2010 World Cup Germany vs. Spain: Five Things We Learned
Spain earned its third consecutive 1-0 win to book a place in the World Cup final against Holland.
The exciting Germany will have to endure a third place playoff for the second World Cup in succession.
Here are five things we learned from today’s semifinal game.
No. 5: There Will Be a New World Champion
The World Cup semifinals contained two teams that were previous winners of the world title, Uruguay and Germany.
With Uruguay losing to Holland and Spain’s victory over Germany, the World Cup will have a brand new champion no matter which team wins Sunday’s final in Johannesburg.
No. 4: Germany Showed Spain Too Much Respect
It was disappointing for those of us looking forward to an exciting game of soccer, but Germany did what every team (except Chile) has done against Spain and set out to defend.
Joachim Low’s team is lethal on the counter-attack so it was an obvious strategy to focus on preventing its opponents from scoring, whilst looking to grab a goal on the break.
Unfortunately for Low, Spain don’t tend to surrender possession all that easily so Germany’s chances of catching it with a counter were very limited.
Ultimately, Germany’s stifling of the more expansive style that had seen it overrun more illustrious opponents such as Argentina and England, cost it a chance at a place in the final.
It seems Low showed Spain too much respect in encouraging his team to sit back, though whenever Germany did have spells of forward play it usually ended with a Spanish chance to score.
One such period resulted in a Spanish break, which earned the corner from which Carles Puyol scored the winning goal.
Perhaps this indicates that Low’s tactics were correct, but Germany can now only regret not taking the game to the European Champions.
No. 3: Spain Wins By Attrition
For all the pretty passing, three 1-0 wins prove that Spain is anything but an exciting soccer team.
Sure, all of its knockout round opponents have set out to defend against the European Champions, but Spain has won each game through attrition more than inspiration.
Spain’s possession game is actually a form of defense and the players always tend to look for a safe option that will retain the ball rather than risk a percentage pass that could lead to a chance on goal.
The Spanish system is the opposite of Jose Mourinho’s anti-possession game that proved so successful at Inter, but it is still about preventing the opposition from scoring by not giving them the ball.
Obviously, the probing passing of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso does have its attacking intent and Spain’s game-plan at the 2010 World Cup has been to wear down the opposition’s concentration with the relentlessness of its possession, especially deep into the second half.
It has worked in three knockout games so far, and Spain’s fans will be happy if another 1-0 win against Holland brings home its first World Cup trophy.
No. 2: Holland Can Stop Spain From Scoring
There is no reason to believe that Holland will not employ the same tactics as each of Spain’s other World Cup opponents and set out to stop Spain from scoring.
But the Dutch might just be the one team capable of achieving its goal.
With Nigel De Jong back from suspension and Mark Van Bommel amazingly not suspended, Holland has a tough-tackling, ankle-biting midfield duo that can stop Spain’s attacking threat at its central source.
Holland's defense has so far looked secure and the central pairing of John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen may have the experience and ability to deal with David Villa's central runs and can certainly cope with any crosses from wide areas.
After his error for Diego Forlán’s goal for Uruguay in Holland’s semifinal win, goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg looks like the Dutch’s only weak link at the back.
However, if the keeper can stay error free, Holland may check Spain’s attack.
Whether the Dutch can get the ball for long enough to score itself is another matter.
No. 1: Paul the Octopus Is Always Right
Ever since its opening game, an aquarium in Germany has been getting an octopus named Paul to predict the winner of each of the country's World Cup matches.
Two glass containers filled with clams and bearing the flags of Germany and its opponent are placed in the creature’s tank.
Whichever tank Paul takes the clams from first is deemed his choice for the game's victor.
So far, Paul has correctly chosen the winner of all six of Germany’s World Cup ties, including Spain in today's semifinal.
If it picks Uruguay in the third-place playoff, I’m betting my house on it.