NETHERLANDS vs. SPAIN
7.30pm –Soccer City, Johannesburg
This year’s world cup was always guaranteed to be one of firsts, with it being the tournaments maiden trip to Africa, but in Sunday’s final, a new name will lift the trophy as Netherlands and Spain meet at Soccer City.
Two of the finest teams never to have won the trophy, and two of the biggest under achievers in the tournaments history, collide in a final pitting together a pair of teams who have the potential to produce high-quality passing football, even if neither can boast to having hit those heights during these last four weeks.
Netherlands have seemingly relinquished their total football brand label at the expense of the happiness of their supporters, but in exchange of some credible results at the business end of the tournament. Spain haven’t exactly been themselves either, as they have stumbled through the knock-out stages with three successive 1-0 victories, the latest of those coming over a young German side in the semi-final. With the exception of David Villa, Vicente del Bosque’s side has largely struggled in the final third and has relied on a sturdy back four, marshaled by Carlos Puyol. The former Real Madrid boss is still to decide whether to go with Fernando Torres from the start, after he was left out against Germany, or with Sergio or Cesc Fabregas in a five man Spanish midfield. Bert van Marwijk has no such dilemmas as he’s expected to go with the same side that overcame Brazil in the quarterfinal.
Both sides have a long history of flattering to decisive in with World Cup, with Netherlands’ successive appearances in World Cup finals in the 70’s the best they have been able to muster, while Spain are already on their best run in finals history, and are on the brink of a European Championships – World Cup double. But as both teams know getting over that finish line could prove the most difficult challenge of all.
Key Match ups:
Robin Van Persie vs Carlos Puyol
Just a World Cup winners medal is missing from Puyol’s glittering CV and the Spanish captain has been at the top of his game in South Africa, spearheading a defense that has been breached just twice. His main threat will come from Van Persie, who appears to be suffering after a season littered with injuries, and a role in the team seemingly restricting his license to thrill.
Nigel De Jong vs Andres Iniesta
It was no coincidence an almost faultless Dutch back four conceded two goals in his absence, and De Jong’s recall could just be the difference for Netherlands. The Manchester City man appears driven to nullify any service to the forward players, and his marshaling of Kaka in the quarterfinal was almost a match winning performance. Iniesta is quickly becoming one of the stand out midfielders in European football, and in a five man midfield has been allowed to get forward with more regularity to assist David Villa.
Arjen Robben vs Joan Capdevila
Although Robben will switch between the right and left sides of attack, his match up with Capdevila, who is considered the weak area of the Spanish defense, could prove to be vital. Robben was shrewdly held back until the knock-out stages after injury, and goals against both Slovakia and Uruguay, proved to be priceless. He may not appear back to his very best, but his pace is enough to trouble even the best full backs around, and the Villarreal man might have his work cut out to tame him.