Spain is now one step closer to its first FIFA World Cup title after a 1-0 semifinal victory over Germany Wednesday in Durban, South Africa.
It was a rematch of the 2008 European championship. And it was a repeat result of the 2008 European championship.
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Spain upended Germany 1-0 on a second-half Carles Puyol goal to put La Roja just one win away from raising its first World Cup trophy.
Spain dictated the pace of this match from the opening kickoff, starving the Germans of possession and tiring their opponents with their textbook tika-taka soccer, a fast-paced, pass-and-move style of game.
Germany, playing without breakout star Thomas Mueller, who was forced to sit out this match because of a suspension, didn't look like the same high-flying team that scored a tournament-leading 13 goals in five games.
Instead of Germany's magnificent midfield of Mesut Oezil, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira taking control of this match as they have in so many games in the tournament, it was their opponents in red who gladly grabbed the reins.
For Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Pedro and Xabi Alonso, it was an easy-breezy day on the pitch, so much so that Spain did not need tournament-leader scorer David Villa to bail them out in the end.
Spain could have padded its lead in the dying minutes of the game as Pedro and substitute Fernando Torres stormed into the German end on a 2-on-1. Pedro chose to go for goal himself instead of passing off to Torres, and the scoring chance was broken up.
That play could have proved costly had Germany been able to put an equalizer past Iker Casillas.
As for Spain, though it won Euro 2008, is ranked No. 2 in the world, and has only lost three of its last 56 games, it is still considered the great underachiever on the international soccer stage for bowing out in the early stages of its other 12 World Cup appearances. Euro 2008 was the side's first major title in 44 years.
The Spaniards now have a chance to shed that choker label and finally win the big prize.
Germany, the three-time world champions, were making their third straight trip to the World Cup semifinals, but just as in 2006, they are headed for the consolation game.
What this result means
Spain and the Netherlands, two teams looking for their first World Cup crown, will battle for the big prize at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium on July 11 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 12:30 p.m. ET).
Germany will play Uruguay for third place on Saturday in Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2:00 p.m. ET).
The turning point
From the opening kickoff, Germany was content to let Spain control possession of the game — mistake No. 1 by Joachim Low's side. Choosing to play defensively against Spain played into Vincente del Bosque's plans as La Roja played cat and mouse with their European rivals all game long.
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The winning goal
Carles Puyol's header off a Xavi corner kick in the 73rd minute made all the difference. The central defender and Barcelona captain timed his run perfectly, knocking the ball at its height into the right-hand corner of the goal. Puyol nearly had an identical goal in the first half, but that time, his diving header sailed over the crossbar.
Man of the match
Puyol might have finally broken the deadlock off a Xavi corner kick, but it was Xavi who was the mastermind behind Spain's possession game. The diminutive midfielder controlled the pace of the match, getting all of his teammates involved with his impeccable distribution of the ball.
The Spanish perspective
"From defence through to attack, I think we played a great game. We've got another game in front of us. Let's see if we are able to control the ball. We're in good shape physically, so let's see if we can win." — Spain coach Vicente del Bosque.
The German perspective
"In the last two or three years, they [Spain] have been one of the best and most united teams. They circulate the ball well, and we couldn't play the way we like to play. We had great plans, but it didn't work out." — German coach Joachim Low.