Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Semifinal Preview #2

Los Peñajara, who haven't run in Pamplona since 1998 kicked off the second day of the San Fermín festival. A clean run with very minimal injuries kicked off a day which everyone hopes will end with the ceremonial death of their counterparts (see the entire run here). A couple thousand miles to the south, another Spanish fury is readying themselves for the "game of their lives" as one Spanish newspaper put it. In their way stand the Germans - a historical clinic in efficiency - who have lit up some of the world's best so far. Don't expect a repeat of the Euro 2008 final which saw the Spaniards suffocate their opponents with a score of 1-0.

Spain still have yet to reach their peak. Loads of possession aside, the crisp passing and movement has been lacking. As have the goals...  If Spain want to make it through this round they must find other means of scoring aside from Villa. Which brings us to the biggest question of all: to start Torres or not to start him? If you ask me, I say bench him. Just because the team has continued to win, they've done so with defense against teams that lack real scoring threats (sorry Portugal but when you play like shit, you count as one of these teams). Sure Fabregas is not 100% after getting hurt in practice, but it's a risk worth taking when a place in the World Cup final is on the line. I've lost faith in Torres. Every coach will tell you to keep shooting and eventually goals will El Nino's case, though, that has yet materialize. Why not give Llorente a run out? Every second he's played this tournament has been absolutely flawless - holding up the ball while also finding space to make runs in the box. And he uses his size and power much to his advantage.

As for Germany, I could wax poetic about this team for hours but I'll keep it brief. The loss of Mueller to a TERRIBLE yellow card will have a big effect. This has been a team effort with individuals making plays for the next guy. They have operated as a coherent, single unit in the way they have ripped teams to shreds. Putting a new guy in there, whether Toni Kroos or Piotr Trochowski, will add a fresh face that is also quite raw. Add to that the fact that they will have minimal possession making every offensive push that much more important, could make the whole thing really problematic.

Match-ups to look out for:  Sergio Busquets will need the game of his life to try and slow down Schweinsteiger. As will Puyol and Pique at the back facing Klose and the rest of the German attack. On the flip side, Khedira has been good...but not great. When the best midfield on the planet comes your way, just being good won't cut it. 

This German team is young, quick, creative, and ruthless. However, they have yet to encounter a worthy opponent until now. Spain will control the ball for most of the game and will have must more experience and confidence to break down this young side. Also in Spain's favor is the fact that the Germans won't sit back. They will attack every chance they get leaving plenty of space all over the field for an open, flowing game. I think this team is just 4 years early for a World Cup title. Spain to march on to the final 3-1.

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