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Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Saturday, 28 June 2008 17:15 UK

Teutonic power vs Latin artistry?

By Chris Whyatt

Iker Casillas and Bastian Schweinsteiger
Casillas (left) and Schweinsteiger (right) hope to be celebrating again
Euro 2008 has given international football the kiss of life it so desperately needed and, after 30 games ripe with quality and passion, the final act is upon us.

Teutonic power versus Latin artistry? Muscle versus mind?

A classic match-up between genuine European heavyweights, Germany against Spain can rightly be billed as such, given the evidence of their respective passages to the final.

But beneath the instant stereotypes are a litany of sub-plots and subtleties that will decide the game - from the tactics employed by managers who lead national sides with a combined population of 142 million, right down to the intricate technique of 20-plus players.

606: DEBATE
Saj C

Here, BBC Radio 5 Live football summariser and former England manager Graham Taylor picks out and examines the key factors that will come to the boil in Vienna on Sunday evening.

DO THE TEAMS HAVE TRULY CONTRASTING STYLES?

"Tactically, it's Spain's close passing game and quick movement against Germany's direct style of play," insists Taylor.

"The Germans get the ball forward much quicker and play the long ball more often than they used to."

Perennial underachievers Spain, long known for breeding players with exceptional technique and a feathery touch on the ball, have experienced real success with their trademark style of play in Austria and Switzerland - but Taylor warns that they could be one-dimensional to their detriment.

Spain can only play one way... they remind me a lot of Arsenal

Graham Taylor

"Spain can only play one way. They remind me a lot of Arsenal," he declares. "If Germany sit back and allow Spain to play, they will lose.

"The way Germany will win is if they get at Spain and are more direct. They need to unsettle Spain by stopping their flowing style of play. They need to get in their faces.

"Germany could give Spain problems in the air. The average height of the German squad is around 6ft-plus."

In their past two games - against Spain-a-likes Portugal in the quarter-finals then Turkey in the semi-final - Germany have scored three headed goals (two from Miroslav Klose and a Michael Ballack effort), consistently pinging aerial balls towards their steel-spined giants to create danger and expose defensive hesitancy.

"They could really disturb Spain at the back. Puyol and Marchena have done very well so far but they will be really tested on Sunday," says Taylor.

Miroslav Klose
Klose gave Germany the lead against Turkey with his head

"Germany will put a lot of crosses in for Klose and Podolski."

While Spain and Germany have hugely contrasting styles of play, they do adhere to roughly the same formation: 4-5-1.

This means one forward leading the line with the support of two attacking midfielders who can break wide, with three deeper lying midfielders breaking up play and passing the ball into dangerous areas.

For Spain, the symphony is largely spontaneous with Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, and David Silva all interchangeable and getting forward. For Germany, Lukas Podolski and Bastien Schweinsteiger have specific roles to play, supporting Miroslav Klose to the left and right respectively.

WHERE ARE THE KEY INDIVIDUAL BATTLES?

Spain's squad is widely acknowledged to be packed with top-class talent and a smattering of genuine world-class players.

Star strikers Fernando Torres and David Villa (missing because of injury), Barcelona midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta along with Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas, bruising defenders Carlos Puyol and Sergio Ramos and acrobatic keeper Iker Casillas - all names that roll off the tongue.

Yet Germany, for all their success so far, are only considered to have one true world-class talent - Chelsea's all-action midfielder Michael Ballack, who is a doubt for the final because of a calf injury.

But Taylor believes that Germany's individuals can cause Spain trouble within the system that coach Joachim Low uses to ensure that his side are more than the sum of their parts.

"Podolski is a key player for Germany," says Taylor of someone who has three Euro 2008 goals and could finish joint top scorer with the injured Villa if he scores in the final.

"His battle with Ramos on the left is an important one. Ramos is a good player but sometimes his positional play concerns me.

Sergio Ramos and Lukas Podolski
Tough Ramos will have his hands full containing pacy Podolski

"Podolski could take advantage. He has a great left foot and pops up in the box to score some crucial goals."

Taylor's attention is also drawn to the opposite wide area from where Ramos and Podolski will pitch their own personal battle.

"Schweinsteiger against Capdevila is another key battle," he insists. "Schweinsteiger's runs from deep will really test the Spanish defence.

"Usually, the battle in the centre is the key one but it's the flanks that will be crucial on Sunday, in my view."

POTENTIAL STAR MAN?

Much is being made of the injury to Spain's four-goal hero David Villa but Taylor bellieves his enforced absence could work in Spain's favour.

"This may surprise some people but I don't think Spain will miss Villa," he says. "I think Spain play better when Fabregas is in the team.

Cesc Fabregas and David Villa
Fabregas changed the Russia semi-final match when he replaced Villa

"He makes great forward runs and sees a pass very early. I think he gets the best out of Fernando Torres by being able to spot his runs.

"I think that is because they both play in the Premier League. Torres has adapted really well to the English game and is used to making those runs into the channels."

A by-product of Taylor's suggestion that Fabregas can bring Torres - who has far been mildly subdued throughout the tournament with a string of workmanlike performances - to life, is the observation that Spain do not play to the Liverpool man's strengths.

"Not everyone in the Spanish team appreciates those runs into the channels - but Fabregas does," he says.

"He will pass the ball into those areas that Torres likes to run into. I don't think Villa's loss is a substantial one at all."

WHAT EFFECT WILL THE MANAGERS HAVE?

Chalk and cheese are twin brothers compared to the two men who have led Germany and Spain to the Euro 2008 final.

Spain coach Luis Aragones, 69, is the grumpy old man of international football, never far from controversy and always prepared to say exactly what he thinks - and stand by it.

Meanwhile, 48-year-old Germany coach Joachim 'Jogi' Low is the (relatively) young politician of a football man who the fans mimic because of his dapper dress sense.

Joachim Low and Luis Aragones
Joachim Low and Luis Aragones get the best out of their players

But Taylor, who managed England at the European Championship in 1992, says both of them have to be respected for what they have achieved with differing internal and external resources - irrespective of their methods.

"Aragones is his own man and does things his way," he comments.

"But you can't argue with his record. You can't help but respect his achievements so far.

"Low was a key figure for Germany at the last World Cup and has continued to impress now he is head coach.

"Klinsmann changed the philosophy of the way Germany played - they have become a more attacking side - and Low deserves some of the credit for that.

"Germany were prepared to sacrifice the 'you shall not pass' mentally for a more attacking game."

WILL TOURNAMENT PEDIGREE COUNT?

A severe allergy to silver has consistently afflicted a catalogue of gifted Spain squads ever since they won their solitary major trophy - the European Championship back in 1964.

Germany? Characteristically nerveless and determined, they are positively addicted to winning and have - count them, it's daunting - three World Cups and three European Championships to their name.

Spain have been the best side in the tournament but this is a very difficult game to call... you might as well toss a coin

Graham Taylor

So, says Taylor, Spain do have a job on their hands in simply breaking free of the psychological chains that have shackled them for so long.

"Spain have to show the rest of the world that they can handle the accusations that, in football parlance, they bottle it on the big occasion," he says. "This is the big one.

"It will be a hard task for Germany but their record for reaching finals and winning them is hugely impressive.

The way Spain have played in Euro 2008 - and I've seen every one of their games live - they will take some stopping, but before a ball was kicked I went for Germany to win the tournament.

"Spain have been the best side in the tournament but this is a very difficult game to call. You might as well toss a coin."


Graham Taylor was talking to BBC Sport's Phil Gordos in Vienna.




European Championships Top Scorers
 
Team
TOT
Villa Spain 4
Pavluchenko Russia 3
Podolski Germany 3
Senturk Turkey 3
Yakin Switzerland 3


see also
Germany v Spain
29 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008
Spain consistency impresses Low
29 Jun 08 |  Germany
End of the Motson era
28 Jun 08 |  Football
Russia 0-3 Spain
26 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008
Germany 3-2 Turkey
25 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008
Italian ref chosen for Euro final
23 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008
Can Spain win Euro 2008?
02 Jun 08 |  Spain
Who will win Euro 2008?
29 May 08 |  Euro 2008


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