Ger­mans want re­venge, Spa­niards a ti­tle

Fi­nal-like matchup fea­tures re­match of Spain’s win in ’08 Euro­pean fi­nal

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Nancy Ar­mour

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.

Themba Hadebe

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