On Sunday last, Spain's Rafael Nadal romped to a straight-sets victory over Tomas Berdych in the final of Wimbledon to add to the title he had picked up at the All England Club in 2008.
But what does that have to do with the football, you might ask? Well, two years ago, Nadal also reigned supreme on the 'hallowed turf' of SW19 just a few days before Germany and Spain faced each other in the final of UEFA EURO 2008 – a match La Roja edged 1-0 to become European champions.
The sides face off again this Wednesday in Durban, where they will be battling it out for a place in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Final. The Iberians will no doubt be praying that Nadal's victory at Wimbledon will again prove a positive omen.
With the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi and David Villa on one side and Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose on the other, a total of 23 players (14 Spanish, nine German) will renew acquaintances in this reprise of the continental showdown in Vienna two years ago. "For me, Spain are the best team in the world," Schweinsteiger told FIFA.com. Spain coach Vicente del Bosque responded by claiming his side are "not afraid of Germany, even if they have been the best team at the tournament in my view. It's going to be a great battle".
The Germans have the better record of the countries' 20 previous meetings, having won eight, drawn six and lost six. In their inaugural fixture on 12 May 1935, the Spanish ran out 2-1 winners in Cologne. The most recent clash was the aforementioned European Championship final in 2008.
Their first competitive duel occurred at the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England, where West Germany emerged 2-1 winners in the group stage to send the Iberians crashing out of the tournament. Meanwhile, the team built around legends such as Franz Beckenbauer, Uwe Seeler and Wolfgang Overath went on to reach the final. Sixteen years later in 1982, the La Roja were the hosts but were again sent packing following another 2-1 defeat to Die Nationalelf in the second group stage. Once again Germany made it all the way to the Final.
The Spanish were hoping it would be third time lucky at USA 1994 – the last time the sides met at a FIFA World Cup – but La Selección could only muster a 1-1 draw in the group stage, although this time both reached the Round of 16.
While the Germans certainly have the better record at FIFA World Cup tournaments, the Spanish have their noses in front on the continental stage. As well as their final victory in 2008, Spain also had the upper hand at the 1984 European finals with a 1-0 group-stage victory. Nonetheless, the goal difference between the two sides at European Championship tournaments is level pegging at 2:2 thanks to the Germans' 2-0 success on home turf four years later. Aside from these tussles and two qualifiers for the 1976 tournament (a 2-0 win for Germany and a 1-1 draw), the nations have also contested a total of 12 friendly matches.
European royalty go head to head
When the pair face one another again this Wednesday, the prize at stake will be a place in Sunday's Final, to be played at Soccer City in Johannesburg. It would the eighth time the Germans have reached the Final (three victories), but a first for Spain, whose best finish in this event was fourth in 1950.
"Germany won't be looking forward to playing against Spain," said South Africa 2010 leading goalscorer David Villa, although Germany's Schweinsteiger responded by pointing out that "the Spanish have weaknesses too, and we need to make the most of them". His coach Joachim Low is also confident that his side "are currently in a position to seize the initiative and dominate opponents". One thing both squads can look forward to is a semi-final of the highest calibre as two of Europe's finest battle it out for spot in the grand finale.