Today at 2:30 PM EDT, Spain plays the Netherlands in the final match of the 2010 World Cup. To the winner goes the title, the first in their country’s history.
This is a match up between two European powers, linked by much more than their continent (see slide 8).
Xavi has been the heartbeat of the Spanish team throughout the tournament. When his passing is on and at its most aggressive, he can rip opposition defenses to shreds.
This will be his goal against the Netherlands, where beyond their front 6, they appear weak.
Wesley Sneijder is freshly off a Champions League win. He's brimming with confidence and may yet win the Golden Boot for top tournament goal scorer.
His ability to transition the Dutch side from defence to attack will be vital to his tram, as they will be under heavy pressure throughout the match from Spain's aggressive defence.
Cesc Fabregas has come off the bench several times in the tournament to inspire Spain to late game victories. He is more direct in his approach than some of his counterparts, as he's been cultured in a faster paced English game.
He may be needed late on if Spain are in need of a goal, and looking for a final incisive pass.
Robin van Persie has been quiet for much of the tournament, overshadowed by Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder. He has been improving every game, and finding a better relationship with Sneijder.
Look for van Persie to be a serious goal threat in this game, particularly on the counterattack, hopefully in such glamorous fashion as this goal.
This is, in many ways, a rematch of Inter Milan and Barcelona in this year's Champions League. Spain, playing the Barcelona role, will look to hold onto the ball for the entire match, wearing out the opposition. The Netherlands will try to counter, and frustrate the Spanish going forward, like Inter did to Barcelona just months ago.
The key will be whether Arjen Robben can unlock a weakness in the Spanish fullbacks by out running them and playing the ball to the centrally located van Persie or Sneijder. That is the only chance for the Dutch.
The Spanish will expect to score one goal, and they will expect it to be late.
If you want even more of a tactical analysis, read Jonathan Wilson's fantastic piece for The Guardian.
This is the final many had hoped for. Two sides with the best talent in the world at the moment, built from the ideas of Johan Cruyff and total football.
Cruyff, being born in the Netherlands, revolutionised the game there in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his club, Ajax Amsterdam. The culture in Dutch football changed to one that emphasised attack over defence, pressure up the pitch, and precision passing. He never won a World Cup with the Netherlands, though they made the finals in 1974 and 1978.
Cruyff accomplished the same thing at Barcelona in Spain, where he later coached the club, and revolutionised how they thought about the game. The Spanish team is largely made up of Barcelona players.
Now Cruyff wants Spain to win because they play the attacking football he loves.
Our minds must pick Spain to win (our hearts say Holland). While they have not scored many goals, Spain have been the dominant force in international soccer over the last 3 years, winning the European Championship in 2008.
The Netherlands are functional, but not dominant. They will be outclassed against the Spanish. They were also outclassed against the Brazilians. But there is a key difference here: The Spanish have discipline. When Brazil were broken they went mental, tackling poorly and losing all composure. The Spanish will not do this. That is why they will win.
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