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Spain and Holland seek World Cup glory

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11.07.2010 10:19

Spain and Holland seek World Cup glory

Jaume Marcet

Spain, with eight Barcelona players in the squad, most of whom are likely to start the match, will play in the country’s first ever World Cup final tonight.

Johannesburg is the venue (20.30, CET), and the opposition is Holland, who have never won the title before either.

Spain have a lot to thank FC Barcelona for as they go into the most important match in the country’s footballing history. No fewer than eight members of Vicente Del Bosque’s squad are from the club that won back-to-back Liga titles.

More than 50% Barça

celebracio_alemanya.jpgGerard Piqué and Carles Puyol have started every match in the centre back roles, and have both been among the most impressive defenders on show in South Africa. Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets and André Iniesta are untouchable in midfield, and have all brought some of the Barça magic to the 2010 World Cup.

Barcelona’s latest signing, David Villa, has scored five of Spain’s seven goals en route to the final, and is favourite along with Holland’s Wesley Sneijder to be named the player of the tournament. In the semi final, he was joined in attack by future Barça team mate Pedro, who performed brilliantly in place of the out-of-form Fernando Torres, and may be picked again as a starter in the grand final.

Spain’s other two goals so far in this championship also carried the Barça seal. Andrés Iniesta scored against Chile, and it was Carles Puyol who put the side in the final with his 73rd minute header in the semi final with Germany.

Dutch courage

Whatever happens, tonight’s match will produce a new winner of the FIFA World Cup. Spain’s previous best was fourth place in 1950, while Holland are appearing in their third final, having lost on both their previous attempts, against West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978.

FCB-Betis.jpgThe Dutch side includes two former FC Barcelona players in Mark van Bommel and captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who will be retiring from football after the tournament. And although Spain are slight favourites, the Oranje will provide stern opposition. Not only did they win every game in qualifying, but they are also bidding to become the first champions since Brazil in 1970 to win every game in the tournament. It was Holland who put the much-fancied Brazilians out of the 2010 edition with a famous 2-1 win in the quarter finals.

Barça’s Dutch connection

Paul the octopus has already singled out Spain as the winners, and former Dutch international and Barcelona manager and Johan Cruyff agrees that it is ‘La Roja’ who have the edge. “There is more quality to Spain than Holland” he said. “If they can keep the ball, they have everything they need to win. Spain are favourites.” He also observes that the famous Barcelona style now adopted by the Spanish national side was ironically invented by the Dutch. “After Holland 1974, Barça copied it. The ball is your fiend, and as long as you have it, the other side can’t play.”

Another Dutch former Barça great, Ronald Koeman, also predicts that his country will lose yet another final. “I think it’ll finish 1-1, and Spain will win in extra time” he said.

Iniesta and Busquets

espanya_hondures.JPGBarcelona’s André Iniesta put the game in a nutshell when he said “being here is amazing. We are on the verge of doing something historic. It’s a unique occasion for us. You tear your hair out just thinking what it is like to be in the final, it’s what you have always dreamed of.”

Reviewing how things have gone so far, Sergio Busquets said “we played a good game against Portugal. Paraguay gave us no room to breathe but against Germany we were helped because they played a more attacking game. Now against Holland, it will all be even more difficult than ever, if that’s possible.”
The guests of honour at the World Cup final will include Queen Sofia of Spain along with Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia, plus members of the Dutch royal family. Several Spanish sporting greats will also be present, including Pau Gasol of the LA Lakers and Wimbledon champion Rafa Nadal.

It is still not clear whether former South African president, Nelson Mandela, in poor health at the age of 92, will be able to accept FIFA’s invitation for him to attend the final and present the winning captain with the trophy.

The referee of the final will be England’s Howard Webb, the same man who officiated Spain’s defeat to Switzerland in the first match of the group stages.

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