After 62 games of the FIFA World Cup, the stage is set: The Netherlands vs. Spain. What a tournament it has been. From the loud and obnoxious vuvuzelas to last second goals to controversial missed calls, this tournament has not failed to entertain. Some may not like the buzzing sound of the vuvuzelas or the theatrics of players falling to the ground like they’ve been assaulted with a deadly weapon, but the true beauty of the game has shone bright despite the harsh criticisms from American sports fans. The passion, spirit, and patriotism displayed throughout the World Cup are second to none, even the Olympics. On Sunday night in Johannesburg, South Africa, approximately 85,000 fans from all over the world will converge at the newly reconstructed Soccer City Stadium to witness the final match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Netherlands has made it to the finals before in 1974 and 1978, but fell short both times. Spain, on the other hand, has never advanced this far in the tournament. 90 minutes separate the two sides from capturing their first World Cup. But, exactly how will each go about etching their names into the record books? Who will step up and deliver for their country?
Spain hasn’t exactly lit up the scoreboard in their previous six games, scoring only seven goals. However, their inability to put the ball in the net has not been a pressing issue, as they have only conceded one goal thus far. With arguably some of the best talent in the world, the Spaniards certainly have what it takes to bring it home.
- Players to Watch:
- David Villa: With five goals in the tournament so far, there are few footballers in better form than Villa. In May 2010, Spanish football giants Barcelona paid a $50 million dollar transfer fee to Villa’s former club Valencia for his goal scoring services.
- Sergio Ramos: At right back, Sergio Ramos is one of the best defenders in the world. In addition to his defensive repertoire, he has been known to push forward into the attack and create dangerous opportunities for his teammates.
- Fernando Torres: Fresh off knee surgery, Fernando Torres has struggled to find his form in the tournament. Expect the Liverpool striker to come off the bench in the second half if the Spain needs an offensive spark.
The Dutch have won in a more stylish fashion than Spain, as their attacking style of play has been entertaining to watch. They have scored two or more goals in all but one of their matches thus far, so it is a safe bet that there will be a plethora of goal scoring chances throughout. Holland boasts some of the best players in their starting XI, so there is no doubt they are more than capable of winning it all.
- Players to Watch:
- Wesley Sneijder: In the running for most goals scored in the tournament, Sneijder has stepped his game up to the next level and put the team on his back. As a central midfielder, he controls the flow of the game and dictates the pace. Look for him to push forward and shoot as often as possible.
- Arjen Robben: Coming back from injury, Robben has returned quite impressively with two brilliant goals. He’s got explosive speed and amazing skill to get by defenders and create quality scoring opportunities for himself. The Dutch will depend on him to catalyze the attack.
- Robin van Persie: van Persie is a young and talented offensive threat, who plays professionally in England at Arsenal. However, due to injuries and spells of inconsistency, he has not been able to show the world how good he actually is. Look for him to break out of his shell and score a crucial goal for his country.