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Spain headed to World Cup final

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Associated Press
July 8, 2010
— They pressured Germany the entire match and peppered its goalkeeper so many times a score seemed inevitable.

Finally, with a mighty swing of his head that sent his long, curly locks flying, Spain’s Carles Puyol got it done.


With the World Cup final in reach—and Queen Sofia cheering from the stands—La Roja came through with their best game yet.


“We’ve shown that in the big moments we can grow even more,” striker David Villa said after Spain’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Germany on Wednesday night. “We should have scored more goals, but one from Puyol has put us in the final.”


Spain will play for the World Cup title for the first time, thanks to Puyol’s goal on that powerful header in the second half. The game was a repeat, down to the final score, of the 2008 European Championship final when Spain beat Germany to win its first major title in 44 years.


European bragging rights are one thing. Being the world champion is something else.


When the final whistle sounded, the Spanish players on the field thrust their arms in the air while the substitutes raced out to join them. Two teammates grabbed Villa, who has scored all but two of Spain’s goals here, and carried him on their shoulders.


In the stands, Spanish fans partied deep into the night, waving flags, banging on drums and singing chorus after chorus of “Ole! Ole! Ole!”


“This is one of the greatest moments for Spain, for us to be in the final of the World Cup, it’s history,” said Villa, who is tied with the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder for the scoring lead at five goals each. “And we want to make more history in the final.”


Spain faces the Netherlands on Sunday at Soccer City in Johannesburg, ensuring a first-time champion. The Dutch, who beat Uruguay, 3-2, on Tuesday, have lost in their only two trips to the


final.


The two teams have never met in the World Cup, and their all-time series is dead even.


“I am sure the Spanish can win any game,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said, “because they are dominant and it’s hard to contain their attack.”


Spain has been the best team in Europe—all the world, really—for much of the last four years. It has lost just two games since November 2006, one a shocker to Switzerland in the group-stage opener.


After coming oh, so close several times—including on back-to-back plays in the 57th minute—Xavi swung a corner kick right into the scrum in front of German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the 73rd. With fellow defender and Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique next to him and screening Neuer’s view, Puyol leaped and got the ball.


He headed it with such power that Neuer, who dived to his left, had no chance to stop the ball.


The Germans were devastated after the final whistle.


This was the three-time champions’ third straight trip to the World Cup semis. Yet just like in 2006, they are headed for the third-place game.


For the Spanish, it’s everything they’ve been working for these last four years.


“We worked hard to get here and now we have made the final,” Villa said. “It’s a great thing.”



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