So on Sunday 4 weeks of back to back football comes to a climax, with Spain and Holland contesting the 19th World Cup final with a guaranteed new name on the cup. I read a funny description of the game saying "If they (Holland) manage to win the world cup it will be like a lifetime achievement award or Martin Scorsese's Oscar for The Departed: it won't necessarily be a victory merited on their performances this year (though they've risen to the occasion when they've had to), but it will be just reward for how well they have frequently played over the last 40 years without just reward..." which is a pretty accurate description, this isn't one of the best Holland teams we've ever seen but to make it this far they've clearly done something right, although their only really tough game was against Brazil, and although beating Brazil is no mean feat it has to be remembered that part of this was down to the Brazilian's spectacularly imploding mentally, but history doesn't remember who beat who to get to the final, the fact is they are there and that is how it will be remembered. Spain are the 6th most successful team in the world cup and Holland are 8th (going on points for each game), the teams above and between them have won the tournament at least once, and by the end of Sunday another team will join the winners list.
Spain on the other hand will be remembered as a great team, already holding the European Championship and looking to add the World Cup to that trophy and hold the 2 major cup's that European teams can win and do it with a quality of player that most, if not all, teams envy. They also play some of the most disciplined and technically superior football that has been seen for years, it makes me laugh reading some articles and reactions slagging off the tiki taki football they play which shows the fundamental floor in the English mentality - they play such great football that they have already won 1 major title and could equal England's World Cup record - after the way England performed surly people must realise that we should be trying to play like Spain and develop footballers in the same way? The only reason they have struggled in some games this tournament is because the opposition play what i like to call 'The Mourinho tactic' which is basically sit deep and defend, possession doesn't matter, then catch the opposition on the break and nick a goal. When the Germans, and possibly the Portugese to a point, turned up and actually tried to play football this suited the Spanish style and led to them pretty much dismantling a German team that had scored 4 goals in 3 separate games and made England & Argentina look average. In this game Del Bosque proved what a shrewed tactician he was as well, although it wasn't a surprise to see Torres dropped it was a surprise for some people to see Pedro named over Fabregas but Del Bosque knew that with Cesc in the team they would have no width (when Torres was starting Villa was more on the left) and leave the middle of the pitch over crowded allowing Podolski & Lahm to exploit the flanks, so he put Pedro out there to keep Lahm pinned back and cut of Podolski's supply and it worked superbly, with Iniesta floating more into the middle it meant the Spanish out numbered the Germans but still kept their width. I fully expect Del Bosque to do the same this time, although it wouldn't surprise me to see him have Pedro on the right, his young fresh legs ready to run at Van Bronckhorst.
Tactically i expect Holland to setup the same as they have done every game this tournament, with a 4-2-3-1 style, with De Jong coming back from suspension to replace De Zeeuw who wasn't great against Uruguay. I'd expect Van Marwijk to tell Kuyt & Robben to stay up the pitch and put pressure on the Spanish fullbacks wherever possible especially Robben on Capdevilla, Kuyt will track back and cover Ramos' forward runs all day long, but Robben may not be as defensively minded which may suit Capdevilla. Pedro is the key here i feel, if he stays out on the right and effectively 'doubles up' with Ramos it could give Kuyt & Van Bronckhorst a bit of a problem. If Pedro plays it also means that Iniesta can float inside and effectively become part of a 4 man central midfield with Xavi, Busquets & Alonso which proved so effective against the Germans. This could again provide the Dutch with some serious problems, whilst Van Bommel & De Jong will be in the deeper defensive midfielder roles and Kuyt dropping back this still leaves a 4v3 situation, the obvious answer will be to pull Sneijder back to cover from deep and launch attacks from deeper than he is used to but i don't think this will be so effective and may leave the attack separated from the rest of the team. A recent article described Holland as 'a team in which six players defend, three attack and Dirk Kuyt runs about' and if this is how they play in the final then the Spanish will take advantage of this as they attack and defend as one unit (bar maybe Villa). Busquets will almost certainly be told to stick to Sneijder, especially when he drops deep and keeping him quiet, like Oezil in the semi's, and if he does this job effectively Robben & Van Persie could find themselves very isolated.
From a Dutch point of view the key for them will be getting Sneijder time on the ball and the key runs of Robben, i would expect him to be told to run at Capdevilla as much as he can as he is probably the main weak point in the Spanish defence and team. The only problem with this will be that either Puyol or Pique will come accross and help deal with Robben but this would also leave Van Persie in a 1 v 1 situation with the other center back, but if Sneijder is as effectivly marked out the game as Oezil was i can see Robben being as ineffective as Podolski was in the Spain v Germany game - although the difference is Robben only needs one chance to cut inside and cause mayhem.
Despite this I'm going for a Spain victory, 2-0, although i expect the Dutch to make them fight for it and work harder than they've worked all tournament