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When Barcelona stars delivered Real joy

From top, the Moses Mabhida Stadium looks like a hollowed dinosaur whose spine is the arch linking two ends. At a setting reminiscent of a relic, did Spain finally bury an age-old feud when Iker Casillas jumped on Carles Puyol to celebrate the goal that took them to the final?

sports Updated: Jul 09, 2010 00:15 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

From top, the Moses Mabhida Stadium looks like a hollowed dinosaur whose spine is the arch linking two ends. At a setting reminiscent of a relic, did Spain finally bury an age-old feud when Iker Casillas jumped on Carles Puyol to celebrate the goal that took them to the final?

It seemed so in that spontaneous expression of joy.

The journey to Spain’s first match at Soccer City — bizarrely, they wouldn’t have played at that fabulous amphitheatre had they not been worthy of a final appearance — hit a pothole here against Switzerland but since, La Roja have been a fine blend of Madrid and Barcelona, who for long have been on different sides of a historical divide.

One that was nicely summed up by the skipper embracing his central defender.

Before Puyol powerfully headed Spain in front, his third goal in 89 internationals, it was Casillas who kept them in the game with a superb reflex save off Toni Kroos. And Saint Iker, which is how some refer to Casillas, saved a penalty against Paraguay.

“I am really happy for him (Puyol),” said Casillas. “He is a huge player and has played some great football for Spain over the years. Today (Wednesday), he was the man who helped us create history.”

“We have master players, seven players from Barcelona and three from Real… It gives you an idea of what Spanish football is,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said.

Puyol felt this was the most complete game Spain played here.

“We had already made history, but this is really making history. This is incredible. It is hard to get here but

Spain deserve it. We have worked very hard since Euro 2008. We want to be champions,” he said.

The goal was created and executed by the Barcelona trio of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Puyol.

Iniesta won the corner, which was driven goalwards by Xavi and fired home in a manner typical of a centre-back by Puyol. And Spain play like Barcelona, controlling the game by keeping the ball and threading a fine sequence of passes often in the front third.

With seven players from one club on each roster, this game had the look of a European night.

Some of the seven from Bayern Munich will be part of the nucleus of a new German football as coach Joachim Loew said.

The task for those from Barcelona is more immediate. Such as being the first team ever to win the World Cup after losing the opener.

“Football is the locomotive for all sport (in Spain),” Del Bosque said.

Never before has La Roja had such a chance to keep that chugging.

And if it happens on Sunday, it will be exactly one week after the resurgence of Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon.