Dutch and Spaniards seek overdue glory

PRETORIA,  (Reuters) – The world’s most impressive  passing team, Spain, face an explosive Netherlands attack in a  highly anticipated World Cup final today with the only  certainty being a new, first-time, world champion.

Despite their great traditions, generations of top players  and leading clubs, neither the Dutch nor the Spanish have ever  had their hands on the game’s top prize.

European champions Spain have never previously gone beyond  the quarter-final stage while the Dutch emerged from their glory  years in the 1970s having lost in two successive World Cup  finals in 1974 and 1978.

Spain’s mesmerising passing game this time was too much in  the semi-finals for a Germany team that had impressed so many  with their crushing wins over England and Argentina but  succumbed to a 1-0 defeat.

The Netherlands showed their power in the final third in  their 3-2 semi-final victory over Uruguay with the impressive  Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben scoring after arguably the goal  of the tournament from captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

But Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk is well aware of the  quality of opposition his team now faces.
“Spain were the better team against Germany and really  deserved to win. They are the best team in the world at this  moment,” he said.

The Dutch head into the final with a remarkable run of wins  — they have won now 14 competitive matches in a row, including  all their World Cup qualifying matches, yet they can hardly be  considered favourites against a Spanish team which has lost just  twice in their last 53 matches.

“It doesn’t interest me who is favourite for the final, I  just don’t care what the whole world is saying,” said van  Marwijk.

“We will just go out and play our own game — we see it as a  great challenge to play them,” he said.

Incredibly given their pedigree, it will be the first  competitive meeting between both countries since November 16  1983, when they played in a European Championship qualifier in  Rotterdam, the Dutch coming out top 2-1 thanks to a winner from  Ruud Gullit.

The Dutch squad is completely fit and even Gregory van der  Wiel and Nigel de Jong, who both were suspended for the semi  against Uruguay, are available again.

Spain’s success has come despite the lack of form of their  leading striker Fernando Torres but David Villa’s five goals  have made up for the Liverpool forward’s problems and dangerous  winger Andres Iniesta is hitting his stride at just the right  time.

Spain lost their opening game of the tournament to  Switzerland but have gradually eased through the gears to find  their best form for when it really matters.

Although Spain’s brand of quick, short passes and retention  of possession does not make for wide open games, it lends itself  to fascinating tactical battles and — as Germany found to their  cost — the counter-attacking approach is hard to apply.

The Dutch also like to break with speed and numbers but they  may well have to engage in more of a midfield chess game if they  are to avoid the fate of the Germans.

“We will try not to let the win over Germany blind us to the  task in hand. We’ll focus on the job we have to do because we  want more,” said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque.

“Holland is a country with a great football tradition and  these are two teams who are so keen to be world champions for  the first time.”

Brazil has won the World Cup a record five times, Italy  has been crowned on four occasions and Germany has three  victories.

Argentina and Uruguay have won the tournament twice and  England and France have each won once.

Today’s game will also mark the first time that a European  team has won a tournament held outside of their own continent.

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