2010 FIFA World Cup: Day 25. The final

11 July, 2010 at 16:00 (GMT+01:00)


One month ago, the hosts South Africa played Mexico in the opening game at Soccer City. The game featured a memorable strike from Siphiwe Tshabalala and their Macarena-esque celebration. Now, on the 11th July, the Netherlands and Spain go head to head to win the World Cup for the very first time.

The last month has seen some notable moments. The failings of France, Italy and England. The surprising success of the Netherlands, Uruguay and Ghana. The dullness of Portugal, Brazil and Spain. The goals from Maicon, Forlan and van Bronckhorst. The talent of Muller, Sneijder and Forlan.

With luck, today will be the last day there is any mention of the infamous and totally useless Jabulani ball, as leagues around the world go back the makers who know what they are doing in terms of football technology. And of course, the vuvuzela, who has only seemingly be drowned out at the end of the England v Algeria game.

The final countdown

But right now is all about the final. The Dutch against the Spanish.

Holland have played in a typically un-Dutch way. The usual Total Football approach abondoned by Bert van Marwijck, which has saw success. The team are undefeated in this tournament, five wins, no draws, no defeats. It isn't the Dutch we know and love, but they haven't fallen out and they are in their third World Cup final.

The group stages were a breeze, a 2-0 win over Denmark and they secured qualification with a 1-0 win over Japan. In their final game with Cameroon, which had no effect on the group, saw them win 2-1. The next round saw a comfortable 2-1 win over Slovakia before they came up against there first real test against Brazil. A cross by Wesley Sneijder was missed by everyone and ended up changing the game, the Dutch went on to win 2-1 and go to the semi finals. Here they beat Uruguay 3-2 to advance to the final.

Holland have made it to the final twice, in 1974 and 1978. In both tournaments they were arguably the best team with their so called Total Football.

For Spain, how they got here remains a mystery to me. They haven't played that well in any of their games, especially compared to the success they achieved in Euro 2008. The play hasn't been good but they have the most successful passes out of anyone in the tournament so far, over 150 more than the Dutch.

The tournament started out poorly for the Spanish, a 1-0 loss to Switzerland. They picked it up in the last two games to record a 2-0 win over Honduras and a 2-1 win over Chile. They edged past Portugal in the Second Round before scrapping past Paraguay and Germany to get to the final, they have only scored three goals in the knockout stages compared to the seven from the Netherlands.

This is the furthest Spain have gone in any World Cup, their best finish being 4th way back in 1950. The team now have moved on from their underachiever tag.

Key players

Both teams are fortunate not to have any injury issues. For the Dutch, Wesley Sneijder should be key for them. He has been an influential player and is currently joint top scorer of the whole tournament. Elsewhere on the pitch, Arjen Robben could prove to be difficult if he changes his predictable runs.

For Spain, Xavi and Andrias Iniesta have the potential to dominate the game. Their ultimate aim will be to get the ball into goal poacher David Villa, who with 5 goals so far this World Cup, is level with Wesley Sneijder, Diego Forlán and Thomas Muller on top scorer.

Big game predictions

Since it is the biggest sporting moment of the year, I feel this occasion deserves such special predictions. So, to that clever octopus who thinks he can predict, then he's got another thing coming. I can reveal not only the winner, but even more. So, the winner will be:

Holland 2-1 Spain (after extra time. Goals from Sneijder (32nd minute), Villa (58th minute) and Kuyt (102nd minute). There will be five yellow cards and Howard Webb will rule out a perfect goal for offside.

So the 2010 FIFA World Cup comes to the conclusion tonight. To those in the United Kingdom, you will be able to watch the match on either BBC1 or ITV1, thats if you can work out which commentator is better between Mark Lawrenson and Jim Beglin. The game kicks off at 19:30 GMT+1, this game only comes around once every four years, it is big, it is important. Even if you hate football, its worth a watch.

(Just to point out World Cup finals are rarely that good, I mean 1998 was alright, but yeah, don't come into this expecting goals, because it just won't happen.)

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