Armchair Pundit

World Cup cheat sheet: Day 28

Alex Chick

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Spain have booked their place in the World Cup final with a classy 1-0 win against Germany, guaranteeing a new team will win the World Cup.

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Germany 0-1 Spain - Durban

Carles Puyol's thumping second-half header was enough to send Spain into their first World Cup final, and to ensure there will be a new name on the trophy when they dace Netherlands on Sunday. The European Champions dominated possession and barely gave the Germans a chance, although a slow, bobbly pitch at the Moses Mabhida Stadium took some sting out of both teams' attacks. Germany will rue the moment Sergio Ramos appeared to catch Mesut Ozil as the playmaker ran through on goal in first-half stoppage time. Any contact took place just outside the box but a harsher referee than Viktor Kassai might have shown a red card. Thereafter it was all Spain, who passed the ball relentlessly. David Villa just failed to make contact with a low cross in front of goal in a move reminiscent of Paul Gascoigne against Germany at Euro '96. It took Puyol to break the deadlock on 73 minutes, converting emphatically from a Xavi corner. Spain should have finished it off late on when they raced through two-on-one, but Pedro inexplicably failed to pass to an unmarked Fernando Torres. It was another triumph for Paul the Octopus, who has correctly predicted the result of all six Germany matches. Spain have won all three games in the knockout rounds 1-0.

Matches to play:
Third place play-off - Uruguay v Germany - Port Elizabeth - Saturday 10 July - 19.30
Final - Netherlands v Spain - Soccer City - Sunday 11 July - 19.30

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Water cooler chat: New name on the trophy

Uruguay, Italy, West Germany, Brazil, England, Argentina, France... on Sunday an eighth team will win the World Cup.

Will it be twice beaten finalists Netherlands, widely acknowledged as the best football nation never to have won the tournament?

Or will it be Spain, who have never finished better than fourth before, but who are European champions and favourites?

The World Cup has been a remarkably closed shop, with only the occasional win for the hosts spicing things up.

If you discount tournaments won by the hosts, the list of winners looks like this:

Italy (1938)
Uruguay (1950)
West Germany (1954)
Brazil (1958)
Brazil (1962)
Brazil (1970)
Italy (1982)
Argentina (1986)
West Germany (1990)
Brazil (1994)
Brazil (2002)
Italy (2006)

The World Cup-winners' club is a tough one to break into - on Sunday a new nation joins the gang.

It will also be the first victory for a European nation outside their home continent.

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World Cup jargon: Golden Ball

The award given to the World Cup's best player. The bookmakers would have you believe this is a two-horse race between Spain's David Villa and Holland's Wesley Sneijder, both of whom have scored three goals. Selected media are invited to vote for their favourite from a FIFA shortlist, with the winner announced straight after the final.

The fact that voting takes place before the end of the tournament has thrown up some odd results, with the award representing something of a curse in recent tournaments.

In 1998, the award went to Ronaldo, despite the Brazilian having a fit before the final, looking a shadow of himself, and hosts France winning 3-0. Davor Suker was second with the best-placed Frenchman, Lilian Thuram, third.

In 2002 it should have gone to Ronaldo, who fired eight goals including both Brazilian strikes to win the final 2-0. But it went to Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who spilled a routine shot to present Ronaldo with the opener.

And in 2006 Zinedine Zidane walked away with the award despite ending the tournament in shame after butting Italy's Marco Materazzi in the chest. France lost the final to Italy on penalties. Italy skipper and eventual Ballon d'Or winner Fabio Cannavaro was second.

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Counting chickens? Madrid sports daily Marca have refused to get carried away as Spain reach their first world Cup final.


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Grief-watch: Anyone concerned over Cristiano Ronaldo's welfare following his gut-wrenchingly bad World Cup performance can rest easy.

Fresh from the birth of his son to an unnamed mother, he was pictured in New York clutching numerous Gucci bags. No point spending that sort on money on baby clothes, Ron, he'll soon grow out of them.

Meanwhile, sister Katia, who is looking after the baby while Ronaldo swans around the Big Apple, revealed the tot's name:

"He's called Cristiano just like his dad. Cristiano chose the name but we like it." Now there's a surprise.

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