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Spain vs The Netherlands: No dramas, just pure soccer

In Sunday's match of Spain vs The Netherlands, most Europeans are excited about watching two great teams whose styles and history go way back, but who have never won.

By Staff Writer / July 9, 2010

Spain's Carles Puyol (c.) celebrates with teammates after scoring the first goal during their 2010 World Cup semi-final soccer match against Germany on July 7.

David Gray/Reuters

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Spain and The Netherlands have exciting and storied soccer teams that make the highlight reels. But neither has made it to the World Cup victory circle. The two teams meet Sunday after a memorable African-hosted Cup in which European teams first appeared ready to fold in the face of South American soccer style.

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Now Spain or the Netherlands, both solid and talented teams, even if known as underachievers -- will be the first Europeans to win a World Cup held outside Europe. Spain is considered to have the finesse; the Dutch have toughness.

To be sure, “there’s no big European identity when it comes to soccer, everyone roots for their national team,” says a French soccer blogger Thomas Fourquet. “If anything, you have a favorite team, and then a second favorite, which is often Brazil or Argentina.”

Sunday marks the first Spanish visit to the finals -- and also clocks the first time either team will ever win the Cup.

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Some wags here say the last time the Spanish and Dutch faced off so squarely was the Dutch war of independence against Spain that ended in 1640 – and essentially ended the Counter-reformation. Yet the match will actually lack the somewhat nasty overtones expected had Germany advanced to take on the Dutch.

The way most Europeans see it, Sunday will be pure soccer at Soccer City in Johannesburg, with no distorting overtones – just two great teams whose styles and history go way back, but who have never won.

Spain only two years ago ended a 44-year trek through a victory-less soccer desert, capturing the Euro 2008 title – and is now considered the master artisan of the passing game. The Dutch are associated with some of the most innovative soccer ever in the 1970s and 1990s – their “Total Football” strategy arguably changed the game – but have always been World Cup bridesmaids, not brides. They’ve endured in 2010 through stout defense and outlasting opponents.

There’s even parity at the level of the paranormal. Paul, the “psychic octopus” in Germany, is picking Spain; in Singapore, Mani, a “psychic parakeet,” has picked the Dutch.

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