Spain hit their stride

Carles Puyol of Spain (L) celebrates with teammate Gerard Pique  after scoring

David Villa summed it up perfectly after Spain had booked their place in Sunday’s Final against the Netherlands. “When we play our best football we’re very hard to stop,” commented the Barcelona striker, underlining his side’s domination of Germany in Wednesday’s semi-final in Durban, a game in which the European champions recaptured their form and deservedly advanced to their first FIFA World Cup™ Final.

Despite the narrow scoreline, there was no contesting Spain’s superiority on the pitch, as Germany midfielder Marcell Jansen sportingly recognised afterwards: “Spain are on a different level. They play as one in attack and defence and they all work together. They are a very compact unit.”

The magnanimous Jansen was not the only German singing La Roja’s praises after the final whistle, with coach Joachim Low joining in the chorus of approval. “They denied us the ball right from the very first minute and we weren’t able to play our game,” he admitted. “We gave it a go and we fought to the end but Spain are a superior side and move the ball around better than anyone.”

Given their ground-breaking achievement and the convincing manner in which they achieved it, it was no surprise to see Vicente del Bosque’s players grinning with satisfaction as they emerged from the dressing rooms at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. “That was the best Spain have played at this World Cup,” commented midfielder Sergio Busquets.

“We are so happy right now and we need to savour it,” added team-mate Andres Iniesta. “We played a great game and no one can argue we don’t deserve to be in the Final.”

Sergio Busquets, Spain midfielder.

Coach Del Bosque could not hide his satisfaction at his side’s vibrant display: “It was a fantastic match and I have to congratulate my players for their sterling work in defence and attack. They played a great game.”

“We couldn’t be happier and we are starting to fulfil our dream now,” added Villa, who for once failed to get on the scoresheet, not that the tournament’s joint top scorer minded someone else getting in on the act: “I’m happy we’re in the Final and it doesn’t matter whether I scored the goal or not. It was a fantastic finish from Puyol.”

“It’s Puyi’s day,” added Barcelona linchpin Xavi in praise of Spain’s matchwinner. “It was a spectacular goal and he deserved it, especially with all the great work he’s been doing in defence.”

With Villa failing to engineer the breakthrough for once, it fell to the incombustible central defender to crash through Germany’s defensive wall. With less than 20 minutes remaining, the Barcelona defender rose above everyone, including Gerard Pique, to power home the only goal of the game.

“If anyone deserves it, it’s him,” said an admiring Busquets. “He does the lot: he defends, he gets forward and he’s one of the best defenders in the world. This could be his last World Cup so he deserves all the glory he’s getting tonight.”

The man of the hour made a typically untheatrical exit from Durban, a clear indication that his mission will not be over until Spain crown themselves world champions, a goal shared by the insatiable Villa: “Now that we’ve got this far, we need to go on and win the Final.”


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