Spain 1-0 Germany
Attendance – 60, 960
Spain won their third straight game 1-0 as they reached their first ever World Cup final, where Holland stand in their way. An intriguing match-up saw the Spanish control possession once more, yet for all their delicate interchanges, it was a towering header from an orthodox corner by centre-back Carlos Puyol that sealed their victory.
The right team won on the night, as Germany failed to continue their counter-attacking style of play displayed so impressively in previous matches. Spain were still short of their best, but tactically got it spot on. They distinguished any German forays forward with a disciplined defensive performance, which limited Germany to very few attempts on goal, and retained possession in predictably astute fashion.
Although clear cut chances were few and far between, it was Spain who always looked the most likely team to score. Puyol had an easier opportunity to score in the first half, but directed his diving header over the crossbar and the lively Pedro Rodriguez saw a shot well saved by Manuel Neuer. Germany’s only clear cut chance of the game fell to substitute, Toni Kroos, who rather scuffed his half-volleyed attempt enabling Iker Casillas to parry to safety.
As many had expected, Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque finally elected to drop his misfiring striker Fernando Torres to the bench, but struck a surprise by naming Barcelona forward Pedro as his replacement. Germany boss Joachim Loew picked Piotr Trochowski to fill in for the suspended Thomas Muller; in what was otherwise an unchanged line-up.
Spain began the brighter of the two teams and immediately moved the ball around the midfield gracefully, reluctant to give it back anytime soon. The first opportunity was created by Pedro for soon to be Barcelona team-mate David Villa, his sliding pass enabled Villa to strike on goal, but Neuer was quick off his line to thwart the in-form striker.
The roaming Andres Iniesta pulled over to the right-hand side temporarily, and in doing so created a good chance for Puyol. A short corner was taken, leading to Iniesta firmly delivering a cross from the right wing, which Puyol met with a diving header, but failed to keep down as it sailed over the crossbar.
Carlos Puyol heads over
A cautious German approach was playing into Spain’s hands, as possession was too often conceded back to the Spanish team. It took 32 minutes for Germany to really test Casillas, with Trochowski firing a low shot that needed tipping around the post. You sensed that Germany were waiting for their opportunity to pounce, but worryingly for them, Spain looked comfortable in dealing with their threat up until now.
There was a shaky moment for the Spanish defence however, in first half stoppage time Mesut Ozil broke forward dangerously and tumbled under the challenge of Sergio Ramos upon entering the penalty area, minimal contact was made, but Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai wasn’t interested.
The second half began in replicating fashion, although Spain began to pepper the German goal with greater consistency. Consecutive drives from the impressive Xabi Alonso had Neuer at full stretch, but both flashed narrowly wide.
Spain stepped up another gear as they created more chances. First, Villa curled an effort from the edge of the box that flew just wide, before he agonisingly failed to connect with Iniesta’s inviting ball across the face of goal. Moments before, Pedro saw his shot well saved down low by Neuer, as the pressure was mounting on the German defence.
David Villa despairingly misses Iniesta’s cross
Just as it appeared that Spain were likely to make the all important breakthrough, Germany created their best opening of the match. Lucas Podolski did well down the left to cross for the un-marked substitute Toni Kroos, but he scuffed his half-volleyed attempt straight at Casillas, who palmed it away comfortably.
Toni Kroos sees his golden opportunity saved
The Bayern Munich youngster was made to rue his glorious opportunity, as the killer blow came just four minutes later. Deciding against the often wasteful option of taking a corner short, Xavi elected to cross into the box, and what a decision that proved to be. His set-piece was met wonderfully by Puyol with a powerful header directed perfectly, just beyond the outstretched hand of Neuer, as Spain finally got their noses in front.
Carlos Puyol powers in the winner
Germany threw on striker Mario Gomez in place of Sami Khedira as they chased an equaliser, whilst Spain swapped Villa for Torres. The Germans struggled to penetrate the Spanish backline, with several crosses lapped up appreciably by Puyol and Pique.
The game should have been put out of reach for Germany with eight minutes remaining, Pedro broke clear with only one defender to beat and a pleading, goalless Torres waiting to his left for a much needed tap-in. The young Barcelona man instead elected to twist and turn and neither shoot himself or play in the agitated Torres as the golden chance vanished.
It was not to matter though, as Spain successfully played out the final throes and will now look forward to a historic final against Holland, in which a new winner will be crowned, joining the seven other nations to lift the famous trophy.
Spanish team-mates congratulate match-winner Puyol
Spain – Casillas, Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila, Busquets, Alonso (Marchena, 90+3), Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro (Silva, 85), Villa (Torres, 81)
Booked – No Player Booked
Germany – Neuer, Lahm, Mertesacker, Freidrich, Boateng (Jansen, 52), Khedira (Gomez, 80), Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Trochowski (Kroos, 62), Podolski, Klose
Booked – No Player Booked