Spain and Germany must overturn 32-year record to lift World Cup
With just four teams left in the 2010 World Cup, the betting on who will lift the trophy is as close as Fabio Capello’s team announcements were to each tournament game kick-off.
Spain and Holland are 15/8 joint-favourites, with Germany just behind at 2/1. Uruguay are a distant fourth at 11/1.
The sole South American side and the Oranjes should find confidence in being unbeaten so far, while after 1-0 losses to Switzerland and Serbia, neither Spain nor Germany can say they are invincible in South Africa, despite impressive displays since.
In fact, whoever triumphs in Tuesday’s semi-final between Uruguay and Holland will not only have a psychological edge of knowing no team has bettered them in the tournament, but have a large chunk of history on their side too.
Not since 1978 has a team won the tournament after having the black stain of defeat blotted on their record.
That side was Argentina who, in their homeland, lost 1-0 to Italy in the first group stage before going on to lift the World Cup for the first time.
A warning to Holland, Uruguay and Spain, though: there have only been two other occasions when a team has lost a match and then gone on to win the trophy – and both these times it was Germany. They are 5/6 to get past Spain.
As West Germany they lost 8-3 to Hungary in the group phase of the 1954 tournament, before returning to beat Puskas and co 3-2 in the final in Berne – a clear case of losing the battle but winning the war.
Then in 1974 the country lost 1-0 to East Germany in the group stages, before going on to win their second title.
This later triumph was in Munich and, as Argentina demonstrated four years later, the benefit of having partisan support to reinvigorate a losing side cannot be underestimated; Germany and Spain do not have that luxury this time.
There is one more reason for Holland in particular to be fearful, however. That 74 final was a 2-1 win for Germany over the Oranjes, and it came after the Total Football philosophy had guided them to the match unbeaten. That’s an eerie stat should a Germany v Holland final materialise – it’s a 6/4 chance.