Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Por La Final

Complete domination. There's no other way to put it. For starters, I was completely wrong in assuming this wouldn't be a repeat of the Euro Cup Final. It ended up being more or less the same exact thing! Same scoreline. Same mammoth possession for the Spanish. Same German tactics to sit back and absorb pressure rather than pressing and giving little time for their opponents to operate. And go figure, the goal that did it wasn't a smooth pass, a quick 1-2, nor any form of art that we would expect from Spain. Instead we got a powerful header from the rock at the back off of a corner kick - perhaps the most UN-Spanish way you'll ever see them score.

I'm a bit disappointed with how the Germans approached this game. In the back of my mind I knew the Germans were nothing like Paraguay or Portugal - they don't have the same willingness to press the ball when the opponents hold possession. But the only way to beat Spain is to take them out of their comfort zone, even if that means taking yourself out in the process. They didn't. And they put the outcome in the hands of their mental game rather than their skillful and attacking game which tore apart England and Argentina.

The goal was a perfect example of this. Spain played short corner after short corner all night. As a result, extra German players were pulled out of the box to defend against it. In their minds, they had no reason to expect Spain to play corners into the box with all their smurf-like players pitted against stronger, more physical guys. What happened? That exact thing. Puyol had about 15 yards to run up and strike that ball with his head, as 3 Germans defended Xavi, who took the corner, and Iniesta who stood near him. Germany, like many other teams who take this approach against Spain, were ultimately outsmarted and gave themselves no real bright spots to look back on. Yeh they defended bravely for most of the match and squandered some chances - especially Kroos who had a gaping net and struck the ball right at Casillas late in the second half. But in the end, Germany didn't appear like they wanted the ball and when they had it they usually coughed it up rather quickly. That's not the kind of attitude needed to win a World Cup semifinal

There's also something to be said about some of the new faces. Pedro was of course his refusal to pass the ball to Torres at the end of the game prompting his substitution for David Silva. But the rest of his game was stellar. Why all the guys in the studio thought of him as the fifth midfielder is beyond me. He's a forward. He moves like one, he shoots like one, and he plays like one. He created chances for both himself and others - and for that reason it was the right move to play him over Torres. As for the absence of Mueller, I really don't think it made any difference whatsoever. Trochowski wasn't all that bad nor was his replacement. Mueller would have provided a familiar face, but surely he is not the player to have dispossessed Iniesta or Capdevila - he would have sat back and defended with everyone else.

What we saw was a clinic. Much like we've seen from this Spanish team who now pushes their record to 42-2-10 in their last 54 games. It's quite easy to beat them in that they only play one way. As an opponent, you know EXACTLY what is going to happen. That they have dominated still, is a testament to their style of play and their confidence that it will give them a chance to win every time no matter the opponent.

Come Sunday, 7 will become 8 as FIFA crown a brand spankin' new World Cup champion. It's really hard to doubt these Spaniards right now.

(photo courtesy of Marca)

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