But you don’t think that I’ll be content with a spot in the semi-finals for Spain, do you? We need to beat the Germans, and this time we need to do it in grand style. No more 1-0 wins. No more 90 minutes at the edge of a nervous breakdown. We want the old Spain back. VanDerBolski, please take 10 minutes of your time to read what you need to do to carry Spain to the Final of the World Cup.
1) Spain mustn’t allow Germany to score first. If they do, it’s over. Trailing against Germany is like going shopping with your female partner during the sales season, a seemingly endless torturing experience. If the Germans get the lead, their counter-attack will kill Spain the same way it killed both England and Argentina, given the unquestionable fact that, except for Ramos, at this point of the season our back four couldn’t beat a German snail to a 50 metre sprint, let alone their impressively fit midfielders. Spain need to have 80% of ball possession, and during that inevitable 20% in which the ball will go from one German player to another, Del Bosque’s men will have to foul as much as required to avoid counter-attacks. They’ll also have to track down the German midfielders, who, at least to me, are much more dangerous than their forwards, even if Müller can’t play.
2) Our line-up needs fresh legs and better control of the midfield. You don’t need to have a masters degree in aerobics to perceive that our starting line-up against Paraguay badly needed some rest. Every single line had at least one player who couldn’t keep up with the physical approach the Paraguayans applied for most of the match. Del Bosque needs to introduce some changes and, as you rightly guessed, I have some suggestions: Marchena should start instead of Puyol (never imagined I’d say this, believe me), Silva should take Iniesta’s spot (ditto) and it would be great if Pedrito replaced The Artist Formerly Known as Fernando Torres in the starting line-up. At this stage, you all know Van der Bolski, so those changes will not happen. The only modification to his starting eleven will be Silva in, Torres out, and that’s it. I don’t think it’s enough, and that lack of courage to introduce changes will be costly to Spain’s interests. Unless he changes his conservative approach, he’ll have to make some adjustments to the side early into the second half, wasting substitutions that could be badly missed minutes later.
3) We should stop making fun of Schweinsteiger. I don't want him mad... By the way, nothing more fun that screaming his name out loud. Try it. Louder. Louder!!! Isn’t it great? Much better than screaming 'Alvarez!!', right?
4) We need to put their big match experience under a serious stress test. This is the youngest German national team ever. I know they’ve won pretty much every single tournament so far (under 17, under 19, under 21…), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can handle the pressure of a match this relevant like Spain can (Euro08 winners, Champions League winners, etc). Since both teams played the final of Euro08, the Germans have introduced some changes to the side, goalkeeper and midfield being the most relevant. We need to put those new kids on the block under pressure to see what they’re made of. I know, they’re German, so it’s very likely that they’ll deliver. But you never know when we’re talking about players between 22 and 26 years of age. In the opposite corner, the experience of this Spanish squad should be an advantage. They know how to play this kind of matches, and that must become more tangible as the match goes on.
In summary, I am feeling a bit more optimistic today. As some readers pointed out, even if Spain will indeed suffer to answer the German’s high tempo, it is also very likely that Spain find more spaces to build plays and enjoy possession. We’ve been playing against teams who kept all of their players behind the ball, and that is indeed hard for any offensive-minded side. Germany will not be as forgiving as Paraguay or as conservative as Portugal, but will probably let Spain play a bit more. That is our chance.
Well, we’re almost there. Spain only need one more win to make it to the final of a World Cup, which sounds like a dream to me. Please, keep me dreaming until Sunday. VAMOS!
PS: I should mention that, for reasons beyond my control, I had to come back home right after the Paraguay match. If Spain defeat Germany, I’ll fly back to SA for the final, the same way I did in Euro08, with optimal results. You’re probably thinking that I am way too superstitious… and you’re very likely right.
Anyway, I just drove my own car for the first time in more than two weeks, and I have to confess that I activated the windshield cleaner a couple of times when I actually wanted to turn the indicator lights on. It’s extremely irritating to realise how limited our brains (at least mine) are.
I will watch THE match at the Lardies Mansion. His owner, Fernando, guarantees a first class HD broadcast and full focus on the proceedings (unless I am at the stadium, I hate to watch games with more than two or three people; large crowds inevitably they can’t pay attention to the match and end up distracting you as well). All the good luck charms and rituals will be strictly followed, including a phone call during halftime to speak to Carlos in South Africa, with whom I’ve watched Spain’s four previous matches, to discuss what was wrong (plenty of things, mind you) in those 10 minutes of break, while he smoked a cigarette.
Saint Iker stated today that ‘this is the most important match in the history of Spanish football’, rating this encounter above the Euro08 final. Who am I to argue with Saint Iker? It is indeed the closest Spain have ever been to win a World Cup. One more effort and this team will get there…