Germany coach Joachim Löw last night declared Spain the best team in the world after watching their mesmeric passing game overwhelm his own players and predicted they would beat Holland in Sunday's World Cup final.
The 1-0 win by Vicente del Bosque's side means that a new nation will lift the cup at Johannesburg's Soccer City, and Löw admitted Spain were "the most skilled team of all". They "circulated the ball very quickly and we were not able to get back to our play of previous matches. We had our inhibitions there," he declared.
Del Bosque, whose gamble on dropping Fernando Torres to the bench in favour of an extra midfielder paid rich dividends, said Spain had finally flowered at this tournament because they were allowed possession. "We feel better when we have the ball. When we don't have the ball, we suffer," he said. "Today we were perhaps pressed less than we had been against Paraguay and Chile. Those countries were tough opponents and made us suffer, even if they weren't as famous. They put us under pressure. Some people may say we're in the final because we didn't have big opponents against us, but it's still a huge achievement."
Spain, whose historic failure to go beyond the quarter-finals of a major tournament once spawned a pop song in the country about that stage of the tournament, are in their first World Cup final and could become only the second reigning European champions to lift the cup. The West German side of the early 1970s was the last. Del Bosque admitted Germany "were perhaps less strong than expected" but he certainly has a side whose ability on the ball has echoes of the 1970s Dutch side inspired by Johan Cruyff.
"I don't know if it looks like the Dutch style. It is based on a good, organised midfield," Del Bosque said. "If you have order, then you can showcase individual talents. We have great players, excellent players, and that makes everything easier."
Though David Villa's contribution from a central role in the reconfigured side was not as great as in previous matches, Del Bosque felt the decision to leave out Torres, who had lasted only 55 minutes of the Paraguay game, had worked. "It was a difficult decision to drop Torres, because we all like Torres as a personality and as a footballer, but we took a decision specifically with the match in mind," he said.
Löw, whose contract expired on 30 June, said his future would not be decided until after the World Cup . He rued conceding a goal, by Carles Puyol, to a set-piece. "Puyol had a long run-up and thumped the ball in. There were two of our defenders somewhere close, and we should have anticipated where the ball would be." But he said his side had lost its seemingly indefatigable confidence thanks to the Spanish midfield's ability to win back and maintain possession.
"We lost the ball too quickly, particularly in the first half, and didn't have the 100 per cent confidence to complete an action or a run. I don't quite know why that happened. It's extremely difficult to win the ball back from them. That's what makes them so strong."
Del Bosque pledged to maintain his players' perspective. "There's not much more precious than a World Cup, but we're a young team and shouldn't be too conceited. Let's just play the next match," he said.Reuse content