World Cup Final Preview

9 Jul

WHEN SPAIN HAVE THE BALL

Well it’s obvious this will be a common sight. The question is where the weaknesses are in the Dutch defense. Gio van Bronckhorst is no Jerome Boatang of Germany who was subbed off in the 52nd minute against Spain, so attacking down the right will be a bit more difficult this time around for Sergio Ramos. I think the best bet would be the left side against Gregory van der Wiel – a 22 year old lil’ baby instead of the 35 year old captain. As good as he is and will be, van der Wiel is ill prepared for the mental discipline needed to defend against the movements of Pedro (if he starts), Iniesta, and Villa.

Busquets and Xabi Alonso will need to help Xavi more than they have in previous games. Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong are two big and very physical midfielders who will surely smother anything that enters the center circle. In order to free up Xavi, he cannot be forced to come back too deep to receive the ball. Meaning, Busquets and/or Alonso will need to push up a bit farther to provide a little wiggle room for the maestro. Allow Xavi to get closer to the forwards where he can send that killer pass into the box. Otherwise, the Dutch midfield will squeeze him out.

Lastly, that free flowing movement up front will be key once again…assuming Pedro gets the start. Pedro and Iniesta switching from right to left and vice versa will keep the Dutch defense on edge. Villa will have to be a different player than he is when Torres plays, but the gaps will be there for him. This Dutch defense is a tad inferior to the Germans, which should bode well for the men up front. I want to say that because it’s a final, many goals will be necessary to win. However, with this team we know that isn’t the case. Score first – that’s the most important.

WHEN THE NETHERLANDS HAVE THE BALL

Which will be sparse. However, they have the key to unlock that high defensive line the Spanish play, and his name is Wesley Sneijder. The second best midfielder on the planet only needs a split second to turn and release a devastating ball behind the back 4. I would expect Ramos and Capdevila to push up as they have all tournament from their defensive positions. That will leave TONS of space to exploit on the counter. Ramos has always been faulted for being caught out of position so Dirk Kuyt will have plenty of open space to run at on the left side. As for Robben on the right, whether it’s open space or simply a one-on-one (perhaps Capdevila will be a bit less adventurous knowing the threat he leaves open behind him), he is MUCH quicker than Capdevila and should have no problem beating him.

Going through the middle won’t work. We have all seen how relatively boring this Dutch team has been, lacking any sort of fluidity and creativity. The middle is going to be a war zone of tackling and it would be best to spread the Spanish lines and give themselves as much room to operate as possible.

Have a go from distance. Although Casillas is coming off his best game between the posts, he is still not the same keeper he was 2 years ago. The Dutch players should give him an early run-around and see if they can capitalize on any howlers. As for their central striker, I expect Van Persie to be a non factor again. He’s drifted off many times this tournament and has been almost as inept as Fernando Torres. Now he’s going to try and conjure up some confidence to go at Pique and Puyol? Don’t see it happening.

PREDICTION
I’ve heard certain loonies claim that this Spain is boring to watch. After breaking down the argument, it ultimately centered on the lack of goals they are scoring. In response to that, someone said that compared to 2 years ago, “It’s almost like they’ve gone too far.” And I can see what he’s saying. They have mastered this style of football to such an extent that they are are content with a different style of winning. 3, 4, 5 goals aren’t needed anymore. The defense has gotten better, possession has been easier to hold, they get the ball back quicker than they used to, 1 goal is more than enough. It’s a scary thought, but one that you have to admire. There is absolutely nothing boring about watching a team so comfortable in their style of play, break down an opposing team bit by bit. It’s like a clinic in cruel and unusual punishment, knowing that death blow lies in wait somewhere.

I don’t want to completely minimize the chances for this Dutch team to win, because they will have their chances. Whether or not they cash them in is a different matter altogether. The Germans were the team that had the deadliest combination of counter attacks this tournament that could unseat the Spanish and it simply didn’t work. Yes, the Dutch will more than likely pressure the ball and not allow them as much time as the Germans did. But remember, no team applies more pressure on the ball than the Spanish! So when the Dutch get it, they’ll need to be quick and incisive. They haven’t shown that to date and there’s no reason for me to believe they will now.

The better team will win the this game. The best team in this tournament will lift the trophy.

2-1 to Spain. Viva España.

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