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The dream dies

Germany fall at second-to-last hurdle

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The World Cup has come to an abrupt end for Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Germany’s six other Bayern men following Wednesday’s 1-0 semi-final defeat to Spain. A 60,960 crowd at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban saw Carles Puyol head the only goal of the game on 73 minutes. Whereas Germany now play Uruguay in Saturday’s third-place play-off, Spain contest Sunday’s final against the Netherlands and their FCB duo Arjen Robben and Mark van Bommel.

Piotr Trochowski took over from the suspended Thomas Müller in the German starting line-up, while Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Miroslav Klose covered the full 90 minutes. Toni Kroos (62) and Mario Gomez (81) both came on as subs during the match, Kroos even coming close to handing his side the lead, only for Iker Casillas to parry the young FCB star’s volley.

Dominant Spain

However, the opening for Kroos was practically the only clear-cut chance fashioned by Joachim Löw’s men in the entire game. Spain applied ceaseless pressure throughout the match, using their swift and precise passing skills to perfection, and pinning the Germans back into their own final third. However, the Iberians failed to put away a handful of decent openings before Puyol rose to power home a header from a corner simply swung over into the box.

Lahm was inconsolable afterwards. “You’re always gutted when you lose a semi-final. We’re very, very disappointed. We set our sights high, but it’s not worked out for us. We didn’t play well, especially in the first half, and we lacked the courage of our convictions going forward. Spain are an exceptional team,” commented the 26-year-old. “We restricted them to very few chances, but we needed to be taking one of our own.”

Schweinsteiger lamented Germany’s failure to recapture the thrilling form which saw them sweep aside England and Argentina. “It's devastating when you’re so close to the final but fail to play the way you wanted to. We spent too much time chasing shadows. We weren’t at 100 percent tactically compared to the two previous games, but it’s not easy against a genuinely top team.” Klose, a lonely figure up front for most of the match, voiced similar opinions. “We didn’t have enough belief in ourselves. I’m obviously disappointed. We were all hoping to make the Final, but it’s not happened. We werefar too focused on defending.”

Frustration for Müller

The defeat was especially painful for Müller, condemned to watch from the stands after receiving a second yellow card against Argentina. “It's just a massive disappointment at the moment. The result is a catastrophe for us. Spain have excellent players, but we could still have got a result, even against Spain. Unfortunately, we couldn’t reproduce our previous performances.”

The Woirld Cup finally ends for Germany’s Bayern contingent in Port Elizabeth on Saturday with the match for third place against Uruguay. Van Bommel, Robben and their Holland team-mates take on the Spanish in the final on Sunday evening in Johannesburg.