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„Der Paul war der Dolmetscher bei einem Choraustaustasch zwischen den St. Nicholas Singers aus Northwich, UK und unserem Kinderchor, den „Kolibris“, hier in Koblenz, Deutschland. Ohne ihn hätten wir es nicht geschafft! Er war fleiβig, sympathisch und sehr effektiv.“
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FIFA World Cup Final Preview PDF
Sunday, 11 July 2010 00:00

from Carolyn Emmett, Montejaque's correspondent in South Africa

World Cup Final Spain v. the Netherlands, July 11th at 8.30 p.m.

The following is a report on what is likely to happen this evening ... when I have tickets to go to a ‘fan park’ to watch the game on big-screen TVs and to savour the atmosphere of the ‘live’ game ... at 10% of the cost!

Based on the BLEACHER REPORT, it’s a pretty good interpretation of what may happen...   

Tonight, Sunday, July 11, at 8:30 p.m., the Netherlands and Spain will take to the field in the Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa as the World Cup comes to a close.

The Final will be historic for many reasons:

It is the first time a World Cup has taken place in Africa, and whichever team wins, they will be crowned champions of the World for the very first time.

This will also be the first World Cup Final that does not include any one of Italy, Brazil, Argentina or Germany (including West Germany).

Astonishingly, it will also be the first time the two nations have played each other in a major competition. They have met just nine times in competitive games (qualifying) with the scores levelled at four apiece and one draw. Tomorrow, we will see one go in front in the head-to-head; and, in doing so, win the biggest football prize on earth.

Considered to be two of the greatest footballing nations never to have won the World Cup, both Holland and Spain have the chance to right this perceived wrong tomorrow evening. 

While Holland's great teams of the 70s came up one short in 1974 and 1978, Spain's greatest achievement was a fourth place finish in 1950.

There is a glaring contrast between both teams ... past and present. While the current Dutch side are said to pale in comparison to the Total Football teams of eras past, Spain is witnessing its "Golden Age" as its starting 11 is largely made up of Barcelona and Real Madrid players.

But names and words will count for little on the pitch tomorrow night, as nerves must be conquered if either side is to resist buckling under pressure.

On paper, Spain has the advantage, but when was anything ever won on paper?

The Tactics and Key Players

Spain only knows how to play one way: attack. This has served them well to date. They have lost only two of their last 54 games, winning the European Championship along the way.

Expect no change to their tactics tomorrow night as they line out in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Captain Iker Casillas will start in goal, with Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol and Joan Capdevila making up the back four.

Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets will continue as the link men and mop-up players respectively.

Up front is where it starts to get interesting, and where coach Vicente del Bosque will leave people guessing. Andrés Iniesta and Xavi are guaranteed to start, as is David Villa. The question is: who will get the last spot in the front three behind VillaFernando Torres has been woefully off-form since coming back from injury, and was dropped for the semi-final encounter with Germany. His replacement, Barcelona's Pedro, had a decent game. He linked well with his Barcelona counterparts but was guilty of over-carrying the ball and passing too late. This was highlighted best in his greed when he should have passed to substitute Torres when two-on-one with the keeper. Instead, Pedro let the German defender get back to clear the ball. He was subsequently substituted and it is to be expected that he learnt a harsh lesson that night. 

Throughout the tournament, Arsenal's Cesc Fábregas has cut a forlorn figure on the Spanish bench. He has yet to start a game, but has made three sub appearances, although he stayed rooted to the bench against Germany. He made quite a difference against Paraguay when he came on, but be it for injury or other reasons, del Bosque doesn't see him fitting in – and don't be surprised if he plays no part in tomorrow's showpiece.

Spain can also choose from David Silva and Jesús Navas, but the money is on either Torres or Pedro to get the nod.

Spain's key men are Casillas, Iniesta, Xavi and Villa. Despite their star names and the clubs they play for, Spain has a dodgy back four. Evidently, they are not a "poor" back four, but they are prone to lapses in concentration – and all four have a tendency to neglect their defensive duties in getting forward. On more than one occasion, they have been saved by their wonderful goalkeeper. If it does go to a penalty shoot-out, don't bet against Casillas either.

The creative duties will be largely left to Xavi and Iniesta, with Villa expected to produce the end product.

With Spain so adept at passing, creating and scoring (even if it's not as many as before) the question for Holland is: how do you stop a problem like Villa, Iniesta and Xavi, while not falling into the trap Germany did?

Coach Bert van Marwijk must look to the Chile/Paraguay model and not copy what Germany did. While Chile and Paraguay pressed high up the pitch, Germany let the Spanish have possession and tried to snuff out attacks in the final third. The Germans never got hold of the ball and didn't get the opportunity to avail of their speedy counter-attack.

To date, the Dutch have ground out results.

Marc van Bommel and Nigel de Jong have worked tirelessly in midfield, and will have a big game tomorrow night against Xavi and Iniesta. Expect them to give their Spanish counterparts an early kick or two to let them know they are in a game, but by now the Spanish are used to getting kicked. 

It will be a massive 90 minutes (at least) for the Dutch back four. Captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst has belied his age at this World Cup. Many expected that he, and right-back Gregory van der Wiel (who will return from suspension), would be the defensive weak links; but, in contrast, both have had fine tournaments – with van Bronckhorst capping his with a fantastic goal against Uruguay

Although they have only conceded four goals, the first choice centre-back pairing of Joris Mathijsen and Johnny Heitinga are a worry, and they will need to be on full alert with David Villa prowling.

In goal, Maarten Stekelenburg was having a decent tournament until his lapse in judgement against Uruguay which allowed Diego Forlán to equalise.

So, while the defensive players will have their hands full, the attack will have to use any possession it can get to effect.

Spain does what other teams should do to them: they press all over the field.

The Dutch front four of Dirk Kuyt, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie will not be allowed time on the ball, so their passing must be crisp and fast. Kuyt will run himself into the ground, and will hope to pop up with one of those important goals he is in the habit of getting. Sneijder will pull the strings in midfield while Robben will be expected to run at the Spanish defence to try and draw them out and make space for van Persie.  The Arsenal man hasn't been having the tournament everyone was expecting. He has looked short of his normal pace and isn't putting away his chances. However, his link play has still been top notch, and it will only take 10 seconds of van Persie's magic for Spain to find themselves behind.

The key men in the Dutch side are van Bommel, de Jong, Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie.  If the two holding men can do their job well in midfield, and get the ball to the aforementioned attacking players, Holland has as good a chance as Spain of winning this title.

However, if they do as Germany did, and let Spain have the ball, it could be a long evening for the Dutch.

© Carolyn Emmett


Paul Whitelock

Paul is a Joint Honours graduate in Spanish and German, a qualified teacher (PGCE) and has a Member of the Institute of Linguists (MIL) qualification.

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