2010 FIFA World Cup: Semifinals Observations, Part II

Some random observations after the Semifinals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup:

Germany 0-1 Spain: The Goal Hungry vs. The Smooth Operators. For the first time, the goalless Fernando Torres starts the game on the bench, with Pedro coming in as a withdrawn forward on the left linking up with David Villa up top as the target man. As usual, slow, steady passing buildup by Spain, dominating possession, switching play, controlling width, and patiently looking for holes in the German midfield and backline. Germany uncharacteristically spent the first part of the game on their backheels as Spain forced play in the German half. After 15 minutes of struggling to get the ball, Germany got a little more adventuresome, using their aerial advantage and taking good set pieces. Despite the controversy surrounding Torres’ benching, Pedro did a great job of creatively getting through balls and one-touch passes to Villa. For the most part, though, Germany did a great job of keeping somebody in front of Villa so that he could not get a quality shot off. Very clean game, with hardly any fouls; both sides relied more on ball skills and positive attacking quality and defensive intuitiveness than force and brute strength. After the half Pedro moved to the right side as the forward link up with right fullback Sergio Ramos to take advantage of the limited ball skills of left fullback Jerome Boateng, and Spain began to stretch the game offensively on their right, providing better service into the box. To counter this, German coach Joachim Loew brought in Marcell Jansen, a stronger right back, to replace Boateng. So much unrelenting possession by Spain kept defensive midfielders Sami Khadira and Bastien Schweinsteiger from going forward in attack, and without Tomas Mueller the German attack missed the attacking orchestration. You just got a sense as much as the German penalty area was under siege that Spain was going to score sooner or later. They got it in the 73rd minute on a corner kick from a scoring header by Carles Puyol. For the first time in this World Cup Germany played in a panic, predictably loosening up and sending players forward in numbers. A much better showing in this tournament by Germany than most people thought they’d have. They are a young team and in the end it mattered against the poise and maturity of Spain. But German fans have a lot to look forward to; in Mueller and Oezil they have a star-quality foundation to build from in the future that will carry them to hardware. Spain finally goes to the World Cup Final they so desperately thought they deserved for decades. This Sunday a new world champion will be crowned for their first time, and either Spain or the Netherlands will join an exclusive club as football’s 8th to lift that 13-pound golden trophy.