Pedro pill propels superb Spaniards

July 8: Carles Puyol scored the only goal to ensure Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque’s decision to drop Fernando Torres from the World Cup semifinal against Germany did not come back to haunt him. The European champions beat free-scoring Germany 1-0 to reach their first ever World Cup final, where twice runners-up Holland will be waiting for them at Johannesburg’s Soccer City on Sunday.

After all the pre-match talk about strikers, it was soaring centre-back Puyol who notched the only goal of a tight game in which Spain dominated and Germany paid for an overly cautious approach. Del Bosque left Torres on the bench after a disappointing tournament in which the Liverpool striker, after a knee injury, has failed to score.

Instead, the wily coach turned to Barcelona’s Pedro to provide a youthful thrust on the flank while also freeing top scorer David Villa to play in his preferred central position. “It was a difficult decision,” said Del Bosque. “Fernando is a boy everyone likes, a strong personality and a good player. But we took a decision on the basis of what we thought was best for this match,” Del Bosque said.

Pedro was lively and he teed up Villa on six minutes, but the pass was slightly too close to Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and he closed down the new Barcelona forward to block his prod. On 13 minutes Puyol could have opened the scoring when he met Anders Iniesta’s cross full on the head, but he got his trajectory wrong and the ball flew over the bar.

Chances were few and far between with Xabi Alonso sending a pair of long range efforts wide and Pedro forcing Neuer to save. At the other end, Piotr Trochowski, in for the suspended Thomas Mueller, forced Iker Casillas into a save, Miroslav Klose volleyed over and Toni Kroos shot straight at the Spanish keeper.

Spain were largely in control and yet their goal, 17 minutes from time, came from the most unlikely source. Xavi sent over a corner and Puyol arrived at pace to plant a bullet header past Neuer’s despairing dive.

They may already be champions of Europe and in their first World Cup final but Alonso said Spain will not be satisfied unless they land the major prize. “We want more, we’ve come a long way and now we’re in the final. We want to celebrate something really big,” he said.

Germany boss Joachim Loew admitted it was a game too far for his young team who had scored four goals against both England and Argentina in their previous two ties. “We have to congratulate the Spanish team. They played well and over the last two or three years they have been the most skilled team,” he said.

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