World Cup's juicier semifinal
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
DURBAN -- It's a mouth-watering semifinal.
The hope is that finally a much-hyped game lives up to its expectations.
On the one hand, there is the pre-tournament favourite Spain. Spain's play hasn't yet left teams quaking in their boots but the potential is there for it to break out at any time.
Germany has been the most pleasant surprise in this tournament. It has few players from the 2008 European tournament when it finished second to Spain. The players are young and unproven internationally but none of this seems to bother them. They've made a mockery of a tough road to the semifinal handling both England and Argentina with great Úlan.
The road to the final now goes through Spain who will be looking to make its first World Cup final.
What's most enticing about this game is the confrontation between what has been the world's best midfield for several years and what has been the World Cup's best midfield. The battle will be waged and won between the two of them.
No one would have expected that to happen when Germany's Michael Ballack went out to injury before the World Cup. With Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and Xavi, Cesc Fabregas can't even get on the field. When he came on against Paraguay in the quarterfinal, he was one of Spain's best players. He sustained an injury and no one is sure whether he will be available against Germany.
That midfield provided a plethora of passes to David Villa and Fernando Torres. But so far, Alonso and Xavi haven't shown the kind of form that Iniesta has and it's reflected in Spain's ability to create chances.
Spain dominates possession in virtually every game it plays, but it's the kind of possession that yields nothing. Spain gets near the 18-yard box and drops one of those annoying 30-yard back passes forcing everyone to start over.
Some of that may be due to the ineffectiveness of Torres who has shown little ability in slicing open the opposing defence with his runs. Unlike the minutes of useless possession Spain has had when it pushes the ball around, Germany likes to take the ball and go.
Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger have become a feared midfield duo. They pair well with Germany's group of attacking midfielders led by Mesut Ozil. So far this tournament, Germany has provided a rare combination midfielders who can shut down an attack and immediately launch a counter.
It's a young midfield full of running. They come from all different directions. Khedira and Schweinsteiger in the middle, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Mueller from out wide and Ozil wherever he can find room to run.
A blow for the Germans is Mueller's suspension for the semifinal for picking up a second yellow card.
German coach Joachim Loew is worried about the experienced Spanish midfield. He should worry. For years the Spanish midfield had no equals. But his midfield will force the Spanish to pay attention.
Loew intends to put together a complete game plan but the bottom line for him will be to attack. While the midfielder will ultimately decide who will win Wednesday's game, it goes much further than that.
Whether Spain or Germany moves on to the final, the midfield will play a key role against their opponent in the final. The success either Spain or Germany's midfield has in the semifinal will give then enormous confidence going into the final.
If it happens to be Germany, it will also give those youngsters another level of experience, fewer nerves and making them even more dangerous.
Now that is a scary thought no matter who you are.