Octopus opinion: a load of tentacles

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So our slippery friend Paul the Octopus has predicted a victory for Spain when they meet Joachim Löw’s German hotshots tomorrow night in Durban.

NEWS Germans shell-shocked by octopus pick

That’s all very well and good, Paul, but you’ve almost certainly got this one wrong. Despite losing several players (notably their captain) before the World Cup, Löw"’s youthful, multi-ethnic squad – of the 82m people in Germany, nearly 20m are of non-German descent – have really stamped their mark on this year’s World Cup, with players such as Schalke’s Manuel Neuer, Bayern München’s Thomas Müller and Stuttgart’s Sami Khedira impressing fans and managers the world over.

But what about the player who has seemingly appeared out of thin air to help Germany to a place in the last four? That would be Neuer’s former Schalke team-mate Mesut Özil - the man today dubbed the ‘genie with the sad eyes’ by highly-respected German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Their man following the national team around South Africa, Thomas Hummel, calls the midfield trickster of Turkish origin the “Ballartist der Bolplatz" – literally the ball artist of the football field.

It’s not hard to see why. Aside from an off-day against Serbia in the group stage, Özil has consistently brought flamboyance and effectiveness to Germany’s midfield – only Bastian Schweinsteiger has come close to matching the youngster's brilliance.

Eyes on the prize

This has led to their strikers being fed shedloads of chances, which in turn has led to four goals against Australia, four against England, and four against Argentina. That's impressive for any team, but for a squad younger than any of their predecessors in the previous 60 years? That’s damn near brilliant.

And what of those strikers who keep on banging the goals in for Germany? Before the World Cup you would maybe have been excused for thinking Miroslav Klose – another Germany player born outside the borders – had disappeared off the face of the earth. Well, he hadn’t, but he had fallen way down the Bayern München pecking order, with Ivica Olic, Mario Gomez and youngster Thomas Müller all selected ahead of him last season, meaning ‘Miro’ was only able to score three goals all campaign.

Yet Klose has scored four already this World Cup, and just two more goals will make him the highest World Cup goalscorer in history. You'd have to say he only has two games to do it, with age certainly not on his side at 32. Lukas Podolski, often played on the wing for a struggling Köln side last season, has netted twice at this World Cup, while man-of-the-moment Thomas Müller has four – one behind leading goalscorer David Villa of Spain, and not at all bad for a bloke who only made his full debut in March.

Even defender Arne Friedrich is getting in on the goal action, troubling the scoresheet for the first time on his 77th international appearance. With 13 World Cup goals in just five World Cup games, Germany could give Spain a tough time.

Löw has his team pumped up – miraculously, some might say, after their long-term captain Michael Ballack picked up an injury in the FA Cup final. However, just as many people may feel that the erstwhile leader's injury was a huge blessing in disguise.

So, as Germany face Spain, a nation hopes that, 20 years after they last won the World Cup as a divided country, and 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall reunited the two lands, Germany can get to this year’s World Cup final – where they’ll surely stand a great chance of triumph once again.

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