worldcup 2010


Sunday, 11 July 2010

Final key battles

Some of the key battles for today’s World Cup final at Soccer City between the Netherlands and Spain:

Mark van Bommel v Xabi Alonso: Bayern Munich’s hardman van Bommel against Real Madrid’s tough guy Alonso will be the key battle in the midfield. The 33-year-old Dutchman has had a new lease of life at this World Cup and his consistent performances have helped put the Dutch in the final. Van Bommel – who returned to the national side once his father-in-law Bert van Marwijk replaced Marco van Basten after Euro 2008 – does the hard work in midfield to allow Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder to test defences up front. Alonso, 28, put in a big defensive performance to snuff out Germany’s fire in the semi-final and the Real midfielder will again be looking to leave Oranje attackers red-faced.

Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben v Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique: Between them, the Dutch dynamos have bagged seven goals so far and defenders get nervous whenever either of the pair have the ball at their feet. But Spain’s centre-backs Puyol and Pique managed to subdue Germany’s attack – which is more than England or Argentina managed. Together, the Barcelona defenders are a powerful unit at the back.

David Villa v Maarten Stekelenburg: Barcelona’s new signing has five goals and is battling with Sneijder to win the golden boot as the tournament’s top-scorer, while Holland’s goalkeeper Stekelenburg leaked two goals to Uruguay in the semi-final. Spain’s finishing has left a lot to be desired at this tournament – they have yet to win by more than a single goal – but they have been creating many chances and Stekelenburg is usually reliable, though, he could be held to account for Diego Forlan’s goal in the semi-final.

Iker Casillas v Robin van Persie: Arsenal’s van Persie has a dream of holding the World Cup on his team-mates shoulders, but Spain’s captain and goalkeeper is a major obstacle in making the dream become reality. After a season blighted by an ankle injury that kept him out of action from November to mid-April, van Persie scored his only goal of the World Cup so far against Cameroon and has looked desperately out of touch, but Casillas is one of the world’s top goalkeepers.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst v Andres Iniesta: This will be the Dutch captain’s last game as a professional footballer before he studies for his coaching badge and then takes over as assistant coach to the national Under-21 side. The 35-year-old – who numbers Barcelona among his former clubs – wants to finish his playing career by lifting the World Cup trophy and is sure to have a titanic tussle down the left wing up against Iniesta. Barcelona’s creative midfielder already has one goal from this World Cup and is often at the heart of Spain’s attacking play.

Dirk Kuyt v Sergio Ramos: Ramos virtually shut down the left wing for Germany, allowing nothing to come down his channel in the semi-final and Liverpool’s Kuyt will have his work cut out. The Reds’ forward has been a permanent fixture in the Dutch team and a major force in their immaculate qualifying campaign. He is always dangerous with the ball at his feet.
Dutch creativity v Spanish efficiency: Spain have not yet dazzled, but having shut down Germany in the semi-final with a technically impressive display, they have shown just how hard sides find it to play against them. In Fernando Torres and David Villa they have two potentially lethal goal-scorers, but Spain’s patient build up means teams find them hard to break down. The Dutch have been just as flawless here as they were in their qualification campaign and are chasing their 15th straight win. With names like Sneijder, Robben and van Persie to call on, they have a star-studded attack. But whether the Dutch can break down Spain’s highly-efficient defence will go a long way to deciding the final.

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