Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup Final Preview: Netherlands vs. Spain

Goalkeepers: In net for Spain will be captain Iker Casillas. Only 2 shots have gotten past him all tournament, and 4 of Spain's 5 wins have been shutouts. Even though the Netherlands' net-minder Maarten Stekelenburg made arguably the best save of the tournament, his play has not been nearly as consistent as that of Casillas. Advantage: Spain

Defense: Spain's back four hasn't allowed a goal in the knockout stage, while Netherlands' defense hasn't kept a clean sheet since the second group stage game (vs. Japan). Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, and Sergio Ramos provide Spain with a star-studded backfield that the Netherlands simply don't have. Advantage: Spain.

Midfield: The Dutch love to blur the lines between "midfield" and "striker," playing several superstars in an attacking midfield position. The most notable are, of course, Sneijder and Robben. Compare them with Spain's most impressive midfielders, Xavi and Xabi Alonso, and you've got yourself one close matchup. This game will be won or lost in the midfield. And it's virtually a toss up. I give Netherlands a slight edge because of their goal-scoring firepower. Advantage: Netherlands

Strikers: When it comes to offensive tandems, it's hard to beat Spain's starting duo of Villa and Iniesta. Still, Spain has been underachieving on offense, never scoring more than 2 goals in a game (and they've only done that twice). Van Persie and Kuyt bring a lot of talent to the Netherlands, so I wouldn't be surprised if they outshine Spain's strikers this game. Still, I'm going by the numbers and giving the Villa/Iniesta (and maybe Torres??) combo the edge.  Advantage: Spain

Intangibles: Netherlands is 6-0-0 in the World Cup and (obviously) the only team to win every game in South Africa. And we all remember that they ousted the tourney favorites, Brazil. Couple that with the fact that Spain has eked out some very close victories, and you've got a recipe for an upset. With Spain's lack of scoring, they're one mistake away from losing this match. Advantage: Netherlands

Prediction: I'm sticking to my guns on this one. Netherlands 2, Spain 1.

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