Paul, the Octopus Oracle (otherwise fondly referred to as the Okrakel) got his latest prediction correct.
The semi-final last night between Germany and Spain (match report in the Guardian), played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, got off to a slow start, with a disappointingly lacklustre performance by Germany. For the entire first half, they kept passing the ball backwards and sideways (and straight to the opposition) rather than charging forward and creating their goal-scoring opportunities. Even Spain seemed to be playing with a handbrake on during the first half.
By halftime, us non-soccer-fundis (but nonetheless passionate World Cup watchers) were starting to yawn and wonder whether both sides were planning to drag this out into extended time and a penalty shoot-out.
Thank heavens, the second half was more energetic.
The pace heated up, even though the attacking charges from both sides were scuppered by some seriously good, solid defending. On the few occasions where the ball got close to the goal, it was quickly deflected or whacked back across the field.
It was only after the 73rd minute, when Spain scored their one and only goal of the match, a perfect header by Carles Puyol of the long curly hair, that Germany suddenly accelerated in a panic. But it was too late. Even with their substitutions, they failed to catch up. Spain totally deserved to win this match.
Although I am disappointed, it is great that the final will be between Spain and the Netherlands, neither of whom have ever won the World Cup.
Let’s hope that this will be a far more passionate and fast-paced game than last night’s!