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In their first meeting since the 2008 Euro final, where Spain beat the Germans through a Fernando Torres, it seems the roles have changed and turned on the participants. Germany are now the “IT” team, playing fabulous soccer, crushing England and Argentina 4-1 and 4-0 respectively after making it through one of the tougher groups in this World Cup with a lot of style.

Spain on the other hand, despite having a much easier group (on paper) had to claw their way through – beginning with a shocking loss to Switzerland, followed by two not so impressive wins to finish first in Group H. Then came Portugal, and Spain, despite again not impressing, made it through with a 1-0 win, David Villa. Quarter Finals? Paraguay – harder, tougher, luckier (???). David Villa, again. The bookies still give Spain a slight edge, hanging on to their pre-tournament hype and the known quality of the side, but if we’re judging by the performances we’ve seen from both sides these last three weeks, Germany are favorites, even without Thomas Muller.

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Plenty of words have been written and said about how fun it is to watch Joachim Low’s no-ego side, showcasing an attacking side with a perfect team mentality – everyone defends, everyone attacks, all as a unit. And so far, besides some card loving referee in the group stage match against Serbia, no one knows how to stop them. Muller not playing may cause some changes, with probably Piotr Trochowski, who has come on three times off the bench in this World Cup, being the man to fill those large shoes (4 goals and 3 assists so far).

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But the dynamo, the barometer of this team is Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has finally evolved from a long range shooting winger to a dominating leader and pace setter in the middle of the pitch. He was absolutely brilliant against Argentina and England, and will be the key again vs Spain. Podolski, Klose and Ozil are probably more dangerous in the box, certainly Klose and Podolski, but Schweinsteigers’ play usually gets Germany so many chances.

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With Spain, it remains to see if Del Bosque has finally grown tired of Torres, who has started the last four matches for Spain, looking absolutely horrendous. Maybe his mind is somewhere else, but it’s certainly not on the pitch. Every time he gets pulled off, Spain look much better. When he’s on, David Villa is pushed aside, and the worlds best striker (according to current form) has to wait for Liverpool’s man (not for long?) to come off and get the stage to himself.

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The two most important men for Spain tonight will probably be Sergi Busquets and Xabi Alonso. Busquets has been solid but nothing more in the five matches, and will have to be on his best to stop the blitzing German midfield. Xabi Alonso, playing in his usual deep play-maker role will join the young Barca player in trying to stop the German attacks, but more importantly, control the pace. He has Xavi to help him, but he needs to make sure the game doesn’t turn into a side to side track meet, because Spain will lose that way.

Their defense, despite showcasing a more famous center-back duo and one of the World’s best keepers, hasn’t looked confident and unbeatable this tournament. Spain need to win the midfield battle and control the match without allowing a horde of counter attacks coming their way in order to make their first World Cup Finals. It is also their first World Cup Semi Final, while the Germans will appear for the twelfth time on this bright stage.

Bet – Although it’s hard to go against Germany the way they’re playing, Don’t count out Spain. Muller not playing is big for both teams, and Spain have a strong enough midfield to control this game. The Schweinsteiger-Khedira vs Alonso-Xavi-Busquets match-up will decide who wins this game.