World Cup final preview: Spain vs. Netherlands
SPAIN VS. NETHERLANDS
Where: Johannesburg. Time: 11:30 a.m. PDT.
TV: ABC, Univision. Radio: Sirius/XM, KLYY-FM 97.5, KDLD-FM/KDLE-FM 103.1, KSPN-AM 710.
The buzz: A first-time World Cup champion will be crowned Sunday for the first time in 12 years. While this matchup may lack the sizzle of Brazil- Argentina, Spanish Coach Vicente del Bosque insists it will be an entertaining game. “The two teams are meeting at a point where they are doing things well,” Del Bosque told the Associated Press. “Both have players of great technical ability, very creative. It’s going to be great advertisement for world football.” Both teams are on a roll. Spain has won 30 of its 32 matches under Del Bosque, while the Dutch are on a 25-match unbeaten streak that includes six victories here. “It’s an even final between two teams that deserve to be here,” Del Bosque said. “We’ve got good players but so do they.” Chief among Del Bosque’s good players is striker David Villa, who has scored five of Spain’s seven goals in the tournament. Only two previous Cup finalists have scored fewer goals in six games — Argentina with five in 1990 and West Germany with six in 1986. Both those teams lost in the title game. But then Spain’s game is built more around ball control than scoring, with midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta masters at maintaining possession. It is a strategy that proved especially frustrating to Germany in the semifinal. The one lineup decision Del Bosque is likely to mull is whether to start ineffective striker Fernando Torres or give his spot to Pedro Rodriguez, as he did against Germany. The Dutch, meanwhile, are second in the tournament with 12 goals and have two players — Wesley Sneijder with five goals and Arjen Robben with two — capable of breaking a match open at any time. But the Dutch attack also depends on possession. They like to build their attack slowly from the back, working the ball through the midfield to their talented strikers. With both teams depending on ball control, the team that has the most success at playing keep-away will likely have the most success overall. Don’t discount Holland’s quick-strike capability, though. “The Dutch can create a goal from any situation,” Uruguayan Coach Oscar Tabarez said. If Spain’s defense — and especially keeper Iker Casillas, arguably the best in the world at his craft — don’t heed that warning, they could pay dearly.
— Kevin Baxter