Friday, May 23, 2014

Greatest World Cup Matches: Germany-Spain (2010)

Germany is one of the giants of world football. In spite of reaching the World Cup final of 2002 and making it to the third place in 2006, they were hungering for another title when they entered the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
Surely, German football was not the same it had been in the 20th century. After the debacles at the World Cup in 1998 and the Euro in 2000, Germany had started to rebuild its youth system around more skillful players and playing a more attacking football. This had resulted in an immensely popular side at home in 2006, when they made it to the semifinals under Jurgen Klinsmann with a youthful, attacking side that in many ways came to illustrate a new, diverse and multicultural Germany. The team of 2010 was also full of young stars, such as Werder Bremen's Mezut Ozil, Stuttgart's Sami Khedira (both were soon to change to Real Madrid) or Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller. These were supplemented by other great and more experienced players such as Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phillipe Lahm and Miroslav Klose. Germany had opened by trouncing Australia 4-0 in a match where they looked as candidates for the title. Although they lost their second match to Serbia, a 1-0 victory over Ghana in the last match gave them the first spot in the group. In the next two matches Germany suddenly looked unbeatable: they first triumphed over their eternal rivals of England with a resounding 4-1 victory and then destroyed Diego Maradona's Argentina 4-0 in the quarterfinal.
Germany was ready to take on the huge favourites of Spain!
In international football Spain had historically always been a notable under-performer. With a mass of talent and some of the best clubs in the world, Spain had never reached a World Cup final and had only succeeded internationally in 2008, when they had won the European Championship by defeating exactly Germany in the final.
With the Euro title Spain entered the 2010 World Cup as huge favourites, not least because of its amazing players that had been harvested mostly from FC Barcelona's base as the best club in the world, and complemented by Real Madrid's flood of talent. Barcelona's Xavi and Andres Iniesta were surely the best midfield pair in the world. In defense Barcelona's captain Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique were complemented by Real Madrid's uncompromising Sergio Ramos, and in goal Real Madrid's Iker Casillas was definitely the best goalkeeper in the world.
Although Spain entered the tournament huge favourites, they fell in their first match against a defensive Swiss side that managed to get a 1-0 victory. This was perhaps healthy for the favourites who went on to defeat Honduras and Chile to win the group anyway. In the last-16 Spain defeated their Iberian neighbours Portugal 1-0 and in the quarterfinal had enormous difficulties defeating their former colony of Paraguay 1-0.
Still, they had made it to their first World Cup semi-final since 1950, and were eager to get into their first final ever as they were to face Germany, the most scoring team in the tournament.
While Germany were without one of the best player of the tournament, Thomas Muller, Spain were in the strongest line-up, with seven Barcelona players and three Real Madrid players on the pitch. In the first half there was the predictable passing around by the Spanish, with the Germans trying to fight their way into the match. Even though Spain seemed to be passing the ball around a lot without getting anywhere, they still had the few best chances, while Germany still felt they could win the match at the end of the first half when Mezut Ozil should have had a penalty on a challenge from Sergio Ramos.
Perhaps it was this knowledge that Spain was so dominant without getting anywhere that prompted them to put more pressure in the second half. With Xabi Alonso at center stage, balls were passed more aggressively, but with little effect. Instead, halfway through the second half the young Bayern Munich talent Toni Kroos had a good shot that was saved by Casillas, and one might feel that Germany was still in the match.
But one of the many qualities of this Spanish team was their eternal patience. At no point did it seem they got nervous about Germany's chances, but instead they kept passing the ball, looking for the opening.
And finally it came in the 73rd minute.
Barcelona's Xavi took a corner into the area where his club captain Carles Puyol headed the ball with a smash, and even though the Spanish players never looked nervous, their celebrations certainly looked as relief.
It was now Germany that looked in shock. While coach Joachim Loew made a desperate offensive change, Spain's patient possession continued. In the last minutes Spain's young Barcelona striker Pedro even missed a huge chance to make it 2-0 when he preferred to be egotistical rather than play Fernando Torres, but that was quickly forgotten when Spain emerged victorious on Puyol's goal. Spain had been superior to Germany and went on to win the World Cup final, thus sealing their position as the best team in the world.
7th July 2010
Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban
Attendance: 60,960
Referee: Viktor Kassai, Hungary

Germany: Manuel Neuer, Friedrich, Sami Khedira (Mario Gomez), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mezut Ozil, Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Piotr Trochowski (Toni Kroos), Phillip Lahm, Mertesacker, Boateng (Jansen)
Spain: Iker Casillas, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Joan Capdevilla, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso (Marchena), David Villa (Torres), Pedro (Silva)

Germany-Spain 0-1

0-1 Puyol (73)

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