For me this was the World Cup final. What I mean by that is that as the match started, I thought that Germany and Spain were the two best teams of the three still alive in the tournament, and that whoever won this match would go on to defeat Netherlands in the final.
Spain played their best match of the tournament thusfar and dominated from the beginning, always seeming to be in control and more likely to score. They played solid defense and after 70 minutes their control, calm, possession, and patience were rewarded when Puyol headed in a great cross from the left to make it 1-0 to Spain. And once Spain were up 1-0, you knew that they were in the catbird seat and would most likely win. Which they did.
The key once again was Saint Iker, whose 2 outstanding saves kept the match 0-0. With all the attention being paid to the amazing talent in the outfield, Iker Casillas has quietly been this team's most valuable player by far, and without the best goalkeeper in the world they may very well not have escaped the first round, let alone marched all the way to the final. Here's hoping he gets more credit than the world media has given him thusfar, for he is the #1 reason that Spain will be playing for the championship of the world on Sunday.
For Germany, there is no shame in losing to Spain again, as they did in the Euro 2008 final. In both instances they lost by 1 goal to the best team on the planet, and if Spain go on to win the World Cup on Sunday, to one of the top teams ever(more on where Spain would rank if they do win this world cup either tomorrow or Friday, so save your comments on that for later). Germany are very young, insanely talented, and suddenly play swashbuckling beautiful attacking soccer- their future is very bright and any smart football punter would get down to the betting shop in the next week or month and put a fiver or a hundy on them to win Euro 2012(of course they may likely have to unseat Spain to do so, but those two will most likely be the favorites, while Germany will offer a better value, especially right now). Also, don't forget that they made this great run without their veteran captain Michael Ballack, who I suspect has no intention of quitting international soccer anytime soon. Germany are on the rise.
So Spain v Holland on Sunday at 11.30am PST on ABC*. We are now guaranteed to have a new World Cup champion, as well as the first European team to win the World Cup on foreign soil. After a dreadful first round of group stage matches, it has been a wonderful tournament full of drama, excitement, great soccer, and many many firsts.
Oh, and Paul The Octopus is now 6 for 6 predicting the German matches in this World Cup, and 10-1 overall since he started picking in Euro 2008. Somebody get that squid to Vegas.
As happy as I am that I predicted the final, and that I stand to win over $500 if Spain win on Sunday, make no mistake- the best part is that my wife is happy :)
Ahora, mi bonita es muy feliz.
*3rd place game will be Uruguay v Germany on Saturday at 11.30am PST on ESPN.