It’s here, then. This clear-skied, still morning in Kyalami is thick with the promise of…well….the culmination of all this. Our day is entirely geared around the final, almost through necessity – the closing ceremony is at 18.30 and kick-off at 20.30, but major arterial roads are closing early in the afternoon and it’s suggested that fans should get to Soccer City by 14.30. 14.30!! So, as we’ve various admin to go out and complete before heading to the biggest match of our lives, I have only ten minutes to speak about what lies in store.
Holland’s strength today lies, for me, in the fact that they’ll always have a goal in them. They showed it against Brazil, however fortunately, and I think they’ll show it today. It’s not ‘total football’, but one or two of the articles I’ve skimmed have I think hammed this fact up a bit; they’re not exactly Greece either. Van Marwijk has created an attractive enough version of what I call the ‘coiled spring’ 4-3-3 (with significant variants thereof , depending on where Sneijder ends up) setup that’s been widespread this summer – and with Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie around to stretch it out, this one has more explosive potential than most. Spain’s full-backs have been particularly important to their attacking impetus in their last two games and you’d expect Robben and Kuyt (who you naggingly feel is exactly cut out for this kind of occasion) to stay pretty high up the pitch as much as possible.
Holland have won all six of their games but you can’t especially say they’ve looked World Champions at any stage. Sneijder’s goal return of five generally unconvincing strikes has been a kind of microcosm of this; but perhaps it’s all an argument for their being well-favoured to take the mantle. They’ve looked far solider at the back when the positionally-haywire Van der Wiel isn’t playing, but so much today will depend on how Van Bommel and De Zeeuw or De Jong fare deep in midfield against Spain’s almost numbing ability to control matters.
Spain played Germany, a momentum team if ever there’s been one, beautifully from the start – simply denying them possession without being ultra-ambitious themselves. Possession as the best form of defence has not been practised this well for a very long time. If they do it that well today – or are allowed to – then you can’t see them losing, because they don’t really commit enough men forwards to be badly caught out if they do squander the ball. Holland’s two deeper midfielders should have more bite than Schweinsteiger and Khedira (for all their other outstanding attributes) and can probably squeeze more effectively – so Spain might not see quite as much of the ball today.
It’ll be cagey, but you can’t see it being dull or without chances – the attacking players these sides have are too good, and the defences too uncertain when driven at. A deadlock-breaker for Holland would set up something absolutely intriguing. I don’t know if they’ll get it, but I do think they will score today – and that Spain will win 2-1, perhaps even after extra time.
Not the most satisfactory of previews at all, but we gotta bounce this second. I can’t wait. Let’s hope we get the game this tournament, I think, deserves – although if that’s the criterion then we’d better expect the unexpected. Enjoy.