A final from the house that Johan Cruyff built. The Netherlands, synonymous with Total Football and a fine lineage of free-flowing attacking fluidity, taking on the secondary benefactors of the former Ajax man’s unique footballing philosophy, Spain.
But, as the hyperbole-laden world of Sky Sports infected punditry suggests, it’s not as simple as that. Oh, the irony: Cruyff’s country of birth playing in a style which is the antithesis of all his Yoda like football wisdom. Pragmatic, efficient, and assuaging the notion that attack is the best form of defence and instead focusing on… well… defence as the best form of defence.
Spain, while subtly different, are made in his image: attacking, possession football, the high press, and an aesthetically pleasing style. It’s because of these ideals, which are indoctrinated in Spanish players from childhood, that La Furia Roja go into this final as favourites – a team who have achieved near technical and tactical domination over their opponents in this tournament. The popular wisdom in the build up to this game states that today’s game will follow a similar pattern.
Holland, however, have enough in their locker to upset the odds. In Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder they have two players with the capability to win any game. With Robin van Persie, they are the Oranje’s creative hub, sitting ahead of Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong who staunchly protect the back-four. Due to Spain’s high line and Sneijder’s direct distribution, they have a chance on the break, with Robben the most likely outlet.
Arjen Robben (Netherlands) – Robben, with his pace, trickery, and goalscoring knack, will be up against the Spanish weak link, Joan Capdevila. Holland will want to expose this chink in the Spanish armour.
Pedro (Spain) – The spring-heeled Barcelona man was, bar one unfortunate Fernando Torres based goal-robbing incident, a stand out performer against Germany. Up against the 35-year-old Giovanni van Bronckhorst, he could be vital today.