Saturday, July 10, 2010

World Cup Preview: La Roja vs. Oranje

By: The Misanthropic Sports Fan

So, World Cup Final. Big deal stuff. The whole world is watching. And, for once, that appears to include America. Guess we should break down the teams.

Spain is the best team in the world. No one really disagrees on that point, based on the rankings from FIFA as well as the SPI that ESPN is using these days (hey, I trust Nate Silver with these sort of things, I'd advise you to do the same). However, they haven't blown anyone away in this tournament. They're plugging along, getting their one goal a game, and then keeping the other team at bay. While this is an effective way to get through a tournament, one can't help but feel like we haven't seen the best Spain has to offer. They've got one more chance to bring the thunder, and they're matched up against a team with a weak enough defense in the middle to let them do so. Spain should run away with this game if they play their best, I'm just not sure if they've brought their best to South Africa.

As for the Dutch, well, I'd say they've gotta hope to get a little bit of luck. But that's been the story of their tournament, so again, why shouldn't it continue into the Final? They got the break they needed against Brazil, they got the goals they needed against Uruguay and then held against an absurdly long final fury from a determined Uruguay squad. The Dutch are gifted with the ball, and they put themselves in positions to get the breaks they need. Unlike Spain, they haven't lost in South Africa, and the games they've won have been clearly theirs, no extra time needed, no penalties. The Dutch deserve to have some confidence going into the Final.

All that said, I'm still going with Spain. Yeah, it's a cop out, but they're the better team on talent. Talent has a funny way of winning out in contests of skill and athleticism. Still, my heart is with the Orange on Sunday. Ultimately, as long as the game lives up to the hype, we all win.

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