Germany 3 Turkey 2 (predicted: 1-0)
What a strange game that was. Germany played like absolute no-hopers for 45 minutes and while they improved after the break, they still didn’t look like a team that was ninty minutes away from being European Champions. Meanwhile an understrength Turkey side dominated the first half, went ahead deservedly through Ugur and were pegged back when Schweinsteiger clipped home Podolski’s low cross.
As television pictures went down across Europe in the second half, Germany went ahead after Turkey reserve keeper Rustu misjudged a cross leaving a simple finish for Klose. It looked all over but once again Turkey found some fight and when Philipp Lahm got outwitted by Sabri on the right-wing and he slid a perfect low cross in to Semih’s path. Lovable Jens Lehmann looked a bit silly on his knees with his hands out waiting for a ball that never reached him.
A final minute winner from Lahm, who played a superb one-two with the otherwise useless Thomas Hitzlsperger and finished clinically from about 8 yards, handed the Germans a scarcely-deserved victory.
Lahm was involved in a lot of Germany’s good play. He could also have had a penalty when Sabri clattered him on the edge of the Turkish box. Massimo Busacca, the Swiss referee, incredibly waved play-on. He also angered the Turks when he saw no foul in Kazim Kazim being pulled down by Lahm on the edge of the German box.
It was tough on the Turks who created several chances, especially in the first half when they could have been a couple of goals ahead. Kazim Kazim somehow blasted against the bar from ten yards although it was his fluffed shot that deceived Lehmann when it came back off the bar and fell to Ugur for the first goal.
Fatih Terim is set to resign as Turkish national boss but he has left a very strong side behind that could become a force in European football.
Russia 0 Spain 3 (predicted: 3-2)
I didn’t see it. Russia were very disappointing apparently.
So… it’s the big one.
Did I think we’d see a Spain v Germany final at the start? I figured that any of six teams could win it: Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal or France. It might sound like a cop-out but that’s how open the tournament seemed with no outstanding team right now in Europe.
At this point I still feel there is no outstanding team in European football (one might say in world football). On the evidence we’ve seen though Spain have proven themselves to be a cut-above every other team in the competition, even if it was a limping performance that saw them overcome Italy.
The strength in Italy’s performance might be what gives Germany hope today: a rearguard action. Spain’s best performances came against Russia – an attacking side with a suspect defence. When they faced an organised team such as Italy or Sweden (who they only overcame in injury time), they were frustrated for most of the game.
Germany don’t have a strong defence but Low will instruct his team to sit tight and wait for the Spanish to come at them. Torsten Frings will have to be on his game and the rumours over the availability or otherwise of Michael Ballack appear to be just a smokescreen with an hour to go to kick off.
At the other end of the pitch I don’t think Germany have the talent to take advantage of Spain’s own defensive weaknesses (Puyol and Ramos, namely). If Podolski gets beyond Ramos then late-arriving players like Ballack and Shweinsteiger may get shooting opportunities. But beyond that it’s hard to see where the inspiration will come from.
Spain are missing David Villa but he’s been less impressive as the tournament has gone on and the real key men for the Spanish are in midfield: Senna, Xavi and Fabregas (who is still omitted from the first XI).
It’ll be a tight game and will be better for an early Germany goal. If Germany win it then it is likely to be due to some outstanding defending and their midfield managing to stifle Spanish creativity. I can see goals on both sides but the Spanish to win out.
Prediction: Germany 1 Spain 2