Puyol powers Spain into final

Carles Puyol

Not only will a European nation win the World Cup outside Europe for the first time, but the tournament is now guaranteed a first-time winner as well, after Carles Puyol’s second half header gave Spain a 1-0 victory over Germany, sending the European champions into Sunday’s final against the Netherlands. It’s the first final for Spain and the third for the Dutch, who lost in 1974 and 1978.

Paul the Octopus was right again and is a perfect 6-0 on German results. Before the Spanish turn him into a soupy pulpo, I’d love to know who he thinks will win Sunday in what looks like a fascinating clash of first-class football teams, both stacked with talent all over the field.

Germany will no doubt wonder whether things might have gone differently for them had young midfielder Thomas Mueller been available for selection. Gotta say I’m not a fan of keeping the yellow card count going all the way through to the quarterfinals…I’d prefer they were reset after the group stages and recounted from there, and I’m sure many Germans agree, although the idea was apparently to keep players alive for the final. German fans might also have preferred to see their team take the game to the Spanish a bit more, rather than sitting back and trying to hit off the counter. About the only time Spain wasn’t passing the ball crisply was when a vuvuzela-toting Italian invaded the pitch to belatedly make a case for Antonio Cassano.

Spain, who left the struggling Fernando Torres on the bench to start this one, moved the ball around with characteristic flair, but couldn’t break the deadlock until the peerless Puyol, his curly mane trailing behind him, rose to hammer Xavi’s corner into the back of the net in the 73rd minute, all they would need to secure their third straight 1-0 victory and book passage to Soccer City.

I’m no octopus, and while Spain does make me right on one pre-tournament final pick, this is a tough one to call. Joachim Loew says Spain are the best team in the world, which might just be true. I expect the Netherlands will demand a bit more possession and open the game up enough that there’s more than one goal in it, but Roja will win out over Oranje in the end. Can’t wait for Sunday!!

Ian Harrison

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