After 64 matches of varying entertainment levels, it all comes down to just one game – Spain versus the Netherlands for the ultimate prize in football.
Under Bert Van Marwijk, the Netherlands have simplified their style of football and are now a much more pragmatic outfit.
They kicked off their campaign with a comfortable 2-0 win over a disappointing Denmark side before edging past Japan and Cameroon in their other group matches. If a professional 2-1 defeat of Slovakia in the last 16 didn’t have their rivals worried yet then the dispatching of Brazil in the quarters certainly did – as did their swift and confident disposal of over performers Uruguay in the semi-finals.
Spain’s passage has been less straightforward. Tipped as the favourites before the tournament kicked off, ‘La Roja’ slumped to a 1-0 defeat in their opening game against Switzerland. They saw off the minnows of Honduras but still had to beat Chile to be sure of qualification from their group—a match that ended in a narrow 2-1 win. Then Spain got their act together, as three consecutive 1-0 wins in the knockout rounds proved. Usually flamboyant Spain is becoming the unlikely experts of the 1-0 win.
If the Netherlands are to secure the title of world’s best, they will have to stop Spain from keeping the ball at the attacking end of the pitch. The Spaniards will be looking to shake the major tournament monkey from their backs fully as it continues to remind them of their international failures. Claiming the European Championships in 2008 went some way to doing that but Vicente Del Bosque’s nation are still without that elusive World Cup win.
They will start the match as favourites but need to be wary of the counter attacking threat of the ‘Oranje’. Arjen Robben, despite not being fully match fit, will be a potent threat and could well be propelled down the right flank to target Spain’s left back Joan Capdevila who has looked unconvincing thus far. As well as Robben, Wesley Sneijder, who is vying for the Golden Boot with Spain’s David Villa, is in top form and will look to pull the strings for the Dutch.
Most teams at big tournaments have at least one bad game. The Netherlands have not yet had one. Germany lost to Serbia, the Uruguayans toiled against the troubled French and Spain lost their opener. That failure motivated the Spanish into developing resilience, which has seen them score three second half winners in three consecutive matches.
The Dutch will be no pushovers, but few would bet against yet another 1-0 victory for Spain.Tweet