Two long runs of suc­cess on the line in World Cup fi­nal

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Barry Wil­ner

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — The first World Cup in Africa ap­pro­pri­ately presents some­thing new: Spain or the Nether­lands as a first-time cham­pion.

The Spa­niards and Dutch will meet Sun­day at Soc­cer City af­ter win­ning tight semi­fi­nals. It’s the first fi­nal for the Spa­niards, who broke a 44-year ma­jor cham­pi­onships drought when they won the Euro­pean crown two years ago.

For the Dutch, its a third trip to the ti­tle game, hav­ing lost in 1974 and ’78. The na­tions never have met in a World Cup and have split nine games 4-4 with one draw.

Spain is a 1-to-2 fa­vorite to win the fi­nal, ac­cord­ing to BetUS. But no team has ever lost the first game of the tour­na­ment and went on to win the ti­tle. La Furia Roja lost its open­ing match to Switzer­land.

Both teams rolled into this tour­na­ment with long streaks of suc­cess, and the Nether­lands’ string re­mains in­tact: 25 matches with­out a loss and 10 straight vic­to­ries, in­clud­ing all six in South Africa, the only team to man­age that.

“We’ve beaten Brazil, we know we can play with any of them,” cap­tain Gio­vanni van Bron­ck­horst said. “To be men­tally strong is now most im­por­tant.”

Men­tally frag­ile has been the World Cup de­scrip­tion for both na­tions. The Dutch in par­tic­u­lar reg­u­larly have wasted their deep pool of tal­ent by go­ing out early in big events since the loss to Ar­gentina in the 1978 fi­nal. They won the ’88 Euro ti­tle and fell to Brazil in the Cup semi­fi­nals 10 years later.

Other than that, it’s pretty Gio­vanni van Bron­ck­horst and his Dutch team­mates have won 10 straight matches, in­clud­ing six in the World Cup. much been rot­ten Oranje.

Spain didn’t even do as well as the Nether­lands, con­sis­tently flop­ping in the biggest mo­ments. But the so-called golden gen­er­a­tion for La Roja has changed the team’s di­rec­tion. David Villa, An­dres Ini­esta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Car­les Puyol con­trolled the match against Ger­many.

The Dutch en­joy the of­fen­sive side. Wes­ley Snei­jder, Ar­jen Robben, Robin van Per­sie, Dirk Kuyt and the rest of the Oranje have 12 goals.

Spain, prob­a­bly the best pass­ing team in the world, will at­tempt to con­trol the ball, get­ting it to the feet of Ini­esta or Xavi, then try to spring Villa or some­one else down the wings or in the mid­dle.

Don’t look for coun­ter­at­tacks. The Dutch will build their prob­ing of­fense from goal­keeper Maarten Steke­len­burg on out, un­afraid to let their in­ex­pe­ri­enced keeper be­gin the pass­ing se­quences they fa­vor.

Michael Sohn

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.