Tonight, the World Cup visits the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban for the last time as Germany and Spain battle it out for the right to play the Netherlands in Soccer City on Sunday.
While reigning European Champions Spain have somewhat stuttered to this stage, Germany have gone against stereotype in setting this tourney alight.
Following on from yesterday's semifinal analysis, in which both authors called the winner if not the correct score, Bleacher Creatures Long John Silver and Máire Oféire take us through the German and Spanish team respectively.
Adam Smith’s neoclassical economics postulates "Invisible Hand": When the action of each member of a society maximises his own benefits, the society benefits as a whole.
However, John Nash went a step further: When the action of each member of a society considers his or her own interests and the society’s interests, only then the society benefits as a whole.
The underlying principle of "Governing Dynamics" by John Nash defines the Deutschland Team.
You would be hard pressed to see Luis Fabiano pass the ball to another member of his team, even if the latter has a better probability of scoring than he does. In the quarterfinals against Argentina, Bastian Schweinsteiger did just that. He ran that Adidas Jabulani all the way to the box, and put it on a plate and gave it to Miroslav Klose.
This is a team. The Deutsch win, lose and draw as a team, and that’s quite elegantly their biggest strength. If you don’t play as a team, then shutting down your striker means lowering your chances of scoring.
On the contrary, it’s counter-productive to shut down any of the German forwards, because in this case, if you use your finite resources to shut down one of them, it only provides space for the others.
You close down Klose, and Lukas Podolski has space, and if you close down both Klose and Podolski, then Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller, and even Schweinsteiger definitely have space to run through.
No egotistic essence, no "Me" attitude, ruthless efficiency, and consummate cohesion...it’s a T-E-A-M.
Let’s look at the formation that includes the absence of Mueller because of his suspension. Joachim Loew, their coach, was interviewed yesterday when he said he meticulously assembled each member of the current team with a conglomeration of characteristics in mind: English pace, Italian defense, and Spanish fluidity.
Long gone are the days when Germany was a quintessential blue-collar soccer team, for they are no more monotonous. They are efficient, ruthless, and fun to watch, sort of like Roger Federer. At his best, Federer is ruthless, but is all the more fun to watch him hit an optic Wilson around, even when he is winning 1, 0 and 0.
Let’s compare and contrast.
Espana are better in possession, but Deutschland has not required more than half the possession until now (45 percent against Argentina) to win games.
In this tournament they have both been approximately equal in passing. Passing is traditionally a Spanish strength, but Germany has passed especially well this time around.
Espana scores through possession, and Deutschland scores through counterattacks.
Casillas is better than Neuer and he needs to be, given the pace and quality of the German forwards.
Neutralizing Ozil is not easy (Argentina did achieve it), and he is the oxygen that supplies crosses to the offensive line. If anything, losing Ballack in the midfield has increased the pace of the crosses from the midfield.
The Spanish defensive line of Gerard Pique, Carlos Puyol, and Sergio Ramos will have their hands full, and if they don’t, err, like the English and Argentine defensive lines, they can keep Spain in the hunt for the better part of 90 minutes. That’s the crux—that’s very much the crux.
It would quite simply be suicidal for Spain if Germany gets on the board early—that’s when they run the table.
I don’t expect Torres to do much, consistent with his woeful form through the tournament. If Espana finds the net, it has to be David Villa (or Iniesta or Cesc Fabregas). I do expect Fabregas to play most of the 90 minutes.
At the end of the day, Spain needs to find the net, and anyone not named Villa needs to find it as well. Comparatively, Germany goes in as slight favorites because at this point in the tournament, Spain is too heavily dependent on Villa at their own peril.
Germany has more options—Klose, Podolski, Ozil, and even Schweinsteiger can find the net, and they all play at a ferocious pace.
An early lead for Deutschland essentially means, the ruthless, yet frictionless, fluid engine is up and running straight to Soccer City, Jo’Burg for its July 11 date with the Oranje. If the Spanish defensive line can keep them in the game, Villa can win this for them, but it’s unlikely to happen.
The biggest chokers in World Football?
Is it Holland or Spain?
Last night, the Netherlands went some way to answering their critics as their well-drilled machine saw off the massive Uruguayan challenge to make a date with destiny.
Tonight, surprisingly, Spain makes its debut in the semifinal stage of the World Cup.
This World Cup has had a lot of things, but it hasn't had a real epic game. Expect tonight to be epic.
For the last number of years, Spain has taken over the mantel of international football's most exciting team. However, this tourney has seen that star wane as the Germans pace and fluidity has outshone the stuttering Spanish.
This Spanish team is missing a little something...a little oomph, so to speak.
People question: "Are they tired?"; "Are they over-confident?"; "Are they straining under the weight of expectation?"
Yet, very few have asked: "Are they missing Marcos Senna?"
The loss (indeed decision not to bring him) of Senna has been detrimental to the once well-oiled Spanish side.
Yes, they still have the massive talents of Xavi and Iniesta in midfield, but how they miss Senna.
Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso just don't work together as well as Senna used to in that defensive midfield role. Both players operate best at club level when they are playing beside a more recognised defensive player—Seydou Keita at Barcelona and Lass Diarra at Real Madrid. Together, Busquets and Alonso are just not effective in that role.
Senna was Spain's real link man. He brought the ball out of defence, linked with the forwards, while also being the first line of defence.
Busquets...Busquets... well, Busquets falls over. If any player seems to have a reputation that belies his actually lack of quality, it may well be Sergio Busquets.
In contrast, Xabi Alonso is quite the player. He can thread a pass through the eye of a needle, but mops up the ball more than he gets a tackle in.
So, while Spain has the ability to hold onto the ball in midfield and stroke it around, they lack a real defensive spine down the middle. If anyone can expose it at this World Cup, it's the Germans.
Schweinsteiger and Khedira are not shy in the tackle, and along with Ozil, stroke the ball around with ease.
This leads onto Spain's second glaring problem, the lack of speed at the back.
Despite winning the last Euro's and being hard to beat, the Spanish are undisciplined at the back.
Ramos, Puyol and Pique are all prone to venturing up the field at various times, often at the same time. Against the speed and guile of the Germans, this will be a dangerous game. A close eye will have to be kept on Khedira in particular, who likes to float into the box almost unnoticed.
The two central defenders for Spain don't cope too well with pace either. Expect to see Miroslav Klose play on the shoulder of the last defender to use this to Germany's advantage.
To Spain's advantage, they have possibly the best keeper in the world at the moment in Iker Casillas—and oh, how they need him.
Puyol and Pique, in particular, are prone to giving away needless free-kicks in and around the box. Again, this would be a worry for Spain, giving their lack of height in the team, and the advantage that gives the tall German defenders.
Pique will have to watch his behaviour tonight. Any repeat of the crass stupidity that saw Paraguay rewarded with a penalty in the quarter-final cannot be tolerated from a Spanish point of view.
Coupled with the problems at the back, del Bosque also has worries up front.
Fernando Torres is terribly out of form and must be dropped to the bench for the sake of the team.
Torres is a wonderful player, but his touch has been off, and once again he is illustrating his inability to play with a partner up front.
David Villa has been scoring the goals for Spain once again, and they will look to him again tonight.
With Cesc Fabregas somewhat doubtful with an injury, Spain would be well served to play Villa up front as a lone striker, with a trio of Iniesta, Xavi and Silva/Navas behind him in support.
Spain's problems have often arisen in their tendency to play narrow. Make this a battle down the middle, and they will lose.
They also need more cutting edge in their play tonight. They may have a lot of possession, but pass, pass, pass, isn't much good if it's going horizontal and not vertically—just ask any Arsenal fan.
This lack of width has made Spain predictable and could play into German hands, who like to break on the counter at speed.
Of course, it's not all negative for Spain.
They have a marvelous bunch of players, but they need them to work and play as a team tonight.
Key for the Spanish, is the maestro Iniesta. He came more and more into the game against Paraguay, and it was his run that opened up the defence to allow Villa to score.
Tonight, anything could happen. Spain could make history and set up a World Cup Final between two teams who have yet to get their hands on the trophy.
But, the Germans are on a role and look the more well-oiled unit. Spain may have the big names, but put your buck on Joachim Loew's side to be running out against the Netherlands on Sunday.