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Spain reaches finals

NANCY ARMOUR
AP National Writer

DURBAN, South Africa – They pressured Germany the entire match and peppered its goalkeeper so many times a score seemed inevitable.

Finally, with a mighty swing of his head that sent his long, curly locks flying, Spain’s Carles Puyol got it done.

With the World Cup final in reach – and Queen Sofia cheering from the stands – La Roja came through with their best game yet.

“We’ve shown that in the big moments we can grow even more,” striker David Villa said after Spain’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Germany on Wednesday night. “We should have scored more goals, but one from Puyol has put us in the final.”

Spain will play for the World Cup title for the very first time, thanks to Puyol’s goal on that powerful header in the second half. The game was a repeat, down to the final score, of the 2008 European Championship final when Spain beat Germany to win its first major title in 44 years.

European bragging rights are one thing. Being the world champion is something else.

When the final whistle sounded, the Spanish players on the field thrust their arms in the air while the substitutes raced out to join them. Two teammates grabbed Villa, who has scored all but two of Spain’s goals here, and carried him on their shoulders.

In the stands, Spanish fans partied deep into the night, waving flags, banging on drums and singing chorus after chorus of “Ole! Ole! Ole!”

“This is one of the greatest moments for Spain, for us to be in the final of the World Cup, it’s history,” said Villa, who remains tied with Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder for the tournament scoring lead at five goals apiece. “And we want to make more history in the final.”

Somebody will.

Spain faces the Netherlands on Sunday at Soccer City in Johannesburg, ensuring a first-time champion. The Dutch, who beat Uruguay 3-2 on Tuesday night, have lost in their only two trips to the final.