After a 32-year wait, the Netherlands finally returns to a World Cup final. Sunday’s Netherlands vs Spain match will give the Dutch the chance to right the “wrongs” of 1974 and 1978 when they were twice the tournament’s best team but lost both finals to the host nation.
Here are three reasons why the Dutch will be rewarded the third time around:
1. The Netherlands will not be in awe of Spain’s tiki-taka passing carousel.
In fact, the Dutch claim they invented it and they are right. Spain is essentially Barcelona with add-ons, and the Catalan club’s footballing DNA was installed by Dutch “Total Football” legend Johan Cruyff. (Cruyff, by the way, is rooting for Spain.) The German players admitted after their semi-final defeat they were intimidated by Spain’s game. But the Dutch will not be. They have played, and played against, this style since they first togged out as five-year olds. They will not sit back and admire this Spanish homage to their own game.
2. If Spain is Barcelona in disguise then the Dutch have on their side the secret weapon that has already sunk their opponents once this season. Wesley Sneijder proved with Inter Milan that while he might see less of the ball than his Spanish opponents, he knows how to make it count more. Just look at the clips of Inter’s demolition of the Catalans in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final. Sneijder will fancy continuing his scoring run, and creating chances for Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.
3. Mark van Bommel is one football’s leading pantomime villains. How he was not sent off before half time against both Brazil and Uruguay is known only to FIFA’s referees. He is, by turns, niggly and nasty. But he is also a highly intelligent player who will cause havoc with the pretty triangles that Spain’s Xavi and Iniesta like to play in the centre of the pitch. He will be out to mug a Spanish midfield that is packed with artists but lacks a bouncer.
Don't agree with the argument? Read "Why Spain will beat the Netherlands."