Someone tonight is gonna celebrate their first World Cup trophy. The Dutch, far from brilliant this tournament but with a perfect six for six record in this World Cup and one Wesley Sneijder who seems to be there when the Dutch need him the most, or Spain, who have disappointed those who expected another Euro 2008 type of display, but played a very good semi final against Germany, obliterating the German midfield and dominated despite their ace this campaign, David Villa, not having a good game for the first time since the opening loss to the Swiss.
The most identifiable thing about Spain’s game is possession. They love the have the ball at their feet, averaging 58.5% possession time during the 2010 World Cup. Against Germany it was pretty even, with Spain having a 51-49 advantage, but for the first time, it seemed like they had purpose every time they had the ball. Xabi Alonso was fantastic in stopping (along with Busquets) the German attacks and allowing Xavi but especially Iniesta and Pedro to attack the German defense time and time again.
Again, the midfield battle tonight will determine the outcome probably – Van Bommel, joined by the back-from-suspension Nigel De Jong, will probably be the busiest players on the pitch, trying to break Spanish attack and the waves of midfielders crashing on the Dutch walls and making a counter attack out of it. This is where Wesley Sneijder comes in. Against most midfields, Sniejder can play a more attacking role, hanging between the DM’s and the Centre Backs, making the most out of the gap.
Against Spain he’ll probably have to drop back a bit and help with possession. The Netherlands won’t win the possession game, but they to make it count. They can’t afford to look helpless like Germany, who seemed unable to build any attack most of the game, with Schweinsteiger and especially Khedira losing the ball time and time again under pressure.
Now in comes Del Bosque – Pedro was a fantastic choice against Germany, but his selfish play in the second half when he tried to get by a German player instead of feeding the wide open and desperately in need of a goal Fernando Torres could cost him the spot in the starting lineup. Now, Torres did look a tad better in the short time he played against Germany, but going by the whole tournament, he doesn’t deserve a place in the first XI. Cesc Fabregas has stated his desire to finally get some minutes in this World Cup, and there’s a chance Del Bosque might let him fly tonight. I’d still go with Pedro. He has enough players in the middle to start with.
The Dutch have scored 12 times during the tournament, two a match, including three against Uruguay in the Semi. Still, something about the Dutch offense doesn’t seem to be clicking, mostly meaning Van Persie, who has scored only once in six matches. He’s always dangerous, but will have a hard time, again, facing a defense that has conceded only two goals in six matches, both coming in the group stage. Once again, Arjen Robben’s brilliance and Sneijder’s positioning and awarness will be the key to a Holland goal.
Before our final words, just a few numbers – Both Villa and Sneijder have a chance to win the World Cup golden boot – each has five goals, with Thomas Muller and Diego Forlan also sharing the top spot currently with five. I’m pretty sure one of them will score, and the one who lift the trophy will also win the Player of the tournament award. If Sneijder wins it, he’ll go on to win the FIFA player of the year award in a few months.
Speaking of Sneijder, he has a chance of becoming the tenth player to win a UEFA Champions League and the World Cup in the same year. Spain, if they win tonight, will become the first nation to lose their opening match and win the trophy. If Sneijder or Villa win the golden boot, it will be the first time a Dutch or a Spanish player wins the award. The last time the title was shared was 1994, with Oleg Salenko (Russia) and Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) scored six goals each.
Final Words – Germany were the nation that deserved to win the title based on their performances, but they’re not here. Spain are the better side, but the Netherlands have two players who seem to be a step ahead of everyone and enjoying a blessing from lady luck. 60-40 Spain, and I’m going with Spain.