World Cup showdown: spinster vs bridesmaids

2010-07-10 00:00

NEGOTIATING the pitfalls of a competitive and often treacherous World Cup with efficiency, focus and more than a dash of élan has left the two best teams in the tournament, Spain and the Netherlands, to contest tomorrow’s final at Soccer City.

While in major tournaments favourites can fall by the wayside against the odds, in this World Cup there can be no doubt that the finalists have qualified on merit, and will provide a finale of the highest competitive order.

Both teams are attacking, both excellently organised by their respective coaches, Vicente Del Bosque and Bert van Marwijk, both sides work their bones off for the good of the team, and both have shown the will to be World Cup winners.

For the first time in World Cup history, a European team will win the tournament outside their own continent. The South Americans began the 2010 World Cup winning almost everything, and all the while European giants were falling by the wayside.

But the best three teams in the tournament — Germany, Spain and the Netherlands — are from Europe, and two will contest the final. Both teams will be seeking a first-ever World Cup trophy.

Holland’s great “total football” side were losing finalists in 1974 and 1978, and the current Dutch side have at least matched that feat. And if the Netherlands have been the perennial bridesmaids of the World Cup, Spain have been the old spinster. Often talented, and having had as much success as any at club level through Real Madrid and Barcelona, the Spanish have rarely progressed into the latter stages of the World Cup, and tomorrow will be their first final.

But Spain have long since outgrown their tournament frailty. Their Euro 2008 victory took a weight off their back. And they have developed an almost unbeatable style, that, much like Holland’s “total football” generation, depends on having a squad of technically gifted, adaptable players.

While Argentina have Lionel Messi, Spain have several Messis. David Villa, who has scored five of their seven goals, the quick-footed left midfielder Andres Iniesta and playmaker Xavi are three of them.

Fernando Torres has been off form since a return from injury, and was on the bench in La Roja’s 1-0 semi-final victory against Germany in Durban. Young Barcelona forward Pedro has speed and skill and is the next in line to carry Spain’s success into the future.

Sergio Ramos has been imperious in defence and attack from right-back.

“Spain are just a wonderful team,” said Germany coach Loew after his side’s defeat in Durban. “They have players from great teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid.

“They have been together for two or three years — you can see it in every pass they make. You can see it in a team like Barcelona, who have been almost unbeatable.”

La Roja have lost two games in the past three years, including their 35-match unbeaten run that ended with their Confederations Cup semi-final defeat against the United States last year.

But the Dutch have been catching up, with 25 matches unbeaten. And they have won every game in this World Cup so far. That includes not just their six wins out of six in the finals, but all eight of their qualifying games as well.

Holland’s answer to Villa, Iniesta and Xavi are midfielder Wesley Sneijder and winger Arjen Robben, two of the most intelligent playmakers of the tournament.

Striker Robin van Persie and hardworking winger Dirk Kuyt complete a forward line that provides an explosive end product to a style of play not as swashbuckling as previous Dutch editions, but certainly superbly organised.

In the knockout stages, Holland have moved far closer to playing classic, attacking Dutch football.

The Netherlands defence have yet to be fully tested, and there were nervous moments against Uruguay in Holland’s 3-2 semi-final victory.

Netherlands, too, will need to be more effective utilising their possession to attack more swiftly than the Germans managed against Spain, where Loew’s team were stifled out of the game in the midfield.

If Holland can produce these key aspects, then a fittingly classic culmination awaits to what has been a spectacular tournament already.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.