Kick-Off: Wednesday, July 7, 20:30 CET.
Durban Stadium, Durban.
Durban Stadium, Durban.
Glory Awaits For Young Germany
The average age of the Germany team that started against Argentina in the quarter-finals of the World Cup was only 25 and this says it all. For a team as young as Germany, indeed it is an achievement in itself to have reached as far as the semi-finals of the World Cup outside of Europe.
Moreover, among the four remaining teams in South Africa, Germany have been by far the most impressive side and have also had the most difficult path to the semis. The group stage was relatively easy but England in the last 16 were a tough proposition and so were Argentina in the quarters. However, Die Mannschaft blew away both Fabio Capello's and Diego Armando Maradona's sides, scoring four against each of them. In fact, Germany have scored four goals in three different games in the World Cup so far - they started their campaign with a 4-0 hammering of Australia.
Germany's football too has been scintillating with players in every position clicking. The defence does look susceptible but with their midfielders Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger protecting the back four and also providing the impetus for attack, the 2006 World Cup semi-finalists have been hugely impressive in that area.
Two years ago Germany lost to Spain in the final of Euro 2008 and this time they will be up for revenge. Coach Joachim Loew has already thrown the gauntlet down to the European champions by saying that Germany are now on a par with Spain, and indeed given their performances so far, it would be hard to argue against that. But with key player Thomas Mueller suspensed for the game, it could be difficult for the Germans up front.
Destiny Beckons For European Champions
Spain came into the World Cup finals as one of the two outright favourites but so far they haven't really been on top of their game. Granted, since their opening game defeat to Switzerland, La Furia Roja have won every single match with striker David Villa emerging as one of the best three players of the competition, but Spain haven't really been very convincing.
Goals haven't come with ease and the midfield too has been bullied by defensive sides. Striker Fernando Torres has been woefully out of form and the defence has looked vulnerable on occasions. However, so far Spain have had to confront sides who would park the bus in front of their goal and against them Vicente del Bosque's side have struggled.
Germany will be a different proposition altogether and Spain can rest assured that they will not have to face a 'wall' at the back. But Germany will also conjure up a different type of threat altogether: a Khedira-Schweinsteiger combination in the holding role implies that Spain's only 'full-blooded defensive midfielder' Sergio Busquets could be bullied.
Yet the feeling that Spain are destined to reach the final cannot be overlooked. In Euro 2008 La Roja faced nemesis Italy in the quarter-finals and won on penalties. It was that win that thrust a sense of belief and self-conviction into them: Spain went on to win the European Championships and create history. This time too there is a sense of destiny: Spain did reach the last four in the 1950 World Cup group climax but this is the first time that they have reached the semi-final.
Furthermore, in 2008 Rafael Nadal won Wimbledon for the first time in his career whilst Spain won Euro 2008. Two years later Nadal has won Wimbledon again. This again, as some would suggest, is an omen.
July 3: Argentina 0-4 Germany (World Cup)
June 27: Germany 4-1 England (World Cup)
June 23: Ghana 0-1 Germany (World Cup)
June 18: Germany 0-1 Serbia (World Cup)
June 13: Germany 4-0 Australia (World Cup)
July 3: Paraguay 0-1 Spain (World Cup)
June 29: Spain 1-0 Portugal (World Cup)
June 25: Chile 1-2 Spain (World Cup)
June 21: Spain 2-0 Honduras (World Cup)
June 16: Spain 0-1 Switzerland (World Cup)
Coach Joachim Loew will be without the services of Thomas Mueller, who is suspended; Toni Kroos could come in for Mueller on the right. Brazil-born striker Cacau is available for the clash with Spain, although he has been struggling with an injury lately. Midfielder Sami Khedira too has been struggling with a thigh problem, but he will make the start against the European champions on Wednesday.
Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Friedrich, Mertesacker, Boateng; Khedira, Schweinsteiger; Kroos, Oezil, Podolski; Klose
Centre-back Raul Albiol is still injured and will sit out the match against Germany. Other than that, there are no problems for coach Vicente del Bosque. However, the former Real Madrid trainer will have to make the tough decision of dropping Fernando Torres from the starting line-up. The Liverpool striker has been in disappointing form in the World Cup and is expected to be replaced by either David Silva or Cesc Fabregas.
Probable Line-up (4-2-3-1): Casillas, Ramos, Pique, Puyol, Capdevila; Busquets, Alonso; Iniesta, Xavi, Silva; Villa
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
The 25-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder was chosen as Goal.com's Player of the Week ahead of the Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder and Spain's David Villa for his Colossus-like performance against Argentina, a match in which Germany did everything right from start to finish and won 4-0.
Schweinsteiger, placed 143rd in Castrol Rankings, is a complete midfielder who can combine defensive ability with forward pushes. With Spain lacking a truly world class defensive midfielder who can break the opposition's moves single-handedly, the Real Madrid target will be eager to dominate the midfield and bully and overrun the opposition in the middle of the park.
David Villa (Spain)
There is no doubt that the newly signed Barcelona striker has been the best and most crucial player for the European champions in the World Cup. Villa, placed ninth in the Castrol Rankings, has scored five goals and is the tournament's top goalscorer; he also set up Spain's only other goal in the competition. The former Valencia forward's runs and ability to shoot from everywhere will come in handy as the German defence is susceptible against fast-running world class forwards.
It will be a very closely contested match and the key factor will be the first goal. If Spain concede first, then there will be a danger of them failing to bounce back as Germany are stronger and play with more pace.
The Castrol World Cup match predictor gives Spain a 60% chance of winning the match while Germany are given 40%. Indeed, it is a very tight call to make and with the 'curse of Pele' hanging over Vicente del Bosque's side, they will have to encounter an 'external factor' as well. However, the European champions should just edge past the Germans.
Germany 0-1 Spain
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Who will come out on top? Check out Castrol Football's 2010 World Cup Match Predictor.