Fernando Torres beat us then, scoring the only goal of the match, due to an uncharacteristic mis-read by Philipp Lahm.
Let’s take a gander at the starting line-ups in 2008, and compare them to the probables for the semi-final showdown to come:
Germany 2008: Lehmann; Lahm, Metzelder, Mertesacker, Friedrich; Hitzlespeger, Frings; Podolski, Ballack, Schweinsteiger; Klose.
Germany 2010: Neuer; Boateng, Mertesacker, Friedrich, Lahm; Schweinsteiger, Khedira; Podolski, Oezil, Kroos / Trochowski; Klose.
Thank goodness, bat-stuff-crazy, Jens Lehmann has retired from international competition, as he’d clearly shown his age during 2008, bobbling some balls my momma could catch. Metzelder’s form was fading at this point as well. And Ballack tried to win the tournament, single-handedly, as he yelled at everyone on the pitch. All. The. Time. Not a harmonius group at all, highlighted by Podolski slapping Ballack after the German captain dared to criticize his teammate.
Fast-forwarding to 2010 sees Philipp Lahm with the captain’s armband on. He’s a calmer presence than Herr Ballack, and one who seems to encourage rather than deride his young teammates. The defensive midfield brilliant pairing of Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger completely out-shine their predecessors, Torsten Frings and Thomas Hitzlsperger. Podolski’s form is more adept in this tournament as well, as he’s been causing problems even when he’s not on the ball. Oezil, in the playmaker’s spot, raises hell all over the place. And, although we’ll miss Mueller’s hot streak, he’s got adept people behind him: A solid Piotr Trochowski and a dynamic Toni Kroos. (Any bets as to who Jogi will pick to start?)
Spain 2008: Casillas; Capdevila, Puyol, Marchena, Ramos; Silva, Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta; Torres.
Spain 2010: Casillas; Capdevila, Puyol, Pique, Ramos; Alonso, Busquets; Silva, Xavi, Iniesta; Villa.
Eh. Looks very similar to me. With the gross exception of David Villa, who has time-and-time again saved this tournament for la Furia Roja, scoring all but one of their goals and assisting the one he didn’t score himself. (And not to get too sidetracked here, but can I express my extreme distaste for Busquets? I lost all respect for him after his diving, roll-around-on-the-ground, peek-a-boo-to-see-if-the-ref-is-looking move to get a man sent off in the semi-final Champions League match against Inter. If you’ve never seen it, Youtube it. Shocking.)
So, while the countries are the same, the make-up of Germany is so much different than the one that was barely beaten by Spain two years ago. And the forms of both teams seem to say that the roles have been reversed somewhat, with Spain more defensive and Germany coming out on the offensive.
I think the German back four will be more sorely tested by David Villa than they were against Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez. But, if we can manage to score early, we can keep Spain on their heels, stealing possession when we can, and counter-attacking like we’ve done so fabulously this entire tournament.
Spain’s threat to score: David Villa.
Germany’s threat to score: Podolski, Schweinsteiger, Oezil, and Klose, the man with a chance to tie or eclipse Ronaldo’s all-time World Cup goals scored record. And, can’t leave out Lahm, who’d I expect to play more forward on fast breaks, making up for the loss of Mueller.
And finally, one thing that I hope is the same: Paul the Psychic Octopus picking this match wrong. In 2008, the only match that Paul picked incorrectly was the final against Spain. This morning he picked Spain to win this semi-final. Let’s hope he’s got it wrong again.
Auf geht’s Deutschland!