Spain advanced to the finals of the World Cup with a fairly comfortable 1-0 victory over Germany (if there is such a thing). Defender Carlos Puyol headed home the winner from a corner kick in the 73rd minute of a match which, though Germany had its moments, was controlled by Spain.
Spain’s coach Vicente Del Bosque got his team sheet right, removing Fernando Torres from the line-up and replacing him with young-gun Pedro, who played on the right, with Iniesta on the left. Villa moved into Torres’ central striker role.
Pedro, though too selfish at times, was a force to be reckoned with. He teed up Villa for what was almost a goal in the first few minutes. And he posed enough of a threat on the right side that Germany felt the need to replace its left back, Jerome Boateng, early in the second half.
Villa did not score, but he was a threat, and he tracked back on defense like a fiend.
In retrospect, Spain won the match in the opening minutes, when Germany eschewed the pressing tactics used with some success by Paraguay and fell back, allowing Spain to get its passing game going. But Germany’s strategy was a plausible one because it created the possibility of scoring on the counter-attack, as Germany has done so many times in this Cup.
But that possibility never really materialized because Spain’s attacking players (all of them) tracked back religiously. Time after time, Germany attempted to launch counter attacks by finding a player (e.g., Schweinsteiger or Ozil) near the center circle, only to have that player immediately surrounded by Spaniards. Nor could Germany find much joy on the flanks, where Sergio Ramos and Capdevila more than held their own and where Germany missed Muller.
If acclaimed superstars like Xavi, Iniesta, and Villa can defend this way, Argentina’s fans must be wondering why Messi, Tevez, and Higuain couldn’t (or didn’t). And if Spain can keep its shape while threatening the German goal, English fans must be wondering why England couldn’t.
In the end, though tactics mattered in this match, Spain’s victory was primarily down to superior skill and a work rate that at least equaled Germany’s. The better team won; it’s not much more complicated than that.
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