Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup Final 2010: Spain vs. Holland: Tactical Preview and Predictions

The World Cup Final. Spain, the current European Champions, will take on Holland in a match for the ages.
Two of football's greatest nations, having never before won the trophy, will go head to head in a match that promises to be the most intriguing of the entire competition.

Dutch Pragmatism vs. Spanish Total Football: For The Hearts and Minds of Football
Holland were beaten finalists in 1974 and 1978, where they played some of the most wonderful football ever witnessed. Quite simply, they inspired a generation to play attacking, possession-based football.
While Spain, the great underachievers of the world game, have always threatened to succeed without ever having the nous to make it over the final line.
In the '90s, Barcelona and Dutch football underwent contrasting radical changes in footballing philosophy.
La Blaugrana imported Johann Cruyff and his vision of Total Football, while Holland were beaten in the Semi Final of the 1998 World Cup by Brazil.
The end result of both moments in time was that Cruyff's work inspired, and was carried on by Louis van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard before Pep Guardiola brought in on to another level having served his apprenticeship under the three Dutchmen.
Whereas, Holland's defeat caused the nation to look at its own footballing beliefs in the most forensic and introspective way.
Having tasted defeat twice in the '70s with their first Golden Generation, their second Golden Generation proved to be just as susceptible to weakness in the final straight.
A new outlook was sought, where German and Italian pragmatism was deemed the way forward.
Both styles have had years to develop to such an extent that they will now face each other for the hearts and minds of the football world.
Whichever style wins will be deemed the philosophy of choice for Sunday league and schoolboy teams for years to come.

Spain: How They Got There, Form PLD-6 W-5 D-0 L-1 GOALS F-7 A-2
Spain play the best brand of football on the planet. Being European Champions, they are already considered great by many parties.
Should they beat Holland, many will have to ask, "are they one of the game's greatest teams?"
No nation have ever won the World Cup having lost their opening match.
La Roja opened their account in South Africa with a shock 1-0 defeat to Switzerland before beating Honduras and Chile. The defeat to the Swiss caused el Bosque to change his formation a number of times.
Spain switched from 4-2-3-1 to 4-5-1, 4-1-3-2, and 4-3-3 before finally settling on a 4-2-2-2 of sorts with David Villa moving out to the left wing.
However, with Fernando Torres misfiring and looking very out of sorts, he switched back to a 4-5-1 for the last 20 minutes against Paraguay before keeping the same system for the 1-0 demolition of Germany.
The only question left to answer for the ex-Real Madrid supremo is whether he will return Torres to the starting line up for the Final.

Key Player: Xavi
The little Catalan maestro is the best practitioner of central midfield play in decades and is certain to go down in history as one of the greats of the game.
He has amassed 93 caps over the last 10 years and is not only one of the most creative players in the game, but also one of the hardest-working.
He is ever present in the first XI and is the axis upon which La Roja turn. If Xavi plays well, so do Spain.
During this tournament, he had made more passes than any other player and is vital for his country if they are to open up Holland's defence.
Such is his importance at club level that Barcelona have recently awarded the 30-year-old a new four-year contract.

The Key To Beating Holland:
If there is one team in this World Cup who are as comfortable on the ball as Spain, it is the Dutch. Always a technical nation, Holland and Bert van Maarwijk have fostered this new pragmatic Dutch philosophy with the technical excellence they have always enjoyed.
While two of their best performers in South Africa have been Mark van Bommel and Nigel De Jong, they are weak points as far as Spain is concerned.
Neither player is the most mobile, and their lack of pace can be exploited by a Spanish midfield that zip the ball around at an incredible rate.
Another point that Vicente is sure to attack is Giovani van Bronckurst. The guaranteed inclusion of the ex-Barcelona player may just be the eureka moment for the Spanish manager when deciding upon Fernando Torres in a 4-4-2 style formation or a winger in a 4-5-1 formation.
If Holland can keep possession of the ball and deny De Jong and van Bommel an influence on the game, then Sneijder and Robben will, in turn, be kept out of the game due to lack of supply.

Carlos Marchena, Spanish midfielder:
"I believe the history of football owes us this one. There have been great moments in our history where fortune did not end up on our side. We have been through several great disappointments over the years. We tried hard then, but without any luck.
"Perhaps this time we are to change those bitter moments. I hope Sunday is one of those beautiful moments, which are to be remembered in a good way for the rest of our lives."

Holland: How They Got There, Form PLD -6 W-6 D-0 L-0 (GOALS) F-12 A-4
You have to go all the way back to Brazil in 1970 to find a team who have won every match in a World Cup finals. This current Dutch team possess some of the most exciting players in the world, and some of the most cynical.
In an almost perfect marriage between Dutch flair and Italian cynicism, Bert van Maarwijk has built a team who are easily one of the best performers in the game.
Unbeaten in almost three years, 24 games, Holland have added big-game mentality to their vast repertoire.
A stroll through the park in Group E saw De Oranje dispose of Denmark, Japan, and Cameroon before they met Slovakia in the Round of 16.
From there they took on heavyweights Brazil in the most closely fought match in the tournament.
La Selecao took the firm decision that the way to beat the Dutch was through physical force and a superior mentality.
The first 45 minutes went exactly to plan. A Robinho goal was the difference between the two sides as Brazil bullied their European counterparts up and down the pitch.
The second half was a different story entirely as the Dutch, fired up from van Maarwijk's dressing down at half time, took the game by the scruff of the neck and gave as good as they got.
Brazil capitulated entirely.
Next up was Uruguay in the Semi Final and while the 3-1 scoreline may have flattered Holland, the difference between the two sides was vast.

Key Player: Arjen Robben
In the Bayern Munich winger, Holland have one of, if not the, best dribblers in the game.
The speed at which the Dutch star moves with the ball is breathtaking to say the least and when cutting in onto his left foot, he is one of the most dangerous footballers on the planet.
Possessing frightening pace, deceiving strength, astonishing control, and an inane ability to fluster the most composed of defenders, Robben is a player who can captivate and confuse in equal measures.

The Key To Beating Spain:
Van Maarwijk will do his level best to exploit the ugly duckling of the Spanish side, Joan Capdevilla.
The left back is the only player in the Spanish starting XI not playing with either Real Madrid or Barcelona.
He is not the paciest of defenders and is asked by Del Bosque to provide most of the width on the left, so he pushes on at every opportunity. That may change when faced with Robben.
If Van Maarwijk decides to play the winger in his more natural role on the left, he may get more purchase in the game as Ramos is a poor right full and is often exposed by good wingers.
This would also stop the Real Madrid man going forward, where he is a far bigger threat than the solid Capdevilla.
It is also imperative that van Bommel, Sneijder, and De Jong win the midfield battle with Spain's expected trio of Busquets, Alonso, and Xavi.
If they can close these players down, and specifically Xavi, they will make huge in roads towards gaining that elusive title.

Bert van Maarwijk, Netherlands Coach:
"At this moment I think Spain play a little more attractively than we do. Although we would like to do the same, they have a few more advantages right now.
"They are playing very well with the ball and without the ball when they are reacting very quickly, so it could be a very interesting game between two teams who want to play football.
"It doesn't interest me even if the whole world says they are favourites. It's a game of two countries against each other and both want to win and can win, and we have confidence in ourselves.
"We respect Spain, but we are not afraid. It's a big challenge to play against Spain and to beat them."

Spain and the Netherlands have never met at the World Cup or European Championship before.
The Dutch are bidding to become only the second team to qualify for the World Cup with a 100 percent record and win every match at the tournament itself (matching Brazil in 1970).
Wesley Sneijder has scored seven goals in his last eight internationals.
Spain have lost only two of their last 54 games.
David Villa is one goal away from equalling Raul's record of 44 goals for Spain. He has already equalled the Spanish record for most goals at a single World Cup (five), set by Emilio Butragueno in 1986.
Spain have completed 3,387 passes at the World Cup, more than any other side. The Netherlands have managed 2,434.
Prior to the third-place play-off, Spain had the tournament's top four passers: Xavi (464 completed passes), Busquets (420), Alonso (399) and Pique (378).

Final Thoughts:
Undoubtedly, these two sides possess the two best midfields in world football and it is highly intriguing to see how they go about each other in a game that promises to be as scientific as Chess.
Both managers have had questions asked of them in this World Cup, and they have come up with the answers every time, so it is going to be a titanic battle of wits come the final.
Spain are the better footballing outfit, their free flowing style is very easy on the eye and they have the ability to open up any side.
While Holland are equally comfortable on the ball, they possess more direct weapons than the Spanish and like to move the ball wide with pace.
It is very hard to call a winner as both teams are on form, but when push comes to shove, I think Spain should nick a tight game.