30 June 2008
Who says that Spain can’t win a title?
Watching Spain throughout this competition, one couldn’t sit back and not be amazed at how well they played. Even when challenged by Sweden (which in all honesty could have been a draw) and Italy (they tried to attack but when your opponent plays everyone behind the ball, breaking them down is next to impossible), they still found a way to win. Not only was the football beautiful, it was also highly efficient.
The biggest thing that impressed me about Spain was the fact they closed down the entire field and pressured their opponents into mistakes. Spain also broke their opponents down in a part of the park that most have a problem in doing so…the center of the park. Clean crisp passes, each doing their part in the attack. When Spain needed to take a game back, Spain did their part by keeping the ball at the back just feeling the ball. If their passing down the center of the park wouldn’t break a team’s will, the Spanish counter attack would.
Even with the absence of David Villa, Cesc Fabregas proved his worth. The man used as the super sub to add yet another dimension to the attack, did that part from the start. While acceptable in closing down in the midfield, Xabi Alonso came in and added another dimension when Spain needed to shut down the center of the park even further.
In fact one of the underlying stories that has to be brought up was the substitutions Luis Aragones made. He went from strength to strength and built a team that would collectively play his system without causing distractions. Leaving Raul and Michel Salgado at home was wise as they would have only held this team down.
Germany looked a team out of ideas. Joachim Löw completely changed the tactics of the team after the group stages and was still burned in the end. Two things that have to change are the left/right backs have to quit playing so far high up the park. It almost looked like they were playing midfield. Secondly, the center backs need to have more pace than they did. Sometimes no amount of field awareness can save you from the pace of certain forwards.
To the main point of debate for Germany today, should Michael Ballack have played? He was fine for the first twenty-five minutes but then his quality fell off a cliff. That tells me that Ballack shouldn’t have started and if he was needed, to come on in the final thirty minutes of the game.
Two other moves in this match that had me scratching my head is why did Löw feel the need to bring in Marcell Jansen at the start of the second half, and why on earth was Mario Gomez thrown into the match with 11 minutes to go? Let’s be frank about it, they were benched after the group stages for a reason…they were the most ineffective players Germany had.
The question for Spain is can they do this in the post Luis Aragones era? Aragones left a system and style that Spain can take into the future, a style that will extremely tough to beat.
The questions for Germany are can they solidify the backline? Who is the keeper for the future? Can Podolski or Klose get a game anywhere where they see significant playing time? And this one to me is the key, can Mario Gomez shake off the horrific tournament he had here and become an international star for Germany?
Germany v Spain Critical Moments
Minute 3: Ramos gives up a cheap give away to Klose. Klose should have shot on touch two. Instead on touch three, Carlos Puyol closes Klose down and he is unable to get a shot on goal.
Minute 14: Nearly a mistake from Metzelder. Iniesta gets inside Friedrich. The cross goes into the mixer, and right off Mertesacker. With Lehmann leaning the wrong way, he somehow gets a hand to the ball and the ball out of play for a corner. Mertesacker pretty much left his keeper on an island but why did Iniesta not cross the ball or put a shot on goal instead of pulling back first?
Minute 23: It just seemed to be the story of Torres’s tournament. Ball crossed into the far post by Silva and Torres leaps over Mertesacker and puts one off the post. Had the ball been two inches to the right, Lehmann was beaten and it’s 1-0 to Spain. Again, Mertesacker leaves his keeper exposed and fortunate for him to this point, it’s still goal less.
Minute 25: Handball? Ramos tries toe play the ball and as he chests it, ball hit’s the hand. It would have been the harshest of penalties to give and the referee correctly played on.
Minute 33: Goal Spain and it’s Fernando Torres. Free kick to Spain played along the back. The ball makes its way to Xavi who puts a through ball towards Fernando Torres. Torres gets in behind Lahm and chips over Jens Lehmann and in at the far post. First off, great goal by Torres to take after the horror tournament he has had. Second off, can anyone explain to me exactly why Philip Lahm gave up on this play? If you have to go through your keeper to prevent a goal, do so and take the abuse from him later. Thirdly, Jens Lehmann came out for this ball way too late and was never going to get to it. Torres knows exactly when to flick the ball on goal and when executed perfectly, Torres never misses. Philip Lahm takes the majority of the blame on this goal simply because he was made to look like a snail and then a goat for not making any attempt to close the play down.
Minute 43: Free kick to Spain and leave it to Ballack to make a meal out of nothing but a tiny little crumb. Fabregas fouled by Ballack and Ballack decides to get in the face of two Spanish players. All in the meanwhile Casillas comes out and him and Ballack get in a ‘friendly’ conversation with the referee and both get booked for dissent. Fair play has to go to the referee for not putting up with any lip but honestly he should have played advantage as Fabregas had passed the ball off already and once the sequence was finished, booked Ballack for the challenge.
Starting the Second Half: First sign the Germans were desperate. Marcell Jansen, who was benched after being ineffective in the group stages, is replaced by Philip Lahm, who had been ineffective from the knockout stages (and that’s despite scoring a goal.
Minute 58: Second sign the Germans were desperate. Thomas Hitzelsperger comes off for Kevin Kuranyi. Kuranyi’s form coming into the competition was shaky at best, but has scored goals for Germany when called upon.
Minute 64: Oh boy is this not controversial! Podolski is fouled by Silva and Podolski runs right up and baits Silva into a head butt, which Silva does. First off, it appears that Podolski’s head grazes Silva’s head first before Silva gets a hold of Podolski. Michael Ballack instead of going to the referee runs off to the linesman to cry about matters, knowing if he said what he did to the linesman to the referee, he’s being sent off. Now to the moment of controversy. Did anyone notice that once Silva made contact that Podolski held his eye then removed said hand? Then did anyone notice Podolski remove the hand to see if anyone noticed. To me, Podolski should have been booked for the worst acting job than me in the Christmas play. Sadly, had the referee seen this, Silva is gone.
Minute 70: Schweinsteiger is pulled off free kick duty in replacement of Frings. The free kick looked better, but Casillas punches it all the way to the center circle. Casillas all match long did extremely well punching balls clear from danger.
Minute 79: Final sign of desperation from Germany. The extremely ineffective from the group stages Mario Gomez comes on for Miroslav Klose. While this wasn’t Klose’s best game, he did have two goals in the competition and was able to create which was something Gomez was unable to do. This was the moment when in my mind live this competition ended.
Minute 79: Was it hand ball from Jens Lehmann? Live it looked close, the replay it looked closer. I feel this was one of those calls where the linesman felt it was on the line and wasn’t going to dare make a call with it being that tight. I feel it was the right decision.
These are my thoughts, what are yours? Leave a comment on the matter here.