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Spain reaches first World Cup final

Spain's Carles Puyol, not seen, is hugged by

Spain's Carles Puyol, not seen, is hugged by teammates after scoring the only goal of a World Cup semifinal against Germany. (July 7, 2010) Credit: AP

For all of the offensive firepower on Spain's team, it was a third straight 1-nil victory that did it.

For all of Spain's arsenal of playmakers are known to produce jaw-dropping goals, it was a flying header by their wild-haired defender that did it.

And for all the years the Spaniards have waited to reach the World Cup final, they finally did it. 

It, of course, is a berth in the World Cup final after Wednesday's 1-0 semifinal win over Germany. Carles Pujol's header off a corner kick in the 73rd minute netted the game's only goal.

PHOTOS: Spain advances to World Cup final

The 1-0 score mirrored the result of the 2008 Euro final, when Spain ended its major title drought and elevated its standing as one of the planet's premier teams.

Germany, which outscored England and Argentina 8-1 en route to the semifinals, will play Uruguay in the dreaded third-place game on Saturday. The Germans had scored the most goals in the tournament (13) entering today, but knew it probably couldn't win a wide-open game against Spain. It had to exert most of its energy on defense.

The ploy almost worked. 

But in the second half, Xavi curled a ball into the box and Puyol jumped higher than everyone else. With a 10-yard head start, Puyol eyed the cross and took off like an NBA player in a dunk contest. From near the penalty spot, he jumped, muscled past fellow center back Gerard Pique, and knocked the ball past German keeper Manuel Neuer for Spain's much-needed goal.

Puyol had missed Spain's best chance at a goal on a blown header from six yards away in the first half, but he connected when it counted and Spain is headed to the World Cup final in Johannesburg, where both teams will look to lift the trophy for the first time.

In the final, the Golden Boot title could be won on a World Cup-winning strike. Spain's David Villa and the Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder are tied atop the leaderboard at five goals apiece entering the final game.

New York Sports