Graham Hunter explains all in an extract from his new book charting La Roja's historic treble triumph
Today is the Fiesta of San Fermin and this is the song every kid learns in Spain from when they are tiny:
First of January, second of February,
Third of March, fourth of April,
Fifth of May, Sixth of June,
Seventh of July, SAN FERMIN!
This is when the world famous bull-running in Pamplona begins; around 8am that day the rocket will have fired, the runners will have poured forward down the cobbled street and the horns on hooves will have made chase.
Spain's chef, Arbizu, and squad members Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente are all from this region and they have brought their red neckerchiefs to wear. Vicente Del Bosque is not Navarran - he is from the beautiful university city of Salamanca - but his late brother and father are named Fermin, therefore this festival has always been special to him. During the day he finds his thoughts drifting to these two men and it is from them that he will draw some inspiration for what he says post-match.
The chaos of Pamplona is sadly mirrored at Durban's international airport today. Back in Spain, one travel agency has been advertising overnight flights into Durban on the day of the game, a hotel room during the day, a match ticket and return flights immediately after the match for €2000, or €3500 for business class. There are many takers.
One trouper, Manolo el del Bombo [the world-famous supporter of the Spanish national team], has defied doctors' orders and after three days fighting pneumonia, the 61-year-old has decided that Spain will not win the World Cup without him. He lands and gets a police escort to somehow make it to the stadium by the skin of his teeth, but he is one of the lucky few.
Scores of planes containing the super-rich, super-famous or super-important, including the Queen of Spain, Jacob Zuma, Leo Di Caprio and Paris Hilton, have arrived in private jets, landed in the slots needed for scheduled international and national flights then refused to budge. You would almost get the impression that money has changed hands. Some flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg scheduled to get to Durban well in time for the semi-final do not even take off because there is such pandemonium at King Shaka Airport.
Themba Maseko, operations manager for the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) which runs Durban airport, explains that these jets are meant to drop their passengers then move to the old Durban International Airport 60km away to park, but that many private aircraft pilots had refused. "I am not blaming the VIPs. The people who caused the problem were the people flying the aircraft," he says morosely.
Just under 2000 people do not make it to the game, but Carles Puyol does and so does Manolo.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, the Germany midfielder and victim of the Vienna victory conga back in 2008, has confessed "you are left with a feeling that you want revenge", but he isn't going to get it today.
The semi-final turns out to be a cracking game of football. Joachim Loew, like Del Bosque, believes in the power of good scouting and preparation. The Spaniard, unlike Loew, has never composed a 100-page dossier on an opponent as the German manager did before beating Argentina 4-0 in the last round. His staff video opponents and break down the strengths and weaknesses, the mistakes and the habits, the pace and the power of every player the Mannschaft must face.
When Del Bosque makes one of the biggest calls of his career, to bench Fernando Torres - as predicted by the striker himself - it is the file on Pedro which Loew must open. The reasons for Del Bosque's decision are numerous: the Barcelona forward has had an utterly brilliant year; he is faster than inflation; he is a fighter; he has more goals in him than Jesus Navas, the most likely alternative, and he can be asked not only to block the attacks of Phillip Lahm, the raiding German left-back, but to pin him back by attacking that wing.
As it turns out, Pedro plays as if it were a kick-around in the school playground, showing no sign of pressure. Del Bosque is not prone to hyperbole, but long after this tournament is won he will call Pedro's performance "stupendous".
For all their preparation, Germany find it hard to get any dangerous possession, but at the break it is 0-0 and history teaches that this national team is not beaten until the stadium lights are switched off and the janitors have gone home. That is emphasised when the referee fails to award a free-kick for a clear foul on Mesut Oezil when Sergio Ramos clips his heel just outside the box in the seconds before half-time. So close to the line is the offence that some referees would give a penalty.
Nevertheless, fate is now involved.
Before the pre-match team talks, and the studying of the tactical charts on the dressing-room wall, substitute goalkeeper Pepe Reina questioned Puyol about a move via which, just over a year earlier, the centre-back scored for Barcelona in a 6-2 win at Real Madrid. Using the magnetic pieces on the white board, Puyol shows Reina the concept and the practice.
By half-time in Durban the Catalan has noticed that Germany appear to be marking zonally and his path into the penalty box at set plays is almost unencumbered. Before they are even off the pitch at half-time, the centre-half has Xavi, who delivered the corner at the Santiago Bernabeu from which Puyol scored, by the arm and is instructing him. "Let's use that move from the 6-2 win again. I'll speak to Ramos, [Joan] Capdevila and [David] Villa, you just put the ball on the penalty spot for me."
With 17 minutes left, Iniesta wins a corner on the Spanish left. I am at the mouth of the transport tunnel, right in line with the corner flag. As Xavi walks over to take the corner and settles the ball, I am aware of a little old lady, not in official uniform, who has materialised at my elbow without me noticing.
She is diminutive, so I have to lean down a bit to hear her.
"How is the game going?"
"Well, it's pretty tense and pretty interesting," I say. "We just need . . ."
I look up as I speak and Xavi appears to have used those four or five seconds to erect some sort of rigging so he can dangle the ball precisely where Puyol wants it.
Villa has been occupying Manuel Neuer on the line. For a split second, the Germany goalkeeper puts all his attention into shoving Villa with both hands and there is now no question of Neuer getting out to punch the corner.
There is a little triangle of players occupying German markers: Ramos to the left, tying up Miroslav Klose, Gerard Pique more or less static on the penalty spot and Capdevila to the right. The arc of the ball's movement is taking it towards Pique, but as Sami Khedira bunches up every muscle to make the jump of his life, a dark shadow falls over the land. Puyol soars over them all, Michael Jordan-style, and crashes the best, most powerful header I have ever seen past Neuer.
Back by the tunnel I am finishing my conversation with the little old lady: ". . . we just need a goal." But my fairy godmother has vanished by the time Spain celebrate wildly and Puyol, carrying four of his team-mates on his shoulders, clenches a fist and wears an expression which says: 'Let's not make too much of a fuss of this; back to work now.'
There is bedlam on the pitch after the final whistle and it continues into the dressing room, where Puyol immediately receives physiotherapy with Raul Martinez on one of the massage tables. There remains quite an important game to be played.
Before we return to the dressing room, there are some epic phrases in the press conferences given by the two coaches.
Joachim Loew: "Yes, [Spain] are the best team in the world and they are going to win this tournament. In 2008 they won the European Championship in a spectacular way, totally convincing, but in the last couple of years they have evolved, introduced changes and they now play as if they were on automatic. These guys are the masters of football."
From a losing coach in a World Cup semi-final, this was breathtaking magnanimity. Just a little later he will go on, in private, to congratulate Xavi, to thank him for playing as he does and to tell the Spaniard that this is the best football team he has ever seen.
The moment has not got the better of Spain's coach, either. He is the son of the activist who sought democracy and workers' rights when such ideals could carry a lethal price. He was the footballer who formed a trade union. He was the manager who was sacked by Florentino Perez in favour of a more "modern" approach, for someone more "in-tune" with Real Madrid, for which read someone subservient, conservative, conformist.
Vicente del Bosque: "Spain is a country which has changed greatly. Now we are integrated into the world, within the European community, and good things happen in our country. Sport is one of them. It is a privilege to have so many great sportsmen and women in Spain right now and for the football family, this is our moment. We have spent so long detached from this success that it was long overdue.
"We have the obligation of representing our country as well as we are able and this is the moment to recognise all those who have done their utmost for the national team in the past. Some of their contributions have been anonymous but their work has helped us shine tonight. But this mustn't blind us. We are footballers, we have a trophy to win and this is a time to show restraint, not to think we are suddenly out of this world."
Del Bosque does not make it to the dressing room in time to witness the great tenor, Placido Domingo, bursting in and adapting Y Viva Espana! to end not with "Espana por favor!" but "Espana campeon!"
However, Del Bosque is just in time for some of the comedy when Dona Sofia, the wife of the ill King Juan Carlos enters. It's immediately evident that it's a while since she's been in a dressing room.
Unchaperoned, she makes for the showers, is pointed down the corridor, and then propelled around the corner, where she comes face-to-face with her all-conquering football team and does a comic double-take.
Lacking a master of ceremonies, she starts clapping them, and they start clapping back. Amidst the furore, Capdevila starts a manic little Riverdance of his own, in the corner. Sofia takes herself around the players, one by one, shaking hands as various players turn into royal couriers, desperately kicking or swiping boots, bottles, jockstraps away before she trips over them and this becomes a diplomatic incident. This is a likelihood which increases when Puyol, aware that he has been missing something, bursts into the room just as the Queen of Spain is about to make her speech. Sporting only a towel, he is a sitting duck for his team-mates, who roar: "Puyi! Puyi! Puyi!"
Capdevila dances again.
After the Queen's speech - "nice job lads, tighten up on the finishing" - Dona Sofia mistakes one of the federation officials, the former Real Sociedad president Luis Uranga, for Del Bosque, only for the coach to arrive in the nick of time, to bow and to invite her back on Sunday. Soccer City. The World Cup final.