By Ollie Irish
The Dutch squad train at the Soccer City Stadium ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final. Photo: PA
After 63 matches and God knows how many blown vuvuzelas and ballooned set pieces, the 2010 World Cup is down to its end game: the Netherlands v Spain, an all-European final in Africa.
There will be a new World Cup champion and most people, including the bookies, are firmly in the Spanish corner. European champions Spain , so similar to the all-conquering Barcelona, have not dazzled in this tournament, and after a shock defeat to the Swiss, it looked like they might not even get out of their group.
But thanks mostly to David Villa, they did scramble to the knockout stages (they did have the advantage of a very weak group), and it’s there that they blossomed, with lynchpins Xavi and Andres Iniesta at last finding their feet, thereby lightening the load on new Barcelona team-mate Villa.
Their effective performance against the dangerous Germans was a lesson in the importance of possession. When Spain take the lead, they take the ball and refuse to give it back. 1-0 thrashings are forged in this way.