World Cup 2010 Semi Final (Wednesday 7th July 2010, K.O. 19:30 BST)
Venue: Durban Stadium
Conditions: Cloudy and damp. Temp: 18c, Wind 1.3m/s
Spain: 1 (Puyol 73)
Germany: Neuer, Friedrich, Lahm (C), Mertesacker, Boateng (Jansen 52), Khedira (Gomez 81), Trochowski (Kroos 62), Oezil, Schweinsteiger, Podolski, Klose.
Spain: Casillas (C), Capdevila, Pique, Puyol, Ramos, Alonso (Marchena 90+3), Xavi, Iniesta, Sergio, Pedro (Silva 86), Villa (Torres 81).
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)
Carles Puyol’s powerful header from a Xavi corner in the 73rd minute was the difference between Spain and Germany in a close semi final in Durban. The Barcelona defender’s third goal for his country qualified Spain for their first ever World Cup final where they will face Holland at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday evening.
Germany were forced to omit four goal hero Thomas Mueller from their squad due to his suspension for accruing two yellow cards and coach Joachim Loew opted to replace him in the starting line up with Hamburg’s Piotr Trochowski. Spain, for their part, had nobody suspended but Vicente Del Bosque also made one chance to his team, bringing in Barcelona’s Pedro for the off-form Fernando Torres. For the record, Paul the Octopus predicted a Spain win.
The first real chance came in the seventh minute when Pedro slipped the ball through for David Villa to run on to behind the German defence. Spain’s top scorer found himself one on one with Manuel Neuer but the German ‘keeper was off his line quickly to charge the down shot almost before it had left Villa’s feet. Spain enjoyed most of the possession during the first quarter of an hour and the game was largely played in the German half. They passed the ball about well and the early signs were that they would be more creative than in their previous games in this tournament. Indeed, they carved out a second good chance in the fourteenth minute when Iniesta’s cross from the right found Puyol free on the edge of the six yard box but the defender directed his header over the bar.
Piotr Trochowski was the first player to really work Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who had earlier flapped at a corner but hadn’t really been tested by the Germans. Trochowski’s low driven shot from outside the box in the 32nd minute forced him to make a diving save at his left hand post. Spain continued to control the tempo of the game but didn’t actually manage to create any more clear cut chances and right at the end of the first half it was Germany, with one of their direct counter attacking moves, who almost broke the deadlock. Mesut Oezil was bearing down on goal with only Sergio Ramos to beat when the Spanish right-back clipped his ankle right on the edge of the box. There was a big penalty shout and Ramos would surely have been dismissed had it been given, but the Hungarian referee waved play on. Television replays suggested that it was a foul, but was just outside the box, and the half ended goalless.
After a slow and uneventful start to the second half, Spain suddenly came alive around the 58th minute when they bombarded the German goal with three good chances in the space of a few seconds. Firstly a superb passing move created space for Pedro to shoot from the edge of the box and he forced a good save from Neuer. Following up, Iniesta dribbled through the box towards goal and played a low pass across the six yard box only inches in front of Villa’s desperate lunge. Spain kept on the pressure and moments later Pedro had another shot go off target. Finally Spain were making some headway and the German defence was beginning to show cracks. Another couple of Spanish half chances came and went on the next few minutes and you got the feeling they were edging closer to that elusive opening goal.
Typically, it was Germany who then created the best chance of the half thus far with yet another thrilling counter attack. Good work by Oezil down the left found Podolski free to cross from the edge of the box and his ball in was aimed towards Klose and substitute Toni Kroos who had both evaded their markers at the far post. It dropped kindly for Kroos, but his side-footed shot was comfortably saved by Casillas. That chance must have jolted Spain because a minute later they were ahead, and it wasn’t the product of a slick passing move. For once they scored a simple goal from a corner with Xavi’s kick powerfully met by Carles Puyol and headed emphatically past Neuer.
Spain withdrew David Villa from the action, presumably to rest him for the final and Germany threw on an extra striker, with G0mez replacing Khedira, but almost immediately Spain had a golden chance to win it when Pedro ran half the length of the pitch with substitute Torres to his left and only Friedrich standing in his way. He should have scored himself or teed up Torres but perhaps got caught in two minds and ended up losing the ball. He was replaced soon after by David Silva. Germany tried hard to rally but couldn’t conjure up another opportunity and Spain frustrated them with more neat passing to close out the came. Right again Paul the Octopus!