Sunday, July 11, 2010


In just about a couple of hours, the closing ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2010 will begin... before the Grand Finale between the Netherlands and Spain.

Now, the bookies all over the world are reportedly favouring Spain to lift the title. In fact, most Indian celebrities are also reportedly backing Spain... a number of them have said as such on their Twitter pages. The German team manager has thrown his weight behind the Spaniards. Robin van Persie, the Dutch striker (supposedly target-man), has also admitted that Spain will start as slight favourites. And yes, before I forget, the star of the World Cup hero from Germany, Paul the Octopus, has also predicted a Spanish win.

Does this increase the pressure on the flamboyant, yet perennially under-achieving Spanish side? I guess it does. Now, I did use the word flamboyant to describe Spain... because all the newspapers seem to think so. But I think that this word has come out only after the semi-final match against Germany... where Spain indeed was flamboyant and the deserving winner.
However, if we look further back, it was not an easy ride for them as it has been for the Netherlands. Spain just about managed to scrape through over Paraguay... and though they were the clearly better team against Portugal before that, they won the game because Portugal underperformed and not because they were exceptional.

Netherlands, on the other hand, have been a lot more attack-minded than Spain. Their goal tally shows as such. Spain have scored just 7 goals over the past one month whereas Netherlands have been way ahead on 12 goals. In fact, the problem for Spain is that apart from David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Carlos Puyol, no one has managed to strike the back of the net. And they certainly cannot rely on Puyol to score everyday... then who will be at the back!?

For the Netherlands, the scorers have been Dirk Kuyt, Robin van Persie, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Arjen Robben and of course, Wesley Sneijder. This seems to suggest that they have a lot more settled and confident attack than the Spaniards.

The Dutch, however, have not been very strong defensively. They have conceded 5 at the back, in comparison to just 2 by Spain. And when you compare the goalkeepers, I would pick Iker Casillas any day over Maarten Stekelenburg.

So this contest builds up nicely... on one hand is a team with a misfiring attack but a strong defense facing up to a team with a confident attack but a faltering defense. Both teams are chasing history... never having won this competition in the past 80 years of its existence.

Spain already starts on the backfoot... in terms of history. No team has ever won this showpiece event after having lost their first match. Spain had lost the first match to Switzerland... but they have regrouped since then.

So... now the wait is just about over. In a few hours, the world will know which team has made history. Let the battle begin...

No comments: