Thursday, July 8, 2010

World Cup 2010: Germany Klose But No Cigar as Spain's Puyol Becomes Durban Legend

A Carles Puyol bullet header 17 minutes from time was enough to see off Germany in Durban last night as Spain beat Joachim Loew's side 1-0. The narrow scoreline belied the truth behind the game though as La Roja dominated from start to finish and were far superior than their free scoring opponents.
Spain controlled the game from start to finish as the game proved to be a bridge too far for Joachim Loew's young side. The inexperience on show came to the fore as La Roja knocked the ball around with ease, keeping possession for long periods as Die Mannschaft chased shadows.

The faith that Spain have shown in their style and system has been one of the great points of this world cup as they have never looked like panicking and continuously probe in search for signs of weakness they can exploit.
Even though they have won their last three World Cup games 1-0, the manner of the victories are telling as la Roja have been dominant throughout, never losing their discipline, shape, or faith.
The win means that Spain will meet Holland on Sunday in the World Cup Final where a new name will be inscribed on the trophy.
For their part, Germany never really got to grips with the Spanish midfield, who dictated the flow of the game, and were kept at arms length throughout. Their inexperience was cruelly exploited by Spain as they zipped the ball around with relative ease. The end result meant that Germany looked like they were standing off their opponents when in reality they just couldn't get close enough.
When they eventually did manage to close down Spain, they did it in the wrong areas of the pitch or managed it individually instead of as a team and Spain easily found a way out of the trap on show.
When closing down it must be done with a minimum of two players who act as if an invisible string is connected between them, that string never stretches or relaxes and the end result is a tandem effect that can swing and cover each other.
However, the way Spain move the ball around so quickly made it practically impossible for Germany to even get close to them and attacking players like Ozil and Khedira just drifted out of the game completely.
Spain dominated the first half but as Germany looked shell-shocked but as La Roja struggled to create clear cut chances, their confidence grew.
Germany should have been awarded a penalty against the run of play when Sergio Ramos clipped the back of Ozil's knee as he raced into the box but strangely the referee waved play on.
The second half was a carbon copy of the first as Spain expertly kept Germany at arms length as they looked for any sign of weakness and they too should have had a penalty when Sergio Ramos was brought down by Lukas Podolski.
Perhaps the referee was evening out his earlier decision? Whichever way you look at it, the standard of refereeing in this tournament has been far below the standard expected. One must wonder if FIFA are purposely setting out to undermine the game by bringing in officials from footballing backwaters and then not allowing video evidence. You have to ask, "Are they going out of their way to facilitate the controversy on show?"
As Spain pushed in search of that illusive goal, a rare German break away almost brought them to their knees as Podolski found substitute Toni Kroos free in the box about eight yards from goal but his tame effort was easily parried by Iker Casillas.
It forced La Roja to double their efforts and minutes later they took the lead as Puyol made a mockery of Loew's zonal marking system by arriving late in the box and out jumping four German defenders.
The power of his header left Manuel Neuer rooted to the spot as the ball tore into the net, just rewards for one of the great servants of the game and for a team who never lost their discipline.
Spain then had the chance to kill off the game as Pedro broke into the box with only one man to beat as Fernando Torres stood free in acres of space screaming for a pass—that never came, the Barcelona youth stumbling over the ball when he really should have passed the ball.
One great honour for Barcelona is that they have seven players in the Spanish starting XI last night. It wasn't a World Cup record though as Uruguay fielded eight players from Nacional in 1970 and Russia used eight players from Dynamo Kiev in 1986.
The record for the most players in a final is six and is held jointly by Italy, 1982 (Juventus), and Germany 1974 (Bayern Munich).
For English and Argentinean fans, the result is quite sobering as Germany outclassed the two previous champions in the Last-16 and quarter-finals respectively. Tonight, Spain were head and shoulders above Germany in every aspect of the game, collectively, individually, technically, and physically.
The great irony of the result means that Spain will play Netherlands on Sunday.
Spain's footballing style is based upon the Barcelona system, which is in turn based upon the Ajax school of football which was brought to the Catalan club by Dutch legends Johann Cruyff and Louis van Gaal.
Whereas Holland have moved away from their traditional style to a German functional and pragmatic system, just as the German's are abandoning it for the Spanish system.
Roll on the final on Sunday.