Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup 2010: Holland-Spain Final Preview

There is so much to like about the match-up between Spain and Holland in Sunday's World Cup Final. The two greatest teams never to win the World Cup will look to join an exclusive club that includes Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Brazil, England, Argentina and France. Not since 1978, when Argentina faced Holland, have two teams without a World Cup title met in the Final. And not since 1958, when Brazil won their first World Cup against hosts Sweden, has a squad captured their first title on foreign soil.

But enough about history; tomorrow's match is also about the current generation of players. For Spain, their "golden generation" has a chance to join the game's list of legendary squads by adding the World Cup to the European crown they won two years ago. Holland, meanwhile, will look to clear the final hurdle that the "Total Football" sides of 1974 and 1978 could not.

The key to Spain's stifling run through the knockout stages has been ball possession. You can't score against La Furia Roja if you can't get the ball, and Spain have clamped down on the Jabulani in their last three games. Against a German side that had scored eight goals in the previous two matches, Spain controlled the match throughout, getting the only goal they needed off the head of Carles Puyol. When the opposition has created the rare scoring chance, Iker Casillas has been there to make timely saves. The only question for Spain is whether or not Fernando Torres will start. Reaching the Final with little contribution from their top offensive talent is a testament to Spain's depth and cohesion.

Holland arrive at the Final on the back of Wesley Sneijder, who can complete one of the greatest years in the history of the game. Following a treble winning campaign with Inter Milan, the Dutch number 10 has scored five times in the World Cup. The Holland defense hasn't been as bulletproof as Spain's, but aggressive midfielder Mark van Bommel and defender-turned-goal scorer Giovanni Van Bronckhorst have the potential to frustrate Spain.

Recent World Cup Finals have been disappointing affairs with the pressure of the event choking off hopes of an open game. Not since 1986 have both teams scored a goal from the run of play. While I don't anticipate an offensive show, Spain's clinical ability to control a match is impressive to watch. I expect them to capture their fourth-straight 1-0 win and take the World Cup back to Madrid. Paella for all!

Prediction: Spain 1, Holland 0

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