Vicente del Bosque is not the kind of coach to make major changes to his line-ups or spring last-minute surprises. Having stuck to more or less the same side throughout South Africa 2010, give or take the odd injury-enforced switch or tactical variation, the former Real Madrid boss caught everyone off guard in the countdown to Wednesday’s semi-final against Germany. Expected to name Fernando Torres once more, Del Bosque opted instead to draft in Barcelona flier Pedro for his first ever start in the famous red jersey.
It was a switch that not even the 22-year-old speedster was expecting. "I was surprised but very happy when I found out, which was only when the coach announced the team," he told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. "I wasn’t nervous, although the stature of our opponents and the importance of the game made it all a bit daunting. When you get out on the pitch, though, you soon forget about all that and start concentrating on the game."
Del Bosque’s hunch paid off, with the untested Pedro proving a thorn in the German rearguard throughout - his skill on the ball and willingness to shoot kept Philipp Lahm and his fellow defenders constantly occupied.
The only flat note of a virtuoso performance came with only seven minutes remaining. With substitute Torres completely unmarked in the Germany box, Pedro opted to try one last dribble at the end of a lightning counter-attack only to lose possession and pass up a gilt-edged chance to seal the game. "That was a pity," he admitted. "We could have scored. Everyone told me I had Torres there alongside me but at the time I thought I was on my own, I had the goal in front of me and I tried to finish the move off myself. It didn’t work out, though, and I missed the chance."
Morale is high and we need to keep on doing what we did in the semi-final: control possession, attack down both flanks and create chances.