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And finally – Spain v. Holland

July 8th, 2010 by · No Comments · Features

'anyone for Toad-Hall football?'

Oh, the irony. Like taking Oranges to Seville the Dutch will take their more pragmatic style of play to the new spiritual heirs of Total Football.

To the shame of the English ‘Best in the World’™ Premier League this World Cup has shown their boasts to be hollow. The ‘stars’ of SuperDuperSunday have been eclipsed by those from other leagues. That’s the players, the coaches and the national bodies. The final is another painful reminder with Torres and Van Persie out of form, Fabregas and Reina can’t get a game. And all this while representatives of Inter, Barca and Bayern light up the tournament. And with what style.

From Ajax to Barcelona, via Johann Cruyff and Rinus Michels, the style of Spanish football owes much to it’s Dutch heritage. At the same time Dutch football is adopting a less flamboyant approach than the one that has so often seen them fall at the last hurdle.

The Ajax and Barcelona youth academies have been developing players for their national teams since the late 60s. This crop is no exception. Nine of the Spanish squad came through the Barca academy and nine of the Dutch squad started their careers at Ajax.

Familiarity seems to work well in major tournaments; In 1974 Germany fielded 6 Bayern players while winning the trophy, Italy won in 1982 using 6 Juventus players in 1994 lost in the final with a side build around a great AC Milan.

In addition to knowing each other during their club careers both international squads have also been stable for some time. Spain have been playing together since 2007 using the same back ’8′ in every game in this tournament – the goalkeeper, four in defence and the three in midfield.

So, who has the edge? After last night’s defeat the German coach, Joachim Löw, was quick to predict Spain would be crowned world champions. “Spain are a wonderful team,” he said. “They are the masters of the game. They can hardly be beaten”.

Spain recovered from a shock defeat in their opening game and then developed a knack of passing opponents to death and winning with a single, late, goal. But this Dutch side, despite not putting on the style of the great [losing] teams of the past, took maximum points in qualification and have won all six games in this tournament. They are on the longest unbeaten run in their history [25 games stretching back to September 2008].

Our money is on Van Persie to finally show his class and just tip the balance in what is the closest, and potentially most attractive, final in decades. Roll on Sunday and gives us something special to remember when the drone of the EPL gets going in August.

Video – See how they got there – Holland v. Uruguay and Spain v. Germany

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