Road To The Final: Spain

Spain LogoAfter that amazing victory against Germany, The Red Fury have secured the second spot in the World Cup Final, against The Netherlands. Spain didn’t have as amazing a run as did the Oranje but there is still no doubt that they fully deserved their place in the Final. After a wobbly Group Stage, The Spanish finally found their footing in the Round Of 16 where they eliminated Portugal. The Paraguayans and Germans met with the same fate as the Portugese and the Spaniards bulldozed their way to the final, David Villa being the key to their success. This is their story.

Spain were always favourites to challenge for the Cup (along with other exceptional teams such as Brazil and England).It did not however, get off to the best of starts as the Spanish were defeated in their opening match; at the hands of Switzerland. The match held level for the whole of the first half, but then on 52 minutes a goal mouth scuffle ensued as Eren Derdiyok slipped into the box; Casillas pounced on the forward and took him down. The ball fizzed past both of them howver and bounced in front of the goal mouth. Pique tried to block it but was beaten to the ball by Gelson Fernandes who poked it home. Spain were never able to regain the lead and the Swiss earned a 1-0 win.
This victory became one of the great shocks of South Africa 2010 and left Spain bottom of Group H, along with Honduras. The Spanish were now in dire straits and required two wins from their next two group games to qualify for the Knockout phase of the World Cup. They were to face Honduras and Chile and anything less than 6 points could have seen the favourites eliminated at the Group stage. The Hondurans didn’t prove to be much competition for La Furia Roja though and were sent packing after two goals from David Villa sealed their fate. Chile were expected to be a trickier proposition however but they too failed to live up to their expectation and a David Villa strike from close to the half-line coupled with an Andres Iniesta goal ensured the Spanish would claim victory over the Chileans and the Spanish would progress to the next round top of their group.
Progression to the knockout stages though, brought with it new challenges for the Spaniards as they came up against Portugal. The Portugese proved to be a major hurdle for Spain and they found it difficult to crack their defense. That is of course till in form David Villa showed up. Andres Iniesta slid a through ball into the box which was immediately pounced on by Villa who slotted home on the second attempt after first hitting the keeper. The goal proved to be enough of an advantage and the Spanish held on for a historic victory over the Portugese. Next up, Paraguay.
The Paraguayans weren’t expected to provide too much resistance against the Spanish. They however did the just the opposite and held La Furia Roja at bay for a long period of time in the match, before David Villa (who else?, really.) struck with 7 minutes of normal time to play. Needless to say, Spain weren’t going to give up an advantage with such a small amount of time left on the clock and with little pressure being exerted on them near the end, they comfortably made it into the semi-finals. Here however, came what was probably the greatest test of the Spaniards up till then. Germany.
Touted by many to be the game of the tournament, Germany vs Spain was expected to be an amazing fixture. And it delivered. Spain played well throughout the match and completely monopolized possession (around 67%!). They deprived Germany of  any time on the ball and prevented the Germans from playing their style of football. The defense stood firm and did not allow the opposition to take too many shots on goal. Even though Spain kept possession for long periods in the match, they failed to do anything constructive with it and as a result the first half finished level. This soon changed in the second half as the Spanish decided to take the match to the Germans. They launched wave after wave of attacks but the German backline stood firm, denying the Spaniards time and time again. Finally on 73 minutes, Carles Puyol jumped high above the German defense and headed home. Spain took a one-nil lead and never looked back. The Germans tried relentlessly to grab a goal back but the Spaniards refused to relinquish their lead. 17 minutes later, the referee blew the final whistle and Spain booked their spot in the final…

A couple of days from now, the Spanish will take on The Dutch in what promises to be an exceptional final; A fitting end to South Arfica 2010.

-Zain R. Mian

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