands vs Spain.Even if your favorite team is not here as expected by you,you must not miss this Finals cause a new team will be named Champions for the first time in FIFA World Cup history.Spain reached their first finals in 3 decades while the Netherlands were two time's runner-ups. The stakes are high for this fixture.Pundits have said that the team that scores first have the likely hood of winning the World Cup.Netherlands have score most of their goals in the first half while Spain is famous for their last minute knockout blows that can be sealed with a goal in the dying seconds.Head to heads put Netherlands with 4 wins against Spain,while the amigos only won 3 times against the Dutch.One draw was played.No doubt that the Dutch faced harder opponents during their campaign like Japan,Cameroon,Brazil,Uruguay while Spain only faced Chile,Portugal,Paraguay and Germany that almost turn the table around.Tactics wise of course  its Spain, their tempo of passing is direct but not as fast as the Dutch.Spain has a strong mid-field and a world-class goal keeper.The Netherlands are good down the flanks with Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben,they also have a forward named Van Persie who can be deadly when he gets the ball.Spain has Torres and David Villa and some attacking midfielders like Xavi and Xabi Alonso.The engine of Spain's midfield is of course Inesta.
      So the conclusion is simple both teams are good and worth to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup.But Spain has the slight edge over the Dutch.So my prediction is a 2:1 win for the Spainish. Adios Amigos!!!!! Watch the final!!! Don't forget!!!!

One goal send Germans preparing for a Third place play off while Spain make history.

Carles Puyol of Spain (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Semi Final match between Germany and Spain
First Europe and now, possibly, the world for Spain, who won through to the Final of South Africa 2010 with a 1-0 victory over Germany in Durban. Carles Puyol's 74th-minute header repeated the single-goal triumph over Germany that secured La Roja the European title two years ago and now only the Netherlands stand between them and a first FIFA World Cup™ title.
        Whatever the outcome at Soccer City on Sunday, there will be history made with a new name on the Trophy after Spain produced their best performance of these finals to end Germany's hopes of an eighth Final appearance and secure their first. Joachim Low’s men, by contrast, missing the suspended Thomas Muller, were unable to repeat the scintillating displays with which they swept aside England and Argentina and, as in 2006, suffered the anguish of semi-final defeat.
         While Germany were playing in their 12th FIFA World Cup semi-final, this was Spain's first, although it was business as usual for Vicente del Bosque's side, who dominated possession. Indeed Spain might have had an early goal when Pedro, making his first start of the finals in place of Fernando Torres, slipped a through-ball to David Villa after just six minutes. Clear of the Germany defence, Villa produced a sliding finish but Manuel Neuer was out of his goal fast to deny the Spaniard.
         There was another nervy moment to follow for Low's men after 14 minutes. From a short corner, Andres Iniesta drove in a centre that Puyol met with a flying header that, to the relief of the Germans, cleared the crossbar. Spain had more than 60 per cent of the ball in the game's first quarter but Germany, happy to sit deep and continue the counter-attacking game that had brought them such reward in previous matches, began to offer a threat. Lukas Podolski played in Mezut Ozil on the left and he duly supplied Miroslav Klose on the edge of the box, but the Bayern Munich forward was crowded out.
       Iker Casillas was called into action for the first time just after the half-hour to turn behind a low 30-yard drive from Piotr Trochowski, the man brought in to replace Muller. On the stroke of half-time, Germany finally picked a hole in the Spain defence when Ozil broke into the box on to a pass from Klose. As Sergio Ramos challenged, the German midfielder went to ground but referee Viktor Kassai waved play on.
       The second half began like the first, with Spain threatening Neuer's goal as Xabi Alonso drove narrowly wide from 25 yards, then Villa curled another attempt wide of the same post. The pressure intensified with the hour approaching and Germany's goal was lucky to survive intact. Pedro's low shot drew a fingertip save from Neuer and as Per Mertesacker dawdled over his clearance, Iniesta nipped in and drove a low ball across goal that the lunging Villa was within a whisker of reaching at the far post. With Germany still unable to clear their lines, Pedro then fired wide.
       Low sought to change things, sending on Marcell Jansen in place of Jerome Boateng and, later, Toni Kroos for Trochowski. It was Kroos who had Germany's first attempt of the second half in the 69th minute, meeting Podoski's far-post cross with a side-footed shot that Casillas beat away. 
Instead, with 16 minutes remaining, the decisive goal came at the other end. From a corner by Xavi, Puyol leapt above team-mate Gerard Pique and powered a header past Neuer. Pedro could have ensured a bigger margin of victory in the closing stages but he allowed Arne Friedrich to dispossess him after bursting through in a two-on-one with substitute Torres. It did not matter in the end, Spain's third successive 1-0 win carrying them into their first Final.