Spain beats Germany for first-ever World Cup final berth

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DURBAN, South Africa | Carles Puyol soared high to head in the goal that sent Spain into the World Cup final for the first time with a 1-0 win over Germany on Wednesday.

In a rematch of the 2008 European Championship final that Spain won by the same score, Puyol leaped in the center of the area in the 73rd minute to score from Xavi Hernandez’s corner kick, finally giving Spain the lead after having dominated from the opening whistle.

“The group deserves this but we want more,” said Spain striker David Villa, who is tied with Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder for the tournament scoring lead with five goals each. “We are happy to be in the final, that was our objective, but now we want to be champions.”

Spain’s best previous World Cup finish was fourth in 1950, when the final round consisted of a four-team group.

In Sunday’s final at Soccer City, Spain will meet the Netherlands, which has also never won football’s biggest trophy.

Spain controlled throughout with its precision passing game, playing just the way it hoped to, but had trouble finishing until Puyol’s late strike.

At the final whistle, Puyol raised his arms in triumph as goalkeeper Iker Casillas jumped on the center back’s shoulders.

For much of the game, three-time champion Germany merely sat back and waited patiently to snuff out Spain’s attack, hoping to launch a counterattack that rarely took off.

It was a sharp change from Germany’s last two outings, when it scored four goals each in impressive victories over England and Argentina.

Germany sorely missed suspended winger Thomas Mueller, who had scored four goals so far and was often able to outsprint opponents.

“In the last two or three years they have been one of the best and most united teams,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said. “They circulate the ball well and we couldn’t play the way we like to play.

“We had great plans but it didn’t work out.”

Loew seemed to think that Spain will also beat the Netherlands.

“They’ve won all the big games in the last year. It’s a good team that has played together now for two or three years,” the Germany coach said. “I am sure the Spanish can win any game because they are dominant and it’s hard to contain their attack.”

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