Why Germany will win:
I believe Germany will beat Turkey in its weakened state. That leaves Germany playing either Spain or Russia for the trophy.
- The psychological edge: Neither Russia nor Spain has been at this level in the lifetimes of these players. That is going to weigh heavily on them if the game is close, goes to overtime or in penalties. Germany, by contrast, is battle tested. Ballack and Klose were in the squad that lost in the 2002 World Cup Final to Brazil. While Puyol, Marchena, Casillas, Xavi and Iniesta have been in Champions League winning squads, that’s not the same as a quadrennial tournament for your country. I know Spain won their shootout, but I will take the Germans in a shootout if it comes to that – Lehmann is very good at penalties as well. I believe it will be less of an edge against the Russians as they have nothing to lose. They have overperformed and have a great coach to take some of the pressure off the players.
- The physical edge: Russia has been particularly vulnerable on free kicks as evidenced by the slack marking against the Dutch. That will bury them against the Germans who demonstrated their aerial capabilities against Portugal. Spain has also struggled with the high ball – they gave up a headed goal to Pavlyuchenko and had trouble against Ibrahimovic on the diagonal cross. In midfield, it’s going to be tough for Spain to match up with the speed and aggressiveness of the Germans. Podolski, Klose, Ballack and Schweinsteiger are also going to be a handful for the Spanish rearguard.
- In-form players: Ballack, Klose, Schweinsteiger and Podolski are all on the board. Look out.
Why Spain will win:
They can beat Russia by keeping possession – the less time the Russians have on the ball, the less damage Arshavin can do. If I was Spain, I would slow the game down so that the Russians’ late game fitness is not an issue. Spain also has enough mobility in midfield to stay with the Russians. It’s a toss up, but I think Spain can win because of the scoring threat that Torres and Villa will provide. They will not be flat like the Dutch were. However, Casillas is going to have to have the game of his life to keep the Russians from scoring with Pavlyuchenko set to give Puyol and Marchena fits.
- Spain has the bench: Their depth will be the key to counter Germany or Turkey if the game goes into overtime. Arragones has a depth of midfield choices to change up his gameplan as well.
- In-form players: Villa leads the tournament in scoring. Torres has scored and all the penalty kick takers, excluding Guiza, should be full of confidence. Casillas is on form as well.
- They believe now that they have thrown off the quarterfinal jinx.
- They are quicker at moving the ball around than anyone Germany or Turkey have played so far. That will give them fits. I think Spain should want to play Germany because only Genghis Khan’s hordes will be able to keep Turkey from winning the title if they beat Germany with half a squad. Tuncay, Turan, Volkan and Asik will be back for the final, so beware.
- It’s their time – it just feels like it.
Why Russia will win:
They can beat Spain if they score first. Spain will have to be more aggressive playing from behind and that will leave more space for Arshavin to exploit. It’s going to be tough as Spain has been warned after seeing the Dutch get served up. So if Russia can get past Spain, they will beat Turkey handily in my opinion. The Turks will not be able to recover from giving up as many chances as Russia creates. Can they beat Germany is the question. Yes, they can.
- Russia plays the best football of any team in the tournament. It’s pretty, one touch, direct, motion football. As a result, they create a ton of chances regardless of the pace of play.
- They have nothing to lose. They are already heroes.
- They have in-form players in Pavlyuchenko and Zhirkov as well as the player of the tournament in Arshavin.
- They have Hiddink.
- Their movement will make it tough for Germany to shut them down even if Germany plays five in midfield.
- They will have learned their lesson against Holland and mark people tighter on free kicks and corners.
And after all that, CH12 picks…
My gut says the winner of the Spain v Russia semi final wins the tournament with my choice being Spain. More after the semi finals…