Germans want revenge, Spaniards a title
Final-like matchup features rematch of Spain’s win in ’08 European final
DURBAN, South Africa — The reigning European champion vs. the runner-up. One of the top scorers at this World Cup vs. No. 2 on the all-time list. The most dynamic team at this tournament vs. a squad due to show its full brilliance. A three-time champion vs. a team craving its first title.
Sounds like a great World Cup final.
Too bad it’ll be the semifinals when Germany and Spain square off today. The winner will play Netherlands in Sunday’s championship match.
“This would have been a great final, actually,” Germany’s Lukas Podolski said Tuesday night. “We want revenge for 2008. We still think about that defeat, and it still hurts.”
Spain has lost all of two games since November 2006, and it ended a 44-year major title drought when it beat Germany to win the European Championship in 2008. David Villa shares the scoring lead at this World Cup with Wesley Sneijder (five goals), and the Spanish defense hasn’t allowed a goal in the knockout stage.
“I said before that Spain is the team with the best organization, with the best attacking power, with the best firepower,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “They’ve been together for a very long time, also. They know each other inside out.”
Germany, meanwhile, made old rivals England and Argentina look downright silly in their knockout-round games, routing them by a combined score of 8-1. Miroslav Klose has regained his old form and moved into a tie with Gerd Mueller for second place on the all-time scoring list.
But it’s not just the stats that Spain’s David Villa, bottom left, starts celebrating after his goal against Paraguay on Saturday with Cesc Fabregas. Villa shares the tournament scoring lead with five goals. make this such a tantalizing matchup. Few teams can keep up when Germany and Spain are at their best.
“I don’t think there are favorites at this stage,” Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta said. “What they say about us, we can also say the same thing about them.”
Loew has remade his team since that Euro 2008 loss, bringing in young players such as Mesut Oezil, Sami Khedira and Thomas Mueller who have given Germany the speed and sharpness it lacked. Despite their youth — with an average age under 25, this is the second-youngest team Germany has ever sent to a World Cup — the Germans are playing with discipline and a seamless chemistry that makes their plays unfold like a symphony.
Their spacing in the midfield is awe-inspiring, their passing so exquisite it almost looks as if the ball is on an invisible wire from one player’s foot to another’s.
“It’s probably the most complete team in the World Cup,” backup Spain goalkeeper Pepe Reina said of Germany.