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European trio dare to dream of title

Published: Sunday 4 July 2010, 12.38CET
For the seventh time in eight FIFA World Cups, there are three European teams in the semi-finals with Germany, the Netherlands and Spain all still in contention in South Africa.
European trio dare to dream of title
Spain players pile on David Villa after his winning goal against Paraguay ©Getty Images

Published: Sunday 4 July 2010, 12.38CET

European trio dare to dream of title

For the seventh time in eight FIFA World Cups, there are three European teams in the semi-finals with Germany, the Netherlands and Spain all still in contention in South Africa.

If the early stages of this FIFA World Cup were marked by the eye-catching displays from South American teams, the pendulum has swung back towards Europe as the tournament has moved into its latter phase.

Three of the four sides that will line up in the semi-finals on Tuesday and Wednesday are from UEFA member associations – something which has happened in six out of the previous seven World Cups. The Netherlands prompted the shift in momentum by coming from a goal behind to beat five-time champions Brazil on Friday with a stirring second-half display.

They will meet the sole remaining South American representatives, Uruguay, in Cape Town on Tuesday bidding to pick up their first global title after twice being losing finalists in the 1970s. The dynamic attacking mix of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and a fit-again Arjen Robben has helped them breeze through the group stage and then past Slovakia and Brazil to reach their first semi-final since 1998.

Another European side yet to reach the pinnacle of the world game are Spain. The UEFA EURO 2008 champions started with a shock loss to Switzerland but have steadily clicked through the gears since and possess the tournament's five-goal leading goalscorer in David Villa.

It would not be unfair to say La Furia Roja have flattered to deceive on the grandest stage in the past with their best result a fourth-place finish in 1950, but after tasting tournament success two years ago, they are now favourites to add the world crown to their European triumph.

Spain meet Germany in Durban on Wednesday and if the former's progression to the last four was predicted by most, Joachim Löw's youthful side have defied the pre-tournament odds to reach their 11th semi-final in the last 15 World Cups. Germany boast the best record of the remaining countries – winning the tournament on three occasions – and have put four goals past old adversaries England and Argentina in each knockout game.

With one UEFA association team guaranteed to be in the 11 July final, and the Dutch favoured to overturn a weakened Uruguay side, there is every chance the Netherlands, Germany or Spain could be the first side from their continent to win a World Cup that has not been played within Europe's borders.

Last updated: 12/04/12 7.14CET

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