Unlikely final sums up World Cup

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:57 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG - The days of The Big Four are no more.

For the first time in the 80-year history of the World Cup, one of Germany, Italy, Argentina or Brazil will not be represented in the championship game of soccer's grandest tournament.

Germany was the last remaining team of that particular group with a chance to extend that rather remarkable streak when it took to the pitch against Spain in a highly-anticipated semifinal at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday night.

But in the end, the Germans were outclassed in almost every aspect of the match en route to a 1-0 loss, meaning Spain will take on the Netherlands in the final of South Africa 2010 at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday.

The Italians, who normally are powerhouses almost every time they step onto the pitch, were one of the biggest disappointments of the tournament, bowing out in the Group Stage.

Brazil and Argentina, on the other hand, breezed into the knockout round and looked impressive doing it, leaving some to suggest there might be an all-South American title tilt come July 11.

But in a 24-hour span last weekend, both giants were unceremoniously sent packing.

On Friday, the Brazilians blew a 1-0 lead in the second half, allowing the Dutch to score twice in the final 45 minutes en route to a 2-1 victory in Port Elizabeth.

One day later, Diego Maradona's Argentines were throttled 4-0 by the Germans, leaving the pudgy manager in tears after the final whistle at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town.

There were beliefs that, given the Germans eye-opening performance against Argentina, Joachim Loew's young guns might have the answer against an enigmatic Spanish side.

But Spain, having come in as the most talented squad in the tournament, showcased its skills in thoroughly dominating the Germans.

And that probably is a good thing for the game.

Think about it. While soccer may sell itself as "The World's Game," can it really be called that when The Big Four had dominated the final the way they had over the years?

Certainly not.

Now, at least, the World Cup will feature a first-time winner, something that hasn't happened since France hoisted the coveted trophy in 1998.

Spain and The Netherlands have long been considered the top two underachieving sides in the history of the World Cup. Now, come Sunday, one of them will celebrate their greatest moment in soccer.

If that's not worth waiting to see, what is?


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