World Cup cheers in Spain and tears in Germany

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JOHANNESBURG: Football fans cheered in Madrid and shed tears in Berlin as Spain set up a World Cup final showdown with the Netherlands at Soccer City on Sunday.

Carles Puyol, the mop haired Barcelona veteran deployed to prevent rather than score goals, settled a Durban semi-final thriller by dashing forward to head an Andres Iniesta corner into the net on 73 minutes.

When Puyol scored the Madrid fan park erupted as Spaniards celebrated a fifth successive victory after the World Cup campaign got off to a shock start with a loss to modest Switzerland.

‘Red Fury’ supporters leapt in the air, waved red and yellow scarves and football was the sole topic of Madrid conversation as night fell on the Spanish capital and the country looked forward to a first final appearance.

"It is over! We are in the final of the World Cup! It is historic, what joy!" shouted a commentator from television channel La Cuatro as the final whistle blew.

Stunned Germans, told a few days before by legend Franz Beckenbauer that the team was "perfect" after drilling four goals past Australia, England and Argentina, openly wept at another failure against Spain.

"Germany is upset and tears are flowing up and down the country," admitted mass-circulation German daily Bild. "No matter how tough it may be to accept, the defeat was deserved."

Spain and Netherlands have been competing in the World Cup since 1934 but never met which only adds to the intrigue ahead of a final that will attract a sell-out 90,000 crowd to a western outskirt of Johannesburg.

Like Dutch counterpart Bert van Marwijk, Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque pleaded with his celebrating stars to keep their feet on the ground ahead of the second all-Europe final in a row with Italy defeating France in Berlin.

"Of course we must celebrate this victory but we will do so with moderation. We will not be blinded by success. We will enjoy this and then start preparing for the final," stressed the former Real Madrid coach.

"There is nothing more difficult or precious than to win a World Cup. But we still have to play the final. We cannot start bragging or get too conceited yet.

"We looked to win the ball and keep it for the entire match and the players did their job magnificently," said the man who courageously axed misfiring Torres for the semi-final.

"The triumph is even bigger because of the size of the opponent. You could say Germany were less strong than expected but that was because our team did a great job. The bottom line is we played better than they expected."

While Spain and Netherlands moved to the South African financial capital, Germany and Uruguay headed for the Eastern Cape city of Port Elizabeth and a third place play-off on Saturday.




Supporters of the Spanish team celebrate during the World Cup semi-final football match Spain against Germany in Pamplona. (AFP Photo/ Rafa Rivas)



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