by Tom Allen
World Cup 2010 has probably got the final it deserves and Holland versus
Spain should certainly be pleasing on the eye.
Spain started their assault on football's biggest prize with a shock opening
defeat to Switzerland in South Africa but, in truth, they battered their
European rivals that night and the alarm bells certainly wouldn't have been
ringing for fans of the Euro 2008 winners at that stage.
Relatively routine wins over Honduras and Chile followed, resulting in Spain
finishing atop Group H, and they haven't looked back since the knockout stages
Spain certainly haven't played the same exciting brand of football at these
finals that saw them sweep to glory in Austria-Switzerland two years ago but
they keep the ball as well as ever, and better than any side in the tournament,
and are yet to concede a goal in 270 minutes of sudden death football.
Victories over Portugal, Paraguay and, most recently, Germany, all by a 1-0
score line, saw Spain dominate possession in each and most impressively they
limited the previously rampant three-times winners to very few clear cut chances
in their semi-final clash.
Germany had smashed four goals passed both Argentina and England en route to
the last four but hardly got a sniff against a Spanish side that certainly knows
how to defend and it will be very difficult indeed for Holland to create many
openings on Sunday, despite their wonderful array of attacking talent.
Much praise is heaped upon the ball retention abilities of Andreas Iniesta
and Xavi in the Spanish midfield but there is something refreshing about Carles
Puyol and Gerard Pique's no nonsense approach at the back and it was the former
who proved the hero with a bullet-header to seal the win on Wednesday night.
The one criticism of Spain is that they often overcomplicate things in the
final third but they really knuckled down to the task in hand against Joachim
Low's men and the result could have been even more comprehensive than just the
single goal margin of victory.
Spain, 1/2 shots with VC Bet to lift the trophy, face a team on Sunday that
has now won its last 14 World Cup matches dating back to the start of qualifying
and it is very difficult to pick holes in Holland.
The deciding factor could well be big-game temperament however and the Dutch
were second best for the first hour against Uruguay in their semi-final before
another piece of Wesley Sneijder good fortune gave them some breathing space.
Holland had also been outplayed by Brazil in their quarter-final clash with
the South Americans, falling a goal behind to a Robinho strike, but you get the
impression Spain will not be as forgiving and the Dutch will need to be out of
the blocks quickly in Johannesburg if they are not to make the same mistakes
Everywhere you look on Sunday there are match-winners but it is the spine of
the Spanish team that appears stronger to me, Iker Casillas in goal included,
and another narrow win without conceding for Vicente Del Bosque's team looks on
the cards to me.
Having advised a back of both Holland and Spain, at 14/1 and 9/2
respectively, before things got underway, we are certainly in a position to
enjoy the final knowing that a profit is to be gained regardless of the outcome
but it can pay to press up the winnings by dutching a couple of correct score
lines and I see it going the way of the latter while keeping a clean sheet.
Either team will be deserving winners, neither has their name on the trophy
before, but the pre-tournament favourites can oblige and Spain could just turn
on the style if things get stretched late on.
0.5pts Back Spain to win 1-0 @ 11/2 (Ladbrokes)
0.5pts Back Spain to win 2-0 @ 17/2 (Blue Square)
2pts Back Holland to win World Cup 2010 @ 14/1 (Paddy Power)
1.5pts Back Spain to win World Cup 2010 @ 9/2 (Bet 365)