Yes, I'm supporting Holland. Yes, I'm reviewing Germany. Yes, I'm licking my lips at a chance to see Germany face the already advanced Dutchmen into the final. When the call came out for the Toronto Star bloggers to congregate for the semi-finals of the World Cup, let's face it, you begin to feel a bit like a professional sports hack. I half wanted to have some form of Fedora with a press card tucked into the ribbon, a butt-filled ashtray at the table, and a bottle of whisky left at the table by the wait staff because I asked them to leave it there. This was not the case. This is Toronto, we're all polite, and you can't smoke inside anywhere unless the building is on fire.
So, I'll continue to be a low-rent blogger. The call came out to review Germany v. Spain at the Real Sports Bar across the street from the Air Canada Centre. To call itself the ultimate sports bar and be so close to the home of the Maple Leafs makes it very suspect. One would hope it would eventually be in the neighbourhood of winners. Regardless...
I walk in and the place is massive, reminding me of the ESPN Zone in Times Square in NYC. The only thing missing is the recliners that dot the front of the New York sports haven. Once they have that, we're good to go.
Instead of ruing the absence of comfy chairs, I settle in for the last semi-final match of the entire World Cup, Germany v. Spain. As much as I'm typically not a Germany fan, I've fallen in love of this team and their style of play. My Dutch already into the final, I would love to see nothing more than the Germans slide into the final slot, making the previous final encounters slightly more vindictive. The Spanish? I'm sure they're great as well. I've begun to love the way this German team works and it would be great to see them scramble against a sea of Oranje. Or more likely, it would be fantastic seeing both European sides crash against each other, with similar sides taking swings at the other. And of all the days to have my Herta Berlin shirt in the wash...
Inside the Real Sports bar, I move to an analog means of work, preferring a book and pen to a laptop since no outlets are available. That and I figure that's what the Germans would do if they had their druthers as well, mechanic over high-tech. I am sat down beside fellow blogger Tara Howe who I met ages ago at the Fox and Fiddle for a comedy show. I'm sure we were both fantastic.
I settle in with my fellow Toronto Star bloggers at a table at the base of the massive HD screen. The vantage point is such that we might as well be watching from the swing set at the base of a drive-in movie screen. It is gigantic. Shifting my glasses in the play where possible, I tend to focus at the smaller screens nearer the bar which up to the 10-minute mark still have darts on instead of the World Cup semi-final.
Both teams show their line-ups and both adhere to a 4-5-1, meaning that there is going to be a clog in the middle of the field that has BP execs licking their lips at. Both teams open the game with their cards close to their chests, making this a cagey match at best from the onset.
Four minutes in, and we have our first pitch invasion of the tournament. Why it took so long, and why it wasn't Roger Milla from the Coke commercials either beggars belief. It still makes me think that England have a chance.
The two monolithic 4-5-1s attack each other like elephants fighting over peanuts. It's a clunky affair that has the elegance of bumper pool. This sadly will be the theme for the outing. That said, 14 minutes in, and Spain have the first chance. The place swoons and already I'm concerned that I'm the only German blogger in the place. I'm not, but it does feel like it, the majority I'm sure having found refuge in The Musket. The bulk of the possession lands in the Spanish hands, but that makes it easier for the Germans to counter, doesn't it? And they do. A few corners go Germany's way, many are close, but it's still a stalemate.
As the first half wears on, it appears more and more that the German defence has become more resolute and unforgiving, allowing no Spanish creativity at all. Germany is not playing the game that they've become famous for in this tournament, but nor is Spain afforded the opportunity to play the game they've yet to play in the tournament. Tit for tat at this point. All in all, thready play from both sides, Germany still stable and resolute, unable to capitalize.
We head to the second half, and already I'm thinking what's this blog going to look like with penalty kicks written all over it. The more I see of the match, the more I realize a mistake will have to be made by one of the sides to resolve this. That's when the dam beings to crack.
Germany becomes more and more questionable, wondering more how to not only counter but hold back the Spanish. Spain advances, and Germany soaks up the pressure, but more and more, Germany look for a counter that never seems to come. And then there's Puyol...
A Spanish corner results and an unmarked Puyol lurches forward to head home what ends up being the winner. Good for Spain. Bad for me and the Germans. The Germans appear to have nothing left in the tank, having left Puyol as open as a day pass. Me, I've never liked Puyol, always thinking he looks like a guy that eats his lunch at a Woodbridge Wal-Mart. Regardless, 1-0 Spain.
And so it stays that way. Spain close down at the end making it impossible for Germany to play the way you'd fancy they could. Germany now face Uruguay on Saturday, and with that loss, it is guaranteed that there is a new country to add to the list of World Cup winners. With the Dutch not being able to face Germany, I hope the future still remains Oranje.
Spoedig zal er acht zijn.
About Todd Van Allen