Spanish Flyers

2010-07-08 00:00

IT turns out the octopus was right after all. Germany, as it predicted, were knocked out of the World Cup by a sole Spanish goal at the Moses Mabhida Stadium last night.

Denied the space and time to operate, the young German team were given few chances by a Spanish side fully intent on wrestling a massive gorilla of under-achievement off their backs.

In a first period of few chances, a pitch invader in the third minute had the clearest sight of his target, and even he was snaffled up by the rush defence.

Madness aside, both Spain and Germany spent the first half feeling each other out, with the odd break threatening to bring the game to life.

David Villa, in blistering form all tournament, very nearly opened the scoring in the 6th minute.

Latching on to a sneaky through ball by the peerless Xavi, the Spanish spearhead was only stopped by an alert Manuel Neuer moving off his line.

Pedro, preferred to the under-performing Fernando Torres, justified his selection with several darts into German territory, but it was midfield that Spain dominated early on.

The blinding quick feet of Anders Iniesta nearly prised open the German fortress, but Arne Friedrich held firm.

Iniesta flashed a cross into the box on 14 minutes, but the pace was too much for an unmarked Carles Puyol to control.

Miroslav Klose then found himself in space on the edge of the Spanish area, but instead of laying it off for the wide open Piotr Trochowski, he ran straight into trouble and the chance was gone.

Trochowski was a constant thorn on the left of the Spanish defence, and his grass-cutter on 32 minutes had to be pushed around the post by Iker Casillas.

Right on the stroke of half-time, Germany had a loud appeal for a penalty, as Mesut Oezil tumbled over with Sergio Ramos keeping him company.

The replays suggested it was a close run thing, with Ramos clipping Oezil’s ankle on the edge of the box, but referee Viktor Kassai waved play on.

The second period saw Spain step up several notches, and it was a wonder that they didn’t locate Neuer’s net.

Pedro’s slalom run cut massive holes into the German fabric, but his lay-off to Alonso was dragged wide by the Real Madrid midfielder.

Two minutes later, Alonso tried with his left foot, but it was again wide of the mark.

The European champions were turning the screw by then, and Sergio Busquets had a fine shot parried away by Neuer on the hour mark, before the rebound was flashed across goal by Iniesta with Villa arriving just too late at the far post.

Joan Capdevila’s cross just evaded the adventurous Ramos in the 63rd minute, but still the opener did not come for the increasingly animated Vicente del Bosque’s side.

Against the run of play, the Germans really should have taken the lead. Toni Kroos, on for Trochowski, was expertly picked out by Lukas Podolski’s cross, but he shot straight at Casillas.

The goal that Spain’s intent demanded finally came in the 73rd minute, but it was not one of the usual suspects.

Puyol, again unmarked from a corner, emphatically drilled home his header — shaggy hair and all — to put the pre-tournament favourites ahead.

It was the least they deserved, and they really ought to have added to it.

Ironically, the Germans were routinely caught on the very same counterattack that has served them so well.

Torres replaced Villa on 80 minutes, and he really should have scored with his first touch of the ball — if only Pedro had passed to him.

With a two-on-one situation, the nippy Pedro opted to go it alone, despite Torres — and 60 000 spectators — screaming for him to lay it off.

It was almost too much for the Turkish journalist sitting next to this scribe, as he nearly threw his laptop at the selfish Pedro.

Bastian Schweinsteiger fell over Puyol’s challenge on 84 minutes, but the appeal for a spot kick were borne of desperation.

Torres again broke, but failed to locate David Silva with his through ball.

To the relief of thousands — and the nail-free Turkish chap on my left — Spain saw out the three minutes of added time to set up a date with the Dutch.

There may be a lot to be said and done before Sunday night, but what is certain is that we will have a new addition to the list of World Cup holders come July 11.

Spain did without the lap of honour.

There is still the small matter of a final, after all.

Germany’s daring and, at times, deadly display at this tournament is over, but Joachim Loew’s men have outdone themselves gloriously.

In the end, they were outsmarted by a Barcelona-infested outfit that will surely be favourites on Sunday.

Durban didn’t go out in a blaze of goals, but the roar of relief that greeted the final whistle signalled the end of seven memorable nights at ‘the Moses’.  

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