July 10, 2010

One for the World (Cup)

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

The World Cup has all boiled to two nations and both are unlikely finalists. For the first time since 1958, we will see a team win their first World Cup that wasn’t on home soil. For the first time since 1958, we will see a team from the opposite hemisphere win the title. For the first time ever, we could see a team that lost their opener take the Cup home. But then again, it’s been that sort of Cup.

We’ve seen all sorts of highlights and all sorts of lowlights, but those are for another time, right now, we have a possible classic on our hands. When Spain meets Netherlands Sunday two European powerhouses will be vying for their first title. The Dutch haven’t been here since 1978 and the Spanish have never made it this far – their semifinal game against Germany was their first at that stage too.

The Dutch have been the hottest team in the world for a while now. They may not be playing the Total Football style their nation made famous in the 70s, but they are playing winning football. After going undefeated in qualifying, they’ve now gone undefeated at the World Cup. They have shown that despite their incredible offensive talent, they can also defend when called upon. Their keeper, Maarten Stekelenberg, in fact, has been touted as the best of the tournament. So much for missing Edwin van der Saar, right?

Wesley Sneijder has been playing at the same incredible level that he was with his club, Inter Milan, on its way to winning three titles this past season. It’s hard to believe that he would miss out on winning the Golden Boot if the Netherlands come through in the final.

The Netherlands have overcome a lot too. For as long as can be remembered, this was a squad that supposedly hated each other and was unable to perform as a unit. Even after a yelling match between Robin van Persie and their coach on the sidelines after a substitution, this team gelled as a unit and went on to beat pre-tournament favourites Brazil.

On the other side, the Spanish come in as the reigning European champions and look to grab a double that hasn’t been achieved since France in 2000 and 2002.

Perhaps the deepest side in the world, the Spanish can trot out a ‘B’ squad and still compete with most countries. Case in point is Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas coming off the bench because Andres Iniesta and Xavi are just too good to be left off the field. The Barcelona duo is amazing with their passing and at creating chances for their forward, who are no slouches at all.

David Villa could be the goal-scorer in the world and Fernando Torres is incredible as well, even though he has clearly been off his game – perhaps carrying an injury – through this whole tourney. Villa is another player up for the Golden Ball and with a goal, should take the Golden Boot as well.

Torres poses an interesting dilemma for the Spanish though. While he has been awful thus far and a detriment to the team, but as they say: “Form is temporary, class is forever.” So can he really be kept off the pitch? I’d say the answer is quite clear: Keep the same side that played against Germany, with Torres on the bench, ready to come in as a second-half sub. Why risk him in a game this big?

So, to make a pick for the biggest game of them all, I’ll have to go with the team that has the big game experience: Spain. They have been through this pressure cooker before and it’s hard to believe that a younger team like The Netherlands can handle this.

But, if one thing is for certain, it’s that we will be treated to lovely game of football. And in the end, isn’t that what everybody wanted in the first place?

2 Comments

  1. Hard to believe, but Spain was a favourite for many at the start of the tournament. Many entertaining and memorable games, and I’m sure this one will be.
    Go Dutch!

  2. Why watch? Paul has spoke – Spain will prevale

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