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Closing thoughts on World Cup quarterfinals

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Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger: along with Uruguay's Diego Forlan, my two players of the tournament so far.
Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger: along with Uruguay's Diego Forlan, my two players of the tournament so far.

Germany is going to squash Spain like a Catalan grape if Xavi, Iniesta et al don’t play better than they have to now. How many times have we seen Germany at its best in this World Cup? I’d say three times now, in the eye-opening opener against Australia, in the resounding second round win over England and the equally dominant quarterfinal crushing of Argentina. Meanwhile, how many times have we seen Spain at its best? I’d say zero. The Spanish just haven’t seemed to find their stride in South Africa, although the players are clearly good enough to coast on talent alone – to a point.

Expect the Spanish to be better, to suddenly find the stroke, at your own risk. It could happen, I suppose; again, these are world class players wearing the red kit. On the other hand, never forget the definition of insanity: doing the same thing repeatedly and yet expecting different results. My money is on Germany.

– This is was not Leo Messi’s World Cup, as so many expected. This is not Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup. This is not Wayne Rooney’s World Cup. Hype will always thrive – but whether these things ever come to fruition is a total crapshoot.

– "Total football" is as dead as George Washington. It’s always amusing to me how people still say this about theNetherlands’ soccer. The Dutch haven’t really played in this fluid style of positional interchange since the 70s. They haven’t even played in the classic Dutch 4-3-3 since the 90s. If you want to talk about the Ajax system (which some people lament as overly mechanical, while others appreciate the detail and geometry of it all), that’s fine. If you want to talk about players developed in a system where they all, defenders and attackers alike, feel comfortable on the ball, fine. But they don’t fluidly interchange positions. But announcers really should stop referencing "total football" as if it existed today.

– For my money, Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger and Uruguay’s Diego Forlan are the players of the tournament.

– I once hated to watch Germany. I just enjoy watching the team win through will and brute force. Now, Joachim Löw’s side is a real joy to watch. They move the ball gracefully, quickly. Whenever possible, the first touch is forward. The first instinct is to attack rather than protect.  

Having said that, I always think the tournament will be even more fascinating and captivating that it already is when more teams can add their name do the decorated list of winners. If we all just sit around and wonder whether Brazil,ArgentinaItaly or Germany is going to win the next time, the World Cup will eventually lose something. So I’d love to see a new winner this time around. Mathematically speaking, there’s a 75 percent chance of that happening (if we’re only counting titles won in the modern era.)