And then there were two…



Netherlands vs. Spain

We will have a new World Cup champion in 2010 – and that’s a good thing, I think. Two wonderful football nations who have never tasted the sport’s biggest prize will fight for the honor of doing so in an all-Euro final Sunday.

Holland’s win over Uruguay wasn’t a work of art, but like in every other match this tournament, they soldiered through on workmanlike effort and talent. This is not your father’s Dutch squad – the egos appear to be in check and (other than some suspicions about the keeper) appear to be solid and responsible at the back. The sad part of this match was the end Diego Forlan’s magical run, perhaps his last in a World Cup. He scored Uruguay’s lone goal in the semi-final, and created numerous other chances with his deft footwork and ball control. He was arguably the most exciting player in the tournament and he’ll be missed.

The other match went according to plan – Paul the Octopus‘ plan, that is. Spain dominated possession and created most of the chances in the game. Germany, sadly, abandoned their attacking style and played a deeply conservative match. Their fear of the Spaniards playmaking ability was obvious, and perhaps justified. Still, the Germans will have to be wondering what might have happened if they’d stayed true to their youthful abandon and aggressively tried to pressure the European champs. In truth, Paraguay played Spain a tougher match than Germany did – and the Germans can’t be pleased about that.

Who will win on Sunday? Well, while the Dutch have been flawless in this tournament at 6 wins in 6 matches, the Spanish have been close to flawless for the past two years in international football. Neither country has won the World Cup, so there’s no obvious advantage in intangibles. I can’t pick against Spain, though – they’ve won the two biggest matches in their country’s history in the ’08 Euro Final and this semi-final (both against Germany) and they have the feel of a team that expects to win every time they take the pitch. Holland has plenty of talent, but the Spanish are a little more talented across the lineup – and have the clear advantage in goal with Casillas. I like Spain, 1-o.

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