Regardless of outcome, history will be made Sunday. Spain is trying to become the first team ever to win the World Cup after losing their opening match, while Holland is trying to become the first team in 40 years to win every game during the tournament. Spain is also attempting to be the third team ever to hold both the World Cup and European titles simultaneously.
Above all else, one country will be bringing the trophy home for the first time--neither team has ever won a World Cup. That victory will mark the first time a European team has won off European soil.
This is a very interesting matchup as both teams defy the stereotypes associated with their histories. Traditionally, the Netherlands is a very talented and offensively minded squad. On the other hand, major meltdowns that arise from their massive egos are not uncommen. Since their typical meltdown in Euro 2008, they seem to have seen the light, buying into the concept of team defense which has springboarded them into the final.
Meanwhile, Spain has fielded some very skilled teams in the past that--for whatever reason--tend to underachieve. But everything came together in Euro 2008, as Spain turned it around en route to a European Championship. There is no question of talent with this Spanish side: half of their starting lineup are ranked in the top 5 at their position.
How this game plays out will hinge on how the Dutch decide to play the Spanish. Spain's only two losses in the past 3 years have come from underdog teams that have sat 8-9 players behind the ball on defense, stayed disciplined, and allowed the Spanish to possess but never get near the goal. While this is a good game plan for underdogs, it is very difficult to execute for 90 minutes.
The Spanish are so good at possessing the ball that even after scoring 8 goals in its previous 2 games against Argentina and England, the high powered Germans fell back into that defensive alignment rather than play them straight up. They stopped attacking and just spent the whole game trying to keep the Spanish out of the net. In doing so they allowed Spain to control the ball the entire game, wear down the German players, and eventually knock one home.
This is a ticket to lose. In this instance, the best defense is a strong offense. Nobody knows that better than Spain. What the Dutch need to do is play their own game. as their attacking style can put Spain on their heels. If this happens, the game could turn into a track meet. Don't be surprised to see teams scoring 2-3 goals each. Bottom line, the Dutch are arrogant enough to think they can play on a level playing field with Spain and will do just that.
For that reason, I am sticking to my pre-World Cup selection of Holland, predicting a 2-1 win. At the end of the day, this promises to be a well played, exciting finish to the World Cup. Long live the new champion!
(Image Credit: Football Online)