Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

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.

(Page 2 of 2)

IN PICTURES: Paul the Octopus predicts World Cup outcomes

Skip to next paragraph

Amsterdam is bracing for a blowout celebration Tuesday; owners of houseboats parked on city canals are already taking precautions against parading hordes that climbed on houseboat roofs after the 1988 Dutch team won the European championship – and sunk several vessels by sheer weight.

Spanish media reported today that huge celebrations are planned in every large city, and every hometown city of Spanish team players – no matter the outcome. Barcelona has put up a big screen. And the atmosphere may get wilder still in Pamplona, where crowds are already gathered for the annual running of the bulls.

The trip to the World Cup finals means that a deep divide between Barcelona and Madrid styles and teams is being bridged – in no small part by the symbolic figure of Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque.

One European soccer legend now getting almost as much attention here as Paul the octopus is Johan Cruyff. Mr. Cruyff deeply incorporates both Dutch and Spanish teams as part of his makeup. As a Dutch team player in the '70s, he was synonymous with “Total Football,” in which players broke out of their positions and attacked mercilessly (think the advent of West Coast offense in basketball). But Cruyff’s coaching and influence have since been wrapped up in Barcelona, whose team makes up much of the Spanish team in South Africa.

After Spain beat Germany this week, Cruyff predicted Spain would win the final on Sunday, based on its passing brilliance that eats time and wears out opponents, a style he champions.

"Spain is now the great favourite," Cruyff wrote in El Periodico de Catalunya on Thursday. "Del Bosque's team has grown in strength and finds itself in the final at the top of its game…. Who am I supporting? I am Dutch, but I support the football that Spain is playing."

One perception here is that Spain has a talented, ego-filled dream team of stars, while the Netherlands relies more on team cohesion. Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, however, argues that when Spanish players “lose the ball, they immediately join in, their big stars, too.... It is something we also do well."