national champs baby
Spain has never beaten France in a competitive match--they drew at WC96 and France won at Euro 84 (the final), Euro 00, WC06 and both qualifying matches for Euro 92.
Torres is on the bench and Spain is once again playing a 4-6; Nasri and Diarra are both on the bench for France after their post-match spat, replaced by M'Vila and Cabaye. Malouda also gets the start.
It's a tribute to the strength of Group B that Loew has waited until the first knockout round to rest his attackers: Gomez, Podolski and Mueller have given way to Klose, Schuerrle and Reus. Karagounis and Holebas are suspended for Greece; Ninis is on for Gekas.
Found an interesting article on the renaissance of German football. A lot of people here have given Klinsmann the credit for that; I've tended to primarily credit Loew. But the real driver was an unknown DFB functionary named Bernd Pfaff, and the go-ahead was given by, of all people, Berti Vogts.
I've long had the theory that the strength of a national team ultimately depends on the effective size of its pool of players, which I suppose means the number of youth players who, if they were talented, would be discovered and given the training necessary to develop that talent. Pfaff implemented a plan that increased Germany's effective pool about a hundredfold. It's fascinating reading. It's also in German, of course. I hope the online translation tools treat it kindly.
Anyone interested in seeing what it would involve to push US soccer to the top should take a look.DFB Der Plan von der Abschaffung des Rumpelfußballs
Quick question before the games today: Who you got in the group of death? Denmark, Germany, Netherlands or Portugal . . . It would be hard to bet against the Germans, but the Dutch showed a lot of class in the World Cup two years ago!