2010 World Cup: Five Differences Since Germany vs. Spain at Euro 2008
Today Spain and Germany meet in Durban to battle it out for a place in the World Cup final.
The last time these teams met in a major tournament was in the final of Euro 2008.
Spain won that game and lifted the European title thanks to a Fernando Torres goal that secured a 1-0 win.
However, much has changed for both teams in the intervening two years.
We examine five differences between Spain and Germany since that Euro 2008 final.
No. 5: Spain’s New-Look Midfield
Spain has a new coach since its triumph in 2008, with ex-Real Madrid coach Vicente Del Bosque replacing Luis Aragones.
Though Del Bosque has replicated Aragones’ success at consistently coaching a winning team, he has drastically altered Spain’s highly effective midfield.
At Euro 2008, Spain generally fielded Xavi Hernandez alongside Villarreal holding midfielder Marcos Senna in the center of the park, flanked by David Silva and Andres Iniesta.
Del Bosque’s major change was to leave the 33-year old Senna, whose club season had been plagued by injury, out of his 23-man roster.
Barcelona’s classy young ball-winner Sergio Busquets has filled the role of midfield enforcer effectively, but it is the presence of Xavi Alonso alongside him that has caused controversy amongst Spain’s fans and media.
Even the ex-coach Aragones had weighed into the debate, claiming that Spain should not need a second deep-lying midfielder and that Alonso should be dropped.
The brilliant Barcelona duo of Xavi and Iniesta have retained their place in the side and there is an argument that the presence of Alonso disrupts the rhythm and understanding the other three have built up by playing together at club level.
Alonso’s main strength is his accurate long passing and in theory he should give Spain an alternative strategy if its famous tici-taca short game isn’t working.
However, the fact that David Silva has been sidelined to make way for him means that Spain lack the natural width that stretches an opponent’s defense, leaving gaps for Alonso’s pinpoint passing to exploit.
Spain’s midfield has certainly not looked as polished as the team that beat Germany to win Euro 2008, but the World Cup semifinal rematch is a chance for them to prove the doubters wrong.
No. 4: Fernando Torres’ Lack of Form
Ahead of the Euro 2008 final, Spain’s star forward Fernando Torres had been playing in the shadow cast by his strike partner David Villa’s four goals at the tournament.
This seems like a similar situation to the current World Cup, where Villa has scored five times while Torres is struggling to even hit the target having recently come back from serious knee surgery.
However, the crucial difference was that at Euro 2008 Torres had been in great form and his understanding with Villa was one of the reasons for the latter’s goal glut.
When Villa was forced to miss the final against Germany with a thigh injury, Torres stepped up and scored the game’s winning goal.
Ahead of the World Cup semifinal clash, Torres is not only having difficulties in front of goal, his link-up play with his strike partner has been poor.
Torres has been substituted in all of Spain’s games so far, usually to the general improvement of the team’s fortunes.
Many people have called for the Liverpool player to be dropped in favor of Fernando Llorente or Cesc Fabregas, but it is likely that coach Vincent Del Bosque will keep faith with his first-choice strike pairing.
Torres will hope that the memories of his last goal against Germany will inspire a return to form.
No. 3: Germany’s New Blood
At Euro 2008, Germany coach Joachim Low based his midfield on the experience of Michael Ballack and Torsten Frings.
Since then, the 33-year old Frings has been dropped from the roster, while team captain Ballack was ruled out of the World Cup with an injury.
This has left Low to field a new-look midfield relying on youth and energy.
Its principle component is the outstanding Bastian Schweinsteiger, who played on the right wing during the knockout stages of Euro 2008.
The Bayern Munich player has only recently converted to central midfield for his club and country, making his success in the role all the more remarkable.
Ballack’s place in the team has been admirably filled by Stuttgart’s Sami Khedira, who was part of the German team that won the 2009 European Under-21 Championship.
Another of that side who has made the step up to the senior team with great effect is playmaker Mesut Ozil, while four-goal Thomas Muller is only 20.
Throw 25-year old Lucas Podolski into the mix and you get a German midfield brimming with a vitality that proved too much for pre-tournament favorites England and Argentina.
It could be argued that the German team’s immaturity is the main factor behind the four-goal humblings of two of soccer’s international giants, as a more experienced team would have looked to protect a two-goal lead rather than continue to attack in numbers.
A canny team like Spain will hope to exploit any such failings of youth.
No. 2: A Confident Germany
Spain went into the Euro 2008 final confident that they would get a victory.
The team was the star of the tournament and in the knockout stages had won a cathartic penalty shootout against its old nemesis Italy before destroying the fancied Russians in the semifinal.
Germany had lost to Croatia in the group stages and had been fortunate to beat a strong Turkish team in the semifinals.
The result of the final went according to expectations.
At the World Cup, the teams have experienced a reversal of fortune and it is Germany that approaches the semifinal with confidence.
This time, Germany has been the star of the show in South Africa and its four-goal victories against England and Argentina has marked Joachim Low’s young side as the tournament’s team to beat.
Meanwhile Spain has struggled, losing its opening group game to Switzerland and securing passage to the last four with a pair of tight 1-0 victories over Portugal and Paraguay.
If the semifinal in Durban lives up to expectations like the Euro 2008 final did, then Germany will be facing its neighbors Holland in Sunday’s World Cup final.
No. 1: Missing Its Top Scorer
When Spain beat Germany in the final of Euro 2008, it did so without its tournament’s top scorer David Villa, who missed the game with a thigh injury.
This time it is Germany who is missing one of its main goal threats.
Thomas Muller picked up a harsh yellow card in the quarterfinal win against Argentina, which was his second of the tournament.
An automatic one-match ban means that Germany will be forced to cope without the 20-year old midfielder who has hit four goals already in South Africa.
Muller is his team's joint top-scorer alongside Miroslav Klose, though both players trail David Villa, whose five goals sees him lead the race for the Golden Boot.