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Article:Germany vs Spain - Euro 2008 Final preview

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Spain's semi against Russia was interesting, because it basically went the same as all their games, where they've lots of talent and their strikers are a threat (especially Torres being looking always for the killer run in behind) but they play narrow and don't make many good chances. But then in the second half, once they went one up (when Xavi met Iniesta's mishit shot on a blindside run and diverted it home) the game opened right up and they completely dominated. I think Russia tired (their pressing lost intensity), and that made a difference too, but it was an interesting hint of what could happen in the final - if Spain get ahead and Germany have to chase the game, their classy midfielders could start to find space and pass the game to death (and it could easily finish 3 or 4 nil).

As long as the game's square, the Germans can sit deep and compact and the Spanish will struggle to break it down. I can easily see the game 0-0 at the hour. But if they neglect the basics like they did against Turkey (the first goal coming from three defenders ignoring an obvious run to receive a throw-in, and then the fourth defender not reacting to a rebound off the bar) then Spain could run riot with their intricate passing. I can't imagine they'll be that bad again though, not in a major final (and they showed they can be tight and disciplined in the Portugal game). With David Villa out for the game, Fabregas will presumably start, and while I love the little Arsenal man, I'm not sure if a one-striker system will provide the sort of movement around him that he needs to thrive. Personally, I'd drop Iniesta for Fabregas and put a pure-attacking wide player (Joaquin? Santi Cazorla?) directly up against Lahm, because the little full-back showed he doesn't defend well in the Turkey game (and having a winger stationed directly up on him might limit his attacking runs, which are genuinely dangerous).

Going the other way, the Germans don't have much. Podolski is quick, and has taken the chances he's had well, but he's not tricky, he's a bit one-footed and just NINE goals for Bayern since August 2006 is a stat that doesn't lie (he really isn't a top international striker). He'll be up against Sergio Ramos, who is bigger than him and quick enough and good enough that I don't see Podolski getting free to deliver more than once or twice in the game. Klose doesn't have any one great asset - he's okay in the air, quick-ish, never beats a man with dribbling and is not a bad finisher. Schweinsteiger is alright on the ball, but he heavily favours his right side and is too slow to be taking defenders on round the outside, which means that if Capdevilla gets to him early he will be turned back infield all game. He makes good runs to attack the ball when Podolski gets crosses in, but if Podolski can't get any balls in it'll be irrelevant.

Ballack basically IS Germany's attacking threat - he's big and powerful, shoots well, passes well, and times his runs into the box beautifully, and besides being good in the air he's got a significant height advantage over not only Xavi and Senna but Puyol too. The Germans should be very dangerous from set-pieces, and I think corners and free-kicks are their best chance of scoring. And if Spain get ahead, and Germany have to come on to them, then Torres, Silva and Fabregas is a dangerous little break squad.

So I predict a Spain win, but if Germany are going to pinch it, then it'll likely come from them scoring first (from a header, like as not) and then Spain struggling to break them down with increasingly tight and fussy interplay and no width. An early goal for Spain should mean an entertaining and open game..

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