What: FIFA World Cup 2010
Who: Germany vs. Spain (Semi-final)
When: Wednesday July 7, 2010, at 19:30 UK Time
Where: Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, South Africa

Out for Blood

It was nearly two years ago that Spain entered the “big dog” club, as they defeated Germany in the final of Euro 2008, held on Austrian and Swiss soil. Two years later, the Germans are out for blood as they face Spain again, this time in the semi-finals of the first World Cup to be ever held in Africa. Naturally, it does not get any better than this.

Morale is sky high in the German camp as they make their preparations for this grudge game with Spain. After topping their group, the Nationalmannschaft destroyed a side well fancied in England by four goals to one. Many expected that the annihilation of the Three Lions by Joachim Loew’s team to be nothing more than a mere fluke, but the three-time world champions retaliated by raiding another top-notch team, with the victims this time being none other than Diego Maradona’s Argentina. In this particular bout, Loew took a leaf straight out of Jose Mourinho’s book, as he instiled tactical discipline and ruthless counter-attacking to overtake the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, and Angel di Maria.

The German coach certainly believes that the same can be reproduced against Spain: “At that time (2008), they were superior, but now we are more even. We have an opportunity to beat Spain now that we are on the same level”. Miroslav Klose, just a goal away from reaching Brazilian Ronaldo’s milestone of 15 World Cup goals, recently announced that Spain are not “unstoppable”, stressing that La Roja’s weaknesses will be shown during the encounter.

Approach with Caution

Spain, on the other hand, appear to have been preparing for the match with extreme delicacy and care, having witnessed how Germany already butchered two giants in the competition so far. Should the Spanish armada fail to show up for the match, then it will be more than likely that Iker Casillas will have to fish the ball from the back of the net more than once.

The Spanish squad has been bolstered by the news that Real Madrid defender Raul Albiol is back in training, after missing through most of the tournament due to a fibula injury after a collision with Fernando Llorente. Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Ramos have both picked up knocks during the quarter-final win over Paraguay, but it is likely that the duo will be 100% fit in time for this game. The major debate around the camp centres on Fernando Torres’ inclusion in the starting eleven, with various reports claiming that the Liverpool megastar could step down in favour of a fifth addition in midfield, namely Fabregas or David Silva. These claims were further reinforced with Vicente del Bosque appearing to have finally dropped El Nino’s “untouchable” tag, perhaps finally admitting that his constant inclusion in the starting eleven is becoming a concern for the rest of the team.

Towering defender Gerard Pique believes that Germany are now the favourites to win this tie, citing their improvement over the past couple of years, as well as the integration of new, fresh blood such as Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil, and Sami Khedira as reason for the Mannschaft’s dominance so far in the tournament. It is certain that the former Manchester United player will have to be on top to stop the German assault.

Recent form

Australia 0-4 Germany (13/06; World Cup – Group D)
Germany 0-1 Serbia (18/06; World Cup – Group D)
Ghana 0-1 Germany (23/06; World Cup – Group D)
Germany 4-1 England (27/06; World Cup – Round of 16)
Argentina 0-4 Germany (03/07; World Cup – Quarter-final)

Spain 0-1 Switzerland (16/06; World Cup – Group H)
Spain 2-0 Honduras (21/06; World Cup – Group H)
Chile 1-2 Spain (25/06; World Cup – Group H)
Spain 1-0 Portugal (29/06; World Cup – Round of 16)
Paraguay 0-1 Spain (03/07; World Cup – Quarter-final)

Players to watch

Germany – Bastian Schweinsteiger: The Bayern Munich midfielder has been sublime against both England and Argentina, pulling the strings from midfield and distributing the ball well, all while being not afraid to go forward and have a shot or two. Suggested as a possible winner of the Golden Ball at the tournament’s end, it will be interesting to see how his personal duel with Xabi Alonso goes.

Spain – Sergio Ramos: Lukas Podolski and the rest of the German attacking line will be sure to exploit any gaping hole that Ramos leaves during his usual long stays in the opposition’s half. The Andalucian will need to avoid needless adventures forward, and remain near his own box, especially given the German ruthlessness on the counter-attack. While he can be a useful attacking weapon, he must not neglect his duties.

Match prediction

The Euro 2008 sequel promises to be a lot better than its original. Both teams are now superior to two years ago, and the match is likely to be one of the best in this World Cup, if not the best. Spain will probably remain truthful to their brand of football, but as has been seen so many times this year, tactical discipline has prevailed over possession football on a number of occasions. With the Germans being so effective, Spain’s backline will have to shut down their attack to win, something that will be extremely difficult for Del Bosque’s men. Expect a final score of 2-1 in favour of Germany.

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