Germany has scored four goals in three of their first five games, but also lost to Serbia and struggled to beat Ghana. Since Spain's shocking loss to Switzerland in their opener, they have won all their games without looking entirely convincing. Germany is obviously on a roll having disposed of England and Argentina without too much fuss, but Spain presents a different challenge.
The qualities of this German team should be obvious by now. It starts with Joachin Low, the 'low' key coach who is a master at tactical planning. He stifled Argentina's forward strength to which Diego Maradona had no answer as I predicted in my game preview here:
By contrast, Vincent Del Bosque has coached Spain for the past five years while winning the European Nations Cup in 2008. Prior to that he coached Real Madrid for six years. The coaching duel is about even with a slight possible edge to Joachin Low.
Spain has an edge in goal with the veteran Iker Casillas over Manuel Neuer. Both have performed well with minimal errors, but Casillas' experience could be a factor at some point.
On paper, one can understand why Spain was considered the pre tournament co-favorite with Brazil. World class players fill the entire lineup with a few more in reserve. Germany's team has their share of experienced world class players, but the relatively unknown young quartet Mezut Oezil, Jerome Boateng, Thomas Mueller, and Sami Khedira had only 36 caps between them all but three being earned after the qualifying rounds.
Factoring in the performance of these four, it's hard to separate the quality of the two teams on paper. It all comes down to how the teams have been performing.
Spain has had trouble scoring during the tournament, partly because Fernando Torres hasn't returned to his form he had prior to his injury. Their short passing game looks great, but their build up is slow because of it, giving teams the time to get organized on defense. The starting midfield hasn't been able to penetrate defenses to create enough scoring chances.
David Villa's nose for goal and his ability to create chances out of nothing has saved them often and if Germany can contain him they will win comfortably. Don't bet on that though. Ces Fabergas is one player who can split defenses, but he has been used as a substitute most of the time. Against Paraguay, he and Pedro brought on the flow and tempo of their game and improved. Whether Del Bosque will change the starting lineup remains to be seen.
Germany was able to shred Argentina's weak defense, but Spain will be a different proposition. More difficult but by no means impossible. Bastian Schweinsteiger has been brilliant all tournament. He was magnificent against Argentina, the best of any player in the tournament thus far. His work rate is phenomenal either when defending or attacking. Khedira and Oezil have ably assisted in scoring 13 goals while giving up only two (or three if you count Lampard's goal).
Spain's back four are as good as any, but they will face a far more potent threat with Germany.
A big challenge for Germany will be to replace the suspended Thomas Mueller, the fourth cog in the midfield machine. With a thin bench, no one will be able to emulate him but assume Joachim Low will ably minimize his absence. Spain picked up no yellow cards in the group stage and only three since then so they are at full strength.
Germany will prevail, but will have a long and arduous task to break down Spain. They got the breaks against both England and Argentina and a few breaks going the other way could cause Germany problems.
In this World Cup, history and form should finally sort itself out and Germany's penchant for winning even when not at their best should overcome Spain's historic inability to win when it really matters.