It started one month ago with 32 teams all wanting to be the one team to lift the trophy and claim the title of World Cup Champions, it will end this afternoon with one team doing just that and no matter which side wins it will be a new name on the trophy as neither Spain or the Netherlands have ever won it before.
Spain vs. Netherlands - 12:30pm MT - ABC
Spain was one of the pre tournament favorites to win it all, while team Oranje was expected to contend but not to make it this far, both teams made people pay attention to them along the way to the final. Spain lost their first group stage match to Switzerland, and will look to become the first team ever to lose their opening match to win it all, others have made the finals but none has claimed the trophy.
The Netherlands played well but few expected them to get past the powerhouse of World Cup soccer Brazil, but in doing so they captured the attention of everyone and the imagination of their home nation where people never doubted that their team could do it, you only have to see the dutch fans in South Africa to understand how important their team is to them.
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"I don't see David Villa as Spain's most dangerous player. The ones you really have to watch are Xavi [Hernandez] and [Andres] Iniesta. They're the players who set the tempo and make sure the ball gets to Villa. We have to stop them from playing and getting free. We need to mark them very tightly because if we give them the slightest space we'll have problems," Arjen Robben, Netherlands forward.
"I don't think they'll sit back and defend. They've got some quick players who are in terrific form right now. They'll do what we do and stick to their style. I know Robben. He's quick powerful and strong, and his shooting from outside the area is a concern for me. What we need to do is cut him off, although there's more to the Netherlands than just Robben. They are powerful in defence and midfield, and [Wesley] Sneijder and [Dirk] Kuyt are just as dangerous," Iker Casillas, Spain goalkeeper and captain.
more after the jump:
What's on the line
Only seven countries have won the World Cup. That number will increase by one on Sunday, as two countries with long histories of World Cup frustration will square off in the final at Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium.
After an early 1-0 loss to Switzerland, Spain has been ruthlessly efficient with its possession game, winning its past four matches by one goal. The Dutch have won all six of their matches and are bidding to become the sixth team in tournament history to win the title with a perfect record.
Choosing a winner here is tough. Spain probably has the edge in personnel and experience; Holland will have overwhelming home support from a nation they helped found some 400 years ago and some world-class talent of its own. The only weak links might be in goal. Iker Casillas has looked shaky; this is far and away the biggest game Maarten Stekelenburg has ever been in, and he made a howler against Diego Forlan Tuesday.
My heart says Holland ... but my head says Spain.
This match shows how big the World Cup is with players from some of the biggest clubs in the world are playing in this match, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Manchester City, PSV, and Ajax all have players involved in this match. It also shows how small the sport is, as only 7 nations have ever lifted the World Cup trophy in the past and now there will be an 8th team to do so.
It has been an interesting World Cup for me, as we have seen teams with household name players struggle, while teams without huge stars have held their own and then some. It continues to prove to me that soccer of all sports is truly one where it takes a full roster and team that play for each other to succeed, and I think this match is a classic matchup of a team with incredible talent and one that has talent but their strength is in how they play as a team.
I think the talent advantage is clearly Spain's as they have some incredible players, so much at Torres may end up on the bench. The Netherlands have players that many wouldn't know who they are if they ran into them on the street, but they have found a way to be there for each other and to play as a team. I am going to pick the side that plays better as a team and pick the Netherlands to start an ORANJE craze around the world, but the betting slip in my billfold from before the tourney began says Spain.
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