I(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
A month long of glorious and dramatic World Cup football is down to its final two teams. Two nations vying for the most prestigious trophy in all of sports. Spain vs. Netherlands, La Furia Roja vs. The Clockwork Oranje, the two most deserving nations of this tournament will play against each other on Sunday in Johannesburg at Soccer City Stadium for the right to be called "World Champion."
This historic South Africa World Cup will end with a first time champion. Netherlands will be appearing in its 3rd World Cup final. The Dutch appeared in back to back title games in 1974 and 1978 only to lose to the host nation each time: West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978.
Spain, long known for historically underachieving in major international tournaments is making its 1st ever World Cup final match.
The winner becomes the 1st European nation to win a World Cup on non-European soil and thankfully for football fans both teams do not play a boring style. Netherlands and Spain have skillful players and systems that produce an entertaining brand of attacking football that hopefully will lead to a lot of goals.
Let's breakdown the game beginning with the defenses of both teams: Defensively, Spain's backline has been outstanding especially in the knockout stage. The Barcelona center back pairing of Carles Puyol & Gerard Pique has been just as effective for Spain as it has been for club. Those two have covered up well for Sergio Ramos who likes to vacate his right back position to help in attack. Spain has allowed 0 goals in the knockout stage. The Netherlands backline has been suspect allowing 4 goals in the knockout stage, often times looking slow. The Dutch's best defender has been keeper Maarten Stekelenburg who could be on the WC 2010 Best XI at tournament's end. EDGE: SPAIN
A common football saying is that whatever team controls the midfield controls the game. The midfield of the Netherlands has been scrappy and physical with Mark van Bommel giving the Dutch a mean, hard man enforcer that has taken opponents out of their game. If Van Bommel and fellow enforcer Nigel de Jong push around and manhandle Spanish midfield maestros Xavi & Andres Iniesta, the Dutch increase their odds of winning by 10,000%. No team has been able to contain Xavi and Iniesta for 90 minutes. Xabi Alonso & Sergio Busquets do a good job of winning possession for Spain. EDGE: SPAIN
The allure of football is goals and both teams have talented attacking players that can turn momentum with individual brilliance. Spain's David Villa can win the Golden Boot with some precise finishing and if Fernando Torres returns to form, those two will absolutely terrorize the Dutch defense and don't forget Pedro who has played well while Torres has struggled. Netherlands #9, Robin van Persie has been making noise more off the pitch than on it while Arjen Robben might be the most dangerous player on either team. Dirk Kuyt is a grinder, a hard worker, that is more opportunistic than goal assassin. RVP has to breakout in this game for the Dutch, especially if it becomes a high-scoring affair. EDGE: SPAIN.
Games are also won by the minds and the tactics of the coaches who put the team together. Netherlands' coach Bert van Marwijk has been a mastermind with his tactics and substitution patterns. He kept the Dutch together when it looked like Van Persie's little attitude could have opened up familiar self-destructive behavior that have doomed great Dutch teams of the past. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque inherited a united and talented team and pretty much was told not to crash the Ferrari. Both of done a masterful job but Bert van Marwijk has been brilliant in managing egos and putting together a scrappy Dutch team. EDGE: NETHERLANDS.
Finally, there are the intangibles, the things that can't be shown with statistics or numbers. The Dutch have been carried by good fortune and timely goals, 2 important factors in winning a World Cup title. Netherlands are in their 3rd World Cup final by being psychologically stronger than their opponents and there is the whole "3rd Time Is A Charm" and "Good Things In Come In Threes" mojo working. Its seems as though its fate for the Netherlands to win but Spain have been grinding out 1-0 wins and they have the personnel and tactics to beat the Netherlands. The Dutch are a scrappy team and scrappy teams always seem to win. EDGE: NETHERLANDS.
It will be a great match and hopefully the final between Netherlands and Spain will not be remembered for a headbutt or controversy over a supposed sick goal scorer, or a handball but a high scoring, highly skilled beautiful game. Enjoy the greatest event in sports.