By Hafiz Marikar
The Netherlands will play Spain in the grand final of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this evening (11). So who is going to beat whom, which team will lift the cup for the first time at Football City today? Sri Lanka’s Football Chief Manilal Fernando speaking from South Africa said everything is set for a top class final, adding that no one in Africa expected a Netherlands – Spain final.
Fernando said that the Football Federation of Sri Lanka will telecast the final at its head quarters on a giant screen.
Spain, who reached their first FIFA World Cup Final thanks to a 1-0 semi-final win over three-time champions Germany, is wary of complacency having done well, losing their opening group game to Switzerland.
Former Dutch great Cruyff has tipped Spain to win and join Brazil (five times), Italy (four), Germany (three), Argentina, Uruguay (two each), England and France as FIFA World Cup winners. “Spain is now the great favourite. Del Bosque’s team has grown in strength and finds itself in the final at the top of its game. Germany played football which would have been enough to beat any team, but not Spain,” said Cruyff, who played in the 1974 Final.
There is nothing more difficult or precious than to win a World Cup said Vicente del Bosque, the Spain coach. Like Spain, the Netherlands are still without a FIFA World Cup title. They reached both the 1974 and 1978 World Cup Finals, losing to West Germany and Argentina respectively, but Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk says his side is ready to go a step further.
“We will play for the whole of Holland,” said van Marwijk. “I do not think in terms of revenge for those defeats. I will watch the game without thinking about historical statistics. We haven’t experienced winning a final and neither have Spain. Spain deserved to beat Germany, I like the way they played, we will play our way against them. We respect them, but we are not afraid of them.”
Spain and Netherlands have been competing in the FIFA World Cup since 1934 but have never met. Pre-tournament favourites after only two losses in two years — against the Swiss and USA in a 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final — Spain will retain that status. But the Dutch boast an even better record than Spain at this tournament, winning all six games. They reached the final with a 3-2 victory over tournament surprise packets Uruguay in a Cape Town clash settled by goals from Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben within four second-half minutes.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst is hoping to lead the Netherlands to their first FIFA World Cup title in today’s final, hopefully in front of South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela.
The 35-year-old van Bronckhorst will retire from football after today’s final and will earn his coaching badge before becoming the assistant coach of the Dutch Under-21 side.
Mandela will celebrate his 92nd birthday on July 18 and with his health failing, a decision on whether he attends the final at Johannesburg’s Soccer City will be made closer to the kick off at 8.30 local time.