World Cup Final Preview: Spain vs. Netherlands

July 10, 2010 - Johannesburgo, SOUTH AFRICA - epa02244214 Spanish national soccer team head coach Vicente Del Bosque (L) gives instructions to his players during their team's training session at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, 10 July 2010. Spain will face the Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup 2010 final at the Soccer City stadium on July 11.

Germany beat Uruguay, 3-2, in an entertaining third place match, and Spain will square off today against the Netherlands in the World Cup Final. Coverage starts at 1:30 PM ET on ABC, though the match will start closer to 2:30 PM.

Jeff Carlisle, ESPN.com: The match will feature two highly technical sides that love to possess the ball. But Spain has turned ownership of the ball into a fine art. Its midfield not only wears out opponents with its movement and slick passing but also does plenty to win the ball back. There are times when Spain’s attack can lack width, and the cure is to get fullbacks Joan Capdevila and Sergio Ramos into the attack. Not only does this twist opposing defenses out of shape, it also allows midfielders such as Andres Iniesta to tuck inside and outnumber opponents in the center of the park… The Netherlands’ attack, while perhaps not as stylish as Spain’s, has been more effective. The Dutch have scored 12 goals, just one behind tournament leader Germany. The key is a varied approach that combines the distribution and goal scoring of Wesley Sneijder, the dribbling ability of Arjen Robben and the tenacity of Dirk Kuyt.

Tunku Varadarajan, The Daily Beast: For the neutral, the game is a feast of conflicting sentiment. It is hard to plump, unequivocally, for one side over the other. Both play deft, thrilling football, and have a recent record that is dauntingly unscarred by defeat. (The Spanish did, however, lose their first game in this cup to Switzerland, bizarrely, a defeat that appears to have stung them back into dominant form). Neither side is so flecked with past triumph that the neutral might say, Let the one who has not won before win this time. We have a truly open game, free from the instinctual biases that would have come to neutral viewers in a game between the Netherlands and Germany, say, or Spain versus Brazil. Spain, many predict, will win, not because their hunger is greater (the Dutch are just as ravenous) but because few sides in the history of the game have mastered the art of ball-possession as well, and as asphyxiatingly, as Vicente el Bosque’s team. Have you ever seen 11 players with a relationship so adhesive to the ball? It’s as if a Spanish version of magic glue were smeared on their cleats, so relentless is their ability to keep hold of the Jabulani, rendering other sides—as was the case with Germany in the semis—mere spectators, mere chasers of shadows.

Brian Straus, FanHouse:
A year ago, Sneijder was a Real Madrid castoff. Now, the 26-year-old is 90 minutes away from bringing his long-suffering country its first world title and securing an unprecedented array of honors for himself. He wasn’t big enough to warrant inclusion in Nike”s “Write the Future” ad — overhyped pitchmen like Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldinho are the ones foisted repeatedly on the public. Instead, Sneijder will have to be content with the opportunity to rewrite soccer history. In May Sneijder helped his new club, Inter Milan, to its first UEFA Champions League crown in 45 years. He scored several critical goals during the competition, set up Diego Milito’s winner in the final and helped engineer the semifinal upset of mighty Barcelona. That result marked the first significant setback for a club that had steamrolled everyone in its path for two years and which employs one-third of the Spain team that Sneijder’s Holland will face Sunday at Soccer City. Sneijder has continued that run of excellence here in South Africa. He has been by far the most important player on an efficient Dutch team that has gone 6-0-0 in the World Cup. He’s scored five goals, including four in the knockout stages, and has built cohesion for a famously fractured side with his intelligent passing, creativity, dangerous free kicks and work rate.

Steven Stark and Harrison Stark, The Cup Running Over: Not to go out on a limb or anything, but Spain should win this game, in a style similar to the German game, except more one-sided. Playing at altitude is much more conducive to the Spanish style; this will also be its fourth game in the heights while only Holland’s second. Holland’s best chance is to score first, which would cause the Spanish to open up, allow more counters, and distribute possession more evenly. But if this doesn’t happen, Spain is going to play this game exactly as it played the last three. If we have to give it a score, we say 2-0 as the Dutch continue to be the best team never to win a Cup. Except this time, they’re not the best team.

Paul Hayward, Guardian: Whichever the new name on the trophy a swell of satisfaction washes up to Soccer City. “This World Cup has shown a non-sexist, non-racist, democratic South Africa,” Jordaan said. “There has been a special unity. It was only 20 years ago with apartheid when black and white couldn’t have sat together, couldn’t have attended the same school or gone to the same beach. Now you see white faces painted in Ghana colours.” The lugubrious Vicente del Bosque, Spain’s coach, who asks the country’s regions to “unite” in the style of his team, will not guarantee a rare smile if his men win. He said: “My joy is on the inside.” His team’s joy is all around.

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