James Lawton: Even spirit of Schweinsteiger could not deny stylists their day

As deadlocks go, this one was touching moments of the sublime. In a way, the winner made a mockery of that intricate Spanish construction

No, we will not have a reprise of history, we will not have the brilliant neurotics of the Netherlands against the latest manifestation of the German genius for making one formidable team after another.

We will have Spain and the Dutch, two of the greatest but most unfulfilled of the football nations contending for their first world title on Sunday night. We will not have history, we will, at least it is pretty to think, have the future – one that might just be filled with artistry to rival much of the best we have seen in the past.

That was the promise made in Vienna two years ago when Spain won the European Championship with such superb élan and it was one repeated in Durban beside the Indian Ocean last night.

In the end it was astonishing that this young German team still posed something of a threat after Spain's young Pedro neglected the chance to serve the substitute Fernando Torres with the ball that would surely have finally killed off the opposition altogether.

They withstood everything but the brutally inflicted set-piece goal by Carles Puyol, the least polished of the Spaniards. In many ways they had been outclassed in the niceties of football. They could scarcely live with the perfect balance of the Spanish game, but if the Germans have much technical promise they also showed that they had superb spirit – and resilience.

Indeed, when the rhythm of Spain began to fray, when Andres Iniesta gave the ball away twice within a minute, you had to wonder if you had been watching some exaggerated version of rope-a-dope. Given all the evidence of the German ability to counter-attack with killing efficiency, it was maybe not so bizarre a theory.

Yet the fact was that in that first avalanche of passing, of ceaseless running, Spain might have scored twice and then, who knew what mayhem might follow from the release of the pressure on them to do more than produce some exquisite shadow-boxing?

For the Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque there was the familiar agony of seeing his team do everything but deliver an early sword-stroke. That pain was only intensified when a long shot from Piotr Trochowski forced Iker Casillas into a scrambling save and Sergio Ramos brought down Mesut Ozil perilously as the young German creator-in-chief swept into the box.

Here certainly was the great crisis in the art of Spanish football. Just as Jose Mourinho's Internazionale frustrated the Barcelona core of the Spain team in the Champions League, now this precocious German side were inviting them to do their worst and see if it worked. By half-time it was plainly not so doing. Spain's first monstrous share of possession was dwindling and the Germans, who spent an hour against the ropes, were venturing a little nearer to the centre of the ring.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, a titan in the destruction of first England, then Argentina, had been a spectator in the early going, watching the patterns of Xavi and Iniesta, and the brilliant, biting through ball of Pedro that almost opened the way for David Villa. When Puyol headed over from close in, the Germans, whatever their strategy, knew that they were extremely fortunate to still be alive.

The trouble for Spain, though, was that Germany remained a team plainly impervious to any form of intimidation, something which Iniesta was able to revive with a classic, tight little break along the left that almost sent Villa clear.

It seemed that the Germans could absorb any amount of pressure, concede all the grace notes that the Spanish were accumulating, and yet remain whole, and threatening as they proved when Lukas Podolski required Casillas to make a two-handed blocking save.

As deadlocks go, this one was touching moments of the sublime. There was something richly ironic, however, that when Spain did make their breakthrough it was not the final flourish of some dazzling mosaic of passing, it wasn't the rapier of Iniesta or a predatory swoop by Villa, but the thrusting, shaggy head of that eternal warrior, Puyol. His header smashed the defences of the dogged Manuel Neuer, and in a way it made something of a mockery of all that intricate Spanish construction.

Yet you cannot discount the refinement of the Spanish game. It will illuminate and dignify this 19th World Cup. It has the capacity to make poetry out of a game that often here has been too prosaic, to attach to the virtues of effort and strength.

Last night the Germans were caught in the Spanish web and even the relentless Schweinsteiger could not produce the power or the will to change the course of the game. Spain versus Holland has a wonderful ring to it and the suspicion here is that it will be one of the great finals. The best has been saved for last.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home