Carles Puyol scores the game winner for Spain!
Looking at my predictions, I just can’t seem to ever get more than 50% correct (except in the round of 16, I went 5-3). An octopus is better at predicting the winner’s than I am! While my prediction for the Spain-Germany game turned out to be incorrect, the team I wanted to win took care of business. The unlikely goal scorer, Carles Puyol, was an injury doubt but had a massive game in defense and his header in the 73rd minute propelled Spain to its first ever World Cup final.
The win was a workman like effort for Spain. Unlike what I predicted, Spain was the better team in this game. They dominated possession and kept the Germans from counterattacking the way they did against Argentina and England. Vicente Del Bosque benched Fernando Torres in favor of Pedro, who was deployed on the wing opposite Andrés Iniesta. This turned out to be a smart move, as Pedro played much better than Torres has been playing. Pedro had some chances, but did make a mistake in not passing the ball to an open Torres for a game clinching goal. Clearly Cesc Fábregas must not have been completely healthy, as he did not feature in the game at all. He would have been the logical choice to replace Torres in the starting eleven if he had been able to go.
An interesting match-up took place between Iniesta and Jerome Boateng. Boateng was clearly out of his depth against the Spanish right-side of Iniesta and Sergio Ramos. Ramos and Iniesta continually made overlapping runs in attack with Iniesta pinching into the center of the field as Ramos streaked down the touchline. From very early in the game, Ramos was extremely high in the attacking zone. Joachim Löw attempted to protect Boateng in the first half by switching him to the right back position, only to have Iniesta follow him across the field. It took Löw until the 51st minute to realize that Boateng was over matched and make a substitution. Why Löw waited this long is anybody’s guess. If he was thinking of making a change it should have been made at half time.
On the whole, the German team just did not look like the same team that scorched both Argentina and England. For the first time since the loss to Serbia in the opening round, Germany looked like a team that didn’t know what to do. Perhaps it was their youth running up against a more experienced Spanish team. Or perhaps Germany missed Thomas Müller more than anyone could have expected. Müller’s replacement, Piotr Trochowski,didn’t play up to his level. Mesut Özil, who received a lot of attention after his performances in the early rounds, just couldn’t get anything going against the Spanish defense making Müller’s absence all the more glaring. Without Müller, Germany was out shot 13 (5 on goal) – 5 (2). You just aren’t going to win many games like that, especially against a team the caliber of Spain.
The final between the Netherlands and Spain should be fun to watch (I intend to post an in-depth preview closer to the game) and will come with some added drama as we will have a first-time winner of the World Cup. Spain or the Netherlands will become just the 8th team to win the tournament. This stat is incredible, given that this is the 19th World Cup. Whether the Dutch or the Spanish win, the winner will become the first first-time winner since France in 1998. The last team to win their first World Cup prior to that was Argentina in 1978 (against the Dutch).
Third Place Game (Saturday July 10 at 2:30pm Eastern) – Very briefly, I wanted to discuss the third place game between Germany and Uruguay. I think this game should be fun to watch, as both teams possess top class attacking talent. Luis Suárez will be back from his red card for Uruguay and will likely pair up top with the ever-present, Diego Forlán. Müller will also return from suspension for Germany. With Lukas Podolski, Özil and Müller reunited behind Miroslav Klose, Germany should make a return to the attacking form that made them so fun to watch earlier in the tournament. Ultimately, Germany just has more talent than Uruguay at virtually every position. It would take a massive game from Suárez and Forlán for Uruguay to win. Germany wins this game to finish 3rd for the second straight World Cup.