Germany and Spain go head-to-head in the second Semi Final of the World Cup in what is quite possibly the most anticipated match of the tournament, and a rematch of the Final at Euro 2008, which Spain won 1-0.
Germany vs. Spain
Die Mannschaft have scored more goals than any other team in this tournament, while Spain have had more possession than any other team, meaning that this game could be a classic.
Germany: How They Got There, Form PLD-5 W-4 D-0 L-1 GOALS F-13 A-2
Die Mannschaft came through World Cup qualification unbeaten, having pulled off a real coup by beating Russia both home and away.
The nucleus of this current team comes from two different but combined parts, Bayern Munich and their highly successful U-21 team.
Joachim Loew has built a side that possesses all the old German tools of pragmatism, organisation, and functionality.
However, this time around he has built upon previous German manager Jurgen Klinsmann's attacking policies and instilled a certain flair that past sides have never had.
He has also rejuvenated the squad by bringing in some much needed youth, making this current squad the youngest German team since 1930.
They use a highly flexible and mobile 4-5-1 formation which can become a 4-3-3 as quick as a flash, and is one of their main weapons when counter attacking at speed.
Thomas Muller and Lukas Podolski provide the pace and power on the flanks, although the free scoring Muller will be suspended for the clash against Spain.
His replacement will shape the rest of the team, as there is no direct cover for him. Marko Marin, or possibly Cacau may come in.
Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Mesuit Ozil form the central partnership, and are the axis upon which Germany turn.
They cover for each other and work in telepathic tandem and provide the team with a great energy as they attack and defend as a unit.
vs. Australia 4-0, vs. Serbia 0-1, vs. Ghana 1-0.
vs. England 4-1
vs. Argentina 4-0
Key Player: Bastian Schweinsteiger
While players like Ozil and Muller claim most of the plaudits, the foundation for all that is good about Germany is the Bayern Munich midfielder.
Since converting inside from the right, Schweinsteiger has been a revelation and a real throwback to the days of old when a midfielder was expected to help out in every department.
Physically imposing, a great passer, and extremely comfortable in the tackle, Schweinsteiger is the key to locking up Spain's incredibly creative midfield whilst creating the platform for Germany's many attacking talents.
The Key to Beating Spain:
There are a number of ways to get at this current Spain side, although winning the ball from the best passing team in the world is no easy feat.
The current set up used by Vicente Del Bosque is very narrow and really needs the two marauding fullbacks, Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevilla, to provide the width in attack.
As they push on, they will inevitably leave gaps that powerful runners like Podolski and Ozil can expose.
This leaves them with one-on-one situations on both Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, neither of whom are the happiest when players are running straight at them.
Miroslav Klose could provide the key all by himself, as La Roja's two centre halves are both weak in the air and crumble under set-pieces. So if Germany can get the ball into dangerous areas, they can capitalise.
Playing through midfield is not really an option. Spain will do all of their best work in the engine room where players like Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Alonso, and most probably Cesc Fabregas or Pedro will lie in wait.
The problem with playing with five central midfielders is that they will invariably take up similar positions, making them narrow in midfield where two or possibly three German players will be able to mark the spaces with ease.
Paraguay showed the way to play against Spain for almost 60 minutes before their exertions caught up with them, and it is very likely that Germany will push up as high as possible, while defending as deep as possible, and try to get Spain to make mistakes when clearing from defence.
Joachim Low, Germany coach
“Spain are the favourites to my mind, and their team play is just amazing. They don’t have one Messi, they have several, and they don’t make many mistakes, either, unlike England and Argentina. We need to force them to make errors.”
Spain: How They Got There, Form PLD-5 W-4 D-0 L-1 GOALS F-6 A-2
Somewhat ominously, Spain qualified with a perfect 100 percent record in Group 5 of European qualification where they won 10 from 10 games.
Between 2007 and the start of the World Cup, Spain only lost one game from 46 and that was against the United States in the 2009 Confederations Cup.
Hopes were high for a continuation of this kind of form in South Africa, until an opening day defeat to Switzerland.
Since then, they have failed to catch fire and have moved to the Semi Finals without ever really getting out of second gear.
However, the absolute faith they have shown in their fluid passing game is what has got them this far in the tournament.
Vicente Del Bosque started the competition with a 4-4-2, then changed to 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1, 4-1-3-2, and 4-3-3 before finally settling on a 4-2-2-2 of sorts with David Villa moving out to the left wing.
This has reaped huge dividends for the new Barcelona striker as he has scored five goals in five games. However, Fernando Torres has found the going very difficult and has yet to achieve five shots on target.
It is now very likely that the misfiring Liverpool striker will find himself on the bench for the clash with Germany as Cesc Fabregas comes in to midfield, if he recovers from injury. What all that means is that David Villa will play through the centre as a lone striker while Fabregas or Pedro and Iniesta find themselves out wide.
vs. Switzerland 0-1, vs. Honduras 2-0, vs. Chile 2-1.
vs. Portugal 1-0.
vs. Paraguay 1-0.
Key Player: David Villa
There really is only one Spanish player who has hit all the right notes in this tournament, and that is Barcelona's David Villa. How Joan Laporta must be delighted with signing the player for just £34million before the tournament!
Comfortable in a more conventional central role or out on the left, the best striker in the world is in the form of his life with five goals in five games.
Villa is such a flexible player that Spain can change their tactics and he will adapt to any situation without even missing a stride and still be lethal when the need arises.
Germany will have to make special plans to contain him and Schweinsteiger's positioning in midfield is the key to unlocking Germany's defence.
The Key to Beating Germany:
Joachim Loew's side are one of the most organised outfits in the tournament. Midfield and attack are where their strengths lie, but they are vulnerable at the back.
Schweinsteiger provides the main defensive cover in front of Freidrich and Mertesecker and it is imperative that this invisible wall is moved to allow David Villa the chance at turning either of the giant defenders.
If the Bayern Munich man can be maneuvered out of position, then gaps will open for Fabregas, Iniesta, and Xavi to move into.
Neither of Germany's centre halves are comfortable on the half turn, hence Loew's decision to play deep, but if a player like Villa or Torres can gain half a yard on them, it will be enough for a goal scoring opportunity.
Jerome Boateng is a weak point at left full; he is obviously uncomfortable on his left foot, and continuously turns inside when on the ball.
If Spain can press him to come infield where their ample midfield await, then they will pick up on loose balls.
His pace is also questionable, and Del Bosque will have to debate long and hard as to whether he will go with Torres, Fabregas, or a winger like Navas or David Silva.
At the other end, it is highly important that Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets cut off the supply lines to Ozil and Podolski. This will also have the after effect of negating Miroslav Klose's influence on the game.
Vicente Del Bosque, Spanish Coach
“They (Germany) recently set out to change a [style of] football which appeared to be worn out and tired. They have managed to refresh the team since the Euros, and the proof of that is in their showings here. They have got a great group together."
Spain and Germany have played each other three times in World Cup history with La Roja yet to register a win. It will be a great psychological boost to the players of Die Mannschaft as they take on the favourites.
On top of that, the defeat they suffered at Spanish hands in Euro 2008 still rankles and the wild celebrations as the Spaniards' conga interrupted Bastian Schweinsteiger's post-match interview is still a sore point.
For Spain, one monkey is already off their back: This is the first time they have ever reached a World Cup Semi Final. The problem facing La Roja is that they have yet to hit top form and their manager has chopped and changed in an effort at finding that "X factor."
Spain are slight favourites for the clash, although on form, one would have to suggest Germany. How they deal with Thomas Muller's absence will be key to their attacking prowess, while how Vicente Del Bosque deals with Fernando Torres will be key for Spain.
The key to winning this match lies with the managers and how they approach the final. So far, Loew has not had to make many changes, while Del Bosque has made many.
Against Paraguay he may have found his best XI. If he sticks with it, Spain could win.
The head says Spain, but the heart says Germany...