Defender squares up to dangerous marksman

2010-07-10 00:00

CENTRAL defender Johnny Heitinga’s unenviable task of squaring up to the World Cup’s most dangerous marksman, David Villa, and possibly his partner in crime, Fernando Torres, could be key to the Dutch hopes of winning.

While Torres was benched in Spain’s semi-final victory over Germany, and only played the last 10 minutes, the Liverpool striker’s experience could see him play a greater role in the final.

Villa has scored five out of Spain’s seven goals in the World Cup, and will be looking to expose a Dutch central defence that has not been truly tested yet in the tournament, or in the qualifiers.

Holland have won all six of their matches in the finals, and won all eight in the qualifiers too. While the Dutch have been in superlative form, and knocked out tournament favourites Brazil in the quarter-finals, question marks remain over their central defence.

In midfield and at forward, Holland easily match the Spanish as one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the world. When they were tested to an extent, though, in their 3-2 semi-final victory against Uruguay, who possess far less attacking class than Spain do, a few cracks did appear.

Heitinga said he feels more prepared than ever to deal with the likes of Villa and Torres after a successful first season with Everton in the English Premiership.

“The Premier League has made me a much better player. Coming from Spain to England has helped me so much and Everton have assisted with that,” the defender said.

Heitinga is likely to be partnered at the back by Hamburger SV’s Joris Mathijsen, and much will be asked of the pair.

Much could depend, too, on the work done by Netherlands’ excellent defensive midfield pairing of Mark van Bommel and Nigel De Jong in shielding central defenders and cutting off the supply line to Torres and Villa.

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