World Cup News – the Final 2
Puyol powers Spain into final
Spain qualified for their first World Cup final when they defeated Germany 1-0 in a tense encounter at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban yesterday evening. A 73rd minute header from defender Carles Puyol (pictured) was enough to propel ‘La Roja’ into Sunday’s final against Holland at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
Vicente del Bosque’s second ranked side dominated the match but battled to finish off a German team lacking their usual pace until Puyol struck the decisive blow 17 minutes from the end. “Players from defence to attack were extraordinary and played a great game,” said Spain coach del Bosque.
“We’ve shown that in the big moments we’ve risen to the occasion,” said Spain striker David Villa. It’s the best game we’ve played. We deserved to score more but a Puyol goal put us in the final and we’re exultant,” he added. Spain dominated possession early on and had their first chance to score after five minutes when forward Pedro, who took to the field ahead of the out of form Fernando Torres, played the ball for Villa, whose shot failed to beat ‘keeper Manuel Neuer.
With the sixth ranked Germans, who lost the Euro 2008 final to the Spainiards by the same score, unable to break out of their own half, Spain maintained pressure, with Puyol heading narrowly over the bar after 15 minutes. Germany nearly opened their account when Piotr Trochowski stretched Iker Casillas with a powerful low drive, but the Spanish ‘keeper was equal to the task.
Pedro and Sergio Ramos continued to try and expose Germany left back Jerome Boateng, cutting the ball back from the wing for midfielder Xabi Alonso who missed with two attempts at goal early in the second half. Spain almost scored in the 58th minute when Pedro forced a brilliant save from Neuer before Andres Iniesta placed the ball across the face of goal just a metre ahead of a sliding Villa.
Spain kept on attacking their opponents and were rewarded for their efforts 17 minutes from time when Puyol scored his winner leaving Spain to ward off some late German pressure to secure victory. It was a thoroughly deserved victory for ‘La Roja’ who will be very hard to beat in Sunday’s final.
“I believe they (Spain) will win this tournament,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew. “Spain let the ball roll so well and you just can’t keep up with them. We played a great tournament but weren’t as sharp tonight as we’ve been,” he added. “It was very difficult tonight,” said Germany captain Philipp Lahm. “We knew Spain were a favourite to win the tournament. Spain is a very strong team,” he added.
Spain must start as slight favourites in the final although they will be facing very strong opposition in the form of the Dutch who have played some superb football to advance to the final stage of the tournament. Holland have reached the final twice before but have never won it so a new world champion is guaranteed no matter what the result. Sunday’s match kicks off at 8.30pm.
Holland edge Uruguay in five-goal thriller
Fourth ranked Holland were made to work harder than expected, but the men in orange were still full value for their 3-2 victory over 16th ranked Uruguay at the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on Tuesday evening. Playmaker Wesley Sneijder, scorer of both goals in the 2-1 quarter-final win over top ranked Brazil, was again instrumental in spuring the Dutch to victory.
Sneijder found the back of the net in the 70th minute to give his side a 2-1 advantage before Arjen Robben added a third three minutes later to seal the win. Maximiliano Pereira bagged a second goal for Uruguay in extra time but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Dutch from marching on to only their third World Cup final, and their first in 32 years.
“First final since ‘74 and ‘78, that came up in my mind in the second half,” said Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk. “It’s so very special and as a small country we can be so proud,” he added.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez remarked: “I’m very proud of my players… our opponents were better when it came to scoring goals against us. We went very far, no one expected that, so that helps the sadness of the defeat.”
“We had a good World Cup. A lot of years have passed since we’ve done so well,” said midfielder Egidio Arevalo. Indeed, this has been a very successful tournament for the relatively lowly ranked Uruguayans who last made a World Cup semi-final appearance in 1970. They weren’t expected to reach the quarter-finals let alone the semi-finals and had they not been up against a Dutch team in peak form they might well have gone all the way through to the final.
The two sides were deadlocked at 1-1 at the interval after brilliant long-range strikes from left back Giovanni van Bronckhorst (pictured) for Netherlands and forward Diego Forlan for Uruguay. The Dutch could have gone ahead early when Uruguay ‘keeper Fernando Muslera failed to hold Robben’s cross and the ball fell to Dirk Kuyt who recklessly fired over the bar.
Robben then had a shot blocked by a teammate before Van Bronckhorst put Holland ahead in the 18th minute with a powerful long range shot which gave Muslera absolutely no chance. It was a stunning goal and forced Uruguay, now in search of an equaliser, to attack with more purpose.
They got one in the 41st minute when Forlan latched onto a pass, cut inside a defender and scored with a long-range shot that wrongfooted ‘keeper Maarten Stekelenburg. The restart saw the Dutch enjoy the lion’s share of the possession, but it was the South American outfit who had more chances to score.
A chip from Alvaro Pereira was cleared off the line by Van Bronckhorst and Forlan’s curling free kick forced Stekelenburg to palm the ball away at the foot of his near post. Robben then squandered a golden opportunity when he shot wide after a rebound landed on his unfavoured right foot.
However, it didn’t matter in the end as Sneijder put the Dutch back on top with a curling shot for his fifth goal of the tournament. Holland bagged a third goal three minutes later when Robben found the back of the net with a perfectly placed downward header and although Pereira pulled one back for Uruguay in the dying minutes it wasn’t enough to stave off defeat.
Although the Dutch will go into Sunday’s final against Spain as underdogs they will have an excellent chance of pulling off a victory and lifting the trophy given the sterling performances they have produced in the competition thus far. The men in orange have surprised many pundits who felt they did not have what it took to get this far in the tournament.