This year's World Cup Final, taking place on Sunday 11th July, is notably going to produce a brand new addition to the winners roll call. The Netherlands and Spain are two of the greatest footballing nations to have never before won the accolade, despite close calls in the past. Now, one of them is about to become a deserving member of this most exclusive club.
The World Cup Winners Club
Brazil are top of the shop, having won the World Cup five times. Italy have won it four times, West Germany three times, Uraguay and Argentina have both won twice, and England and France have both won once.
Sunday's match will produce a brand new World Cup winner to add to this list, but will it be Spain or the Netherlands?
How Well Have the Netherlands Done in Previous World Cups?
The Netherlands have previously reached two World Cup Finals. They lost to West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978. Arguably, it was the 1970s that delivered the Netherlands' golden era as they pioneered ‘total football’ under the auspices of coach Rinus Michels and star player Johan Cruyff. This is the system whereby players constantly switch positions to gain tactical advantages. Playing everywhere at once makes for exciting, entertaining football.
Total football has not figured prominently in the 2010 Netherlands World Cup team. Instead, under manager Bert van Marwijk, the team have adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation, much to chagrin of Cruyff. The footballing legend has called for a return to "hunger and ambition", in World Cup football. Playing to win, rather than just not to lose, in a style that is "ugly, sterile and boring".
It is for this reason that Dutch legend Cruyff has been supporting Spain's style of possessive play throughout the 2010 World Cup. As coach at Barcelona throughout the 90s, Cruyff certainly helped to develop this style. But it’s left him in a tricky position now both 'his teams' are meeting at the final.
The Netherlands star players are Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Mark van Bommel, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Johnny Heitinga, Dirk Kuyt and Wesley Sneijder. The current odds on them lifting the trophy stand at around 11/8.
How Well Have Spain Done in Previous World Cups?
Spain have qualified for the World Cup 13 times. They came 4th in 1950, after losing the third place play off match to Sweden. But Spain are riding high at the moment as reigning European champions. They are prospering well under head coach Vicente del Bosque, and it is widely thought that they are in the middle of their own golden era right now.
When it comes to star players, Spain are spoilt for choice. Notables include Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol, Xavi, David Villa, Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta. Current odds of 4/7 have Spain pegged as the favourites to win the World Cup.
Howard Webb to Referee the World Cup Final
An additional point of interest (particularly for footie fans who are fond of superstitions) is the announcement that English referee Howard Webb will be in charge of the final. The last time there was an English ref at a World Cup final was Jack Taylor, back in 1974. The game was between West Germany and the Netherlands. The result was 2-1 to the Germans.
What will happen this time? Not long to wait now before we find out.
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