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Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Stats analysis: Germany-Spain preview

Posted by Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information

Germany has arguably been the better side thus far in the competition, scoring a tournament-high 13 goals -- including three matches with four goals each. The Germans are just the seventh team in World Cup history to achieve this feat and the first in four decades since Brazil did it in 1970. If Germany can put four in the back of the net again, it will become only the second team to score four or more goals in a match four times, matching the 1954 Hungary squad.

More than half of Germany's goals have come from two players, as Miroslav Klose and Thomas Müller have each scored four goals. Germany will be without Müller, who is tied for the tournament lead in assists with three and leads the squad in crosses (24), as a result of a suspension due to yellow card accumulation and will need someone to step up as the Spanish focus on Klose.

In stark contrast to Germany, Spain is winning its games by the narrowest of margins, defeating its last three opponents by one goal, including scores of 1-0 in both knockout-round matches. Spain has scored just six goals in five matches, five of them coming off the right foot of striker David Villa. Villa, Spain's all-time leading World Cup scorer with eight goals, needs just one more tally to become Spain's highest scorer in a single World Cup, as well as tie Raul for the top spot on Spain's all-time scoring list.

Spain's scoring difficulties are not due to lack of chances. Spain is second in the tournament in chances created (passes from teammates that lead to shots) with 72, and Germany is right behind with 68. Not surprisingly, the top two players in this statistical category for the tournament are on these two sides, Xavi of Spain leads the way with 18 while Mesut Özil of Germany is second with 17.

A major factor in the ability of these teams to create chances is their passing accuracy. Spain leads the tournament with a passing accuracy of 87.5 percent, a full point better than the next-best mark. Spain also is best at the all-important passing accuracy in the opposing half, putting up an 83.5 percent mark in that category, which explains why Spain leads all teams with an average possession of 59.6 percent.

Germany is not far behind in passing accuracy, seventh overall and fifth in the opposing half, and has proved in the knockout rounds that it does not need the majority of possession to dominate a game. The Germans had the ball just 46 percent of the time in their 4-0 win over Argentina and 49 percent in their 4-1 win over England.

Both sides have shown excellent defensive prowess, allowing just two goals apiece, and none in the first or last 30 minutes of a match. If Germany can break through early as it did against Argentina, it could force Spain to change its style of play. If Spain can play the low-scoring style and score first, then it spells trouble for Germany. The Spanish have won the last 41 games in international competition in which they have scored -- a run stretching to 2007.