Confident Germany devoured by hungry Spain

by Charlie Coffey

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Germany’s confidence and willingness to attack played into Spanish hands as Vicente Del Bosque’s team relished playing against a positive side for the first time in the competition. Instead of tasting revenge Joachim Low’s side were devoured without mercy.

Until last night Spain had only faced sides whose mission was to stop them playing, before considering trying to win the game themselves. Last night, however, it was Spain who changed to a 4-2-3-1 system to mirror Germany. This may have looked like a sign of weakness, but that was not how it translated on the pitch.

Germany’s defence played higher up than Switzerland, Paraguay et al as they sought goals and retribution for the European Championship defeat two years ago, leaving space for Spain to probe. Sure enough Andres Iniesta, the man identified in yesterday’s piece as Spain’s main threat with the ball at his feet, isolated the poor, defenceless Philipp Lahm and got to the byline on more than one occasion.

Germany’s counter attacking pace had seen off Argentina’s defective full-backs with ease, but Joan Capdevila and Sergio Ramos’ energy on the flanks meant that Lucas Podolski and Piotr Trochowski were denied space, leaving Miroslav Klose short of supply. Without the service to continue his composed finishing streak Klose suddenly looking sluggish and immobile, a key reason why he played second fiddle to Evica Olic at Bayern Munich last season.

Then there was the midfield. The tenacity of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Kadira had been able to break down the rushed passing of England’s ‘star’ midfielders but here they faced a glut of players oozing class and composure on the ball. Passes into space, triangles, round-the-corner, you name it. Germany also found a fired-up Xabi Alonso snapping into the challenge to compliment the more reserved style of Xavi and Sergio Busquests, showing his Premier League experience but sometimes being penalised unfairly for doing so.

Germany tried to make a game of it, but Spain simply did not let them do so, keeping the ball in deep positions in the first half. They tightened the screw after the break, almost setting up camp in German territory and showing a more direct manner. This game was decided by a set piece of course, but you feel that had Carles Puyol not powered his header home Spain would have found another way through at some point.

As one-sided a 1-0 victory as you may see for a good while, Spain looked composed in the later stages despite the knowledge that one attack was all it would take for Germany to achieve parity. Their confidence comes from the knowledge that they possess technically the best midfield in the competition, capable of holding the ball between them without being affected by the knowledge that they were on the brink of a first World Cup final.

Germany were brave and continued to try to play the attacking game that had previously brought them so many goals and so much success. But if you give Spain space, they will pass you to pieces. Last night Germany were like helpless, bite-sized Tapas; merely an entrada as Spain saved themselves for the main course: the World Cup final in Johannesburg on Sunday.

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