What a difference a week makes.
Just seven days ago, it looked highly probable that the World Cup's final four was going to consist of all South American teams, as four squads from the continent made it into the quarterfinals for the first time since 1930. Traditional powers Brazil and Argentina looked strong and creative heading into the quarterfinals, while the scrappy and resourceful teams from Paraguay and Uruguay played smartly to earn their spots.
But then Germany hammered Argentina, the Netherlands shocked Brazil, and Spain outlasted Paraguay, tilting the balance back toward old Europe. And after the Dutch ousted Uruguay yesterday, there will now be an all Europe final as the Oranje await the winner of the Germany-Spain tilt, which gets underway at 2:30 p.m. EST today.
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Throughout the tournament, Germany and the Netherlands have played excellent football, owning a combined 10-1 record before today's kick off. The offenses for both squads have been lethal and German forward Miroslav Klose could win the golden boot for most goals scored in the tournament.
Spain has looked a little more restrained, but that could simply be because they've never reached these heights before, getting into the semi-finals for the first time. However their most important player, striker David Villa, has been a man unbound, netting five goals thus far, one more than Germany's Klose.
There's no easy explanation for why these European teams advanced while their more flashy southern opponents wilted in the spotlight. Some would attribute the success to their workman-like style of play, but that seems too simple, especially in light of similar teams like Uruaguay and Paraguay.
In any event, even though the more high profile English, French and Italian sides went home early, Europe will once again be host to the world's most prized sports trophy for the next four years.