The curse of Argentina continues. Like in 2006, Germany beat them only to exit in the next round. Spain and Holland will in play the final of Africa’s first World Cup, one that will have a new champion.
On Wednesday, there was none of the early fizz associated with Germany so far. Spain, it seemed, deserved much more respect than England and Argentina, whom they had attacked into submission. No team has scored as many in this World Cup but at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, Germany sat back for most of the second semi-final, concentrating on trying to deny Spain space. And, to a team, they did it with the same discipline that defines their football.
Till the 73rd minute that is. Leaving Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique unmarked while Xavi took a corner, was a rare blemish. And they paid dearly with Puyol heading home what would be the eventual winner.
Bastian Schweinsteiger led Germany’s defensive operations with another standout show. Always close to the ball when Spain had it, he won most midfield duels. When Toni Kroos mispassed and Andres Iniesta was free, Schweinsteiger made an important interception. His stumbling on Puyol while lining up a shot could have been the equaliser that wasn’t. He left the pitch last, head bowed.
With Per Mertesacker anchoring the backline and Lukas Podolski curbing forward movements — he had tracked back with Sergio Ramos to try and deny the Spain full back from getting to Xavi Alonso’s diagonal pass — Germany held firm even though Spain had maximum possession.
Xavi Alonso went wide twice soon after the breather before Xavi set up David Villa, who had threatened early in the first half, slipping in between the German central defenders. Then, Villa was denied by Manuel Neuer. Soon after, Iniesta agonised that Villa wasn’t as tall as Peter Crouch seeing his pass run across goal.
The teams exchanged their first corner-kicks within three minutes of each other, but Gerard Pique’s clearance following a Phlipp Lahm break down the right was the first time Germany, who have scored early against Australia, England and Argentina, had moved up.
And barring saving a low drive from Piotr Trochowski, who played for the suspended Thomas Mueller, Spain skipper Iker Casillas didn’t have much to do in the first half. Germany’s best chance came in the form of a Toni Kroos effort from close, but he only managed to direct it straight at the keeper.