Spain, the European Champions started the tournament with one of the shocks of the early rounds when they lost to Switzerland 1-0. Despite losing they dominated but couldn't find a way through a solid Swiss defence. Vicentre Del Bosque brought on Jesus Navas in the second-half for David Silva and even he could not find a deciding cross. Xabi Alonso's thunderous strike rattled the crossbar but this was the closest they were to getting anything. After the match most people hailed Ottmar Hitzfeld as a tactical genius, failing to mention some of the good fortune that went their way. Credit should go to Switzerland however Spain were simply not cohesive enough in the final third and crucially they could not get David Villa involved enough.
In their next match knowing after that loss they really had to win they beat Honduras 2-0, thanks to a Villa double. They went through top after beating many neutral favourites Chile 2-1. This game changed dramatically after David Villa's first time strike from just inside the Chilean half after goalkeeper Claudio Bravo came racing out to clear the ball. Only for Villa to hit a looping first-time shot into an unguarded net. Before this Chile had been the better team with Spain finding it hard to get a foot on the ball. However this goal and Estrada's sending-off left them needing a miracle. Spain scored a second and then after an early second-half goal from Chilean Millar simply played out the remainder of the match with both teams knowing that they were going through.
Into the second round and Spain met Portugal and after much effort they found a way through from their man of the tournament, probably man of the last few years, David Villa. Spain controlled this game for the large part and deserved to go through. They still haven't however fully convinced many as they have lacked goals and have relied on Villa's goals. Against Paraguay in the quarter-final they only won it thanks to another Villa goal, although perhaps the credit should equally be split between him and Andres Iniesta who made a burst into their opponents box before teeing up Pedro who in-turn hit the post. Villa then placed the ball into the far corner and it finally went in via both posts. However Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo missed a penalty which may well have totally changed this game early on. Straight away Xabi Alonso had the chance to put Spain one up, but had to retake his penalty, which he scored, after the referee deemed that players had encroached the area. The next time Villar saved and then within seconds tripped Fabregas, yet Spain weren't going to get another penalty so soon from this referee.
The semi-final against Germany will perhaps be an easier game than playing against a defensive team but going forward Germany, even without Thomas Mueller pose the back four problems.
In the middle Schweinsteiger and Khedira will be responsible for tracking Xavi and Iniesta which may leave more room for Alonso to dictate the game. As you would expect with a World Cup semi-final every part of the pitch is going to have duals between some great players. David Villa versus Philip Lahm will be particularly fascinating as both have had magnificent tournaments so far.
Spain play a 4-2-3-1 with Torres up-front although Del Bosque has hinted at dropping him after a poor run of games. My preferred team would be the usual back four, just one holding midfielder and then four in midfield (Villa,Xavi,Iniesta and Navas/Silva) and Llorente alone up top.
Germany preview to follow.