Sunday, July 11, 2010

Carlo's Corner: Netherlands-Holland World Cup Final Preview

Friend of the show Carlo returns to preview the World Cup final. Enjoy. -Kanu

As many others have stated, this final features the two nations with the proudest footballing histories to have never won the World Cup. These teams also share the distinction of being arguably the two most dominant teams of the past 18 months, with neither having dropped a single point during World Cup qualifying.

Holland has continued its winning ways in the World Cup and is looking to achieve a perfect record in the tournament. Spain suffered an early setback, losing its first match 1-0 to Switzerland, but has since gone on to win all of its fixtures.

Throughout the tournament, Bert van Marwijk's side has looked to maintain possession while slowly working the ball towards its attacking players. In this match, the Dutch will likely find themselves in the strange position of not having the lion's share of possession. If the Spanish begin to dominate possession, as they have against every team they have played for the past couple years, van Marwijk will be faced with an interesting tactical dilemma. With the exception of Chile, every team the Spanish have faced has elected to put 8,9, or 10 men behind the ball and defend deeply, while hoping to strike on the counter. While this strategy worked for Switzerland, it has failed for the rest of Spain's opponents, with all three of its knockout round foes failing to score a single goal. If Spain dominates possession, will van Marwijk instruct his players to sit back and defend and play on the counter, or will he have them defend higher up the field in an effort to gain control of the midfield? The Dutch haven't shown themselves to be a counter-attacking side thus far, but if they lose the central midfield battle, they may feel as though there only option is to play in this manner.

With question marks still surrounding the Dutch central defense, the pressure will be on defensive midfielders Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong to provide as much cover as possible for the Dutch defense. In addition, at least two of HOlland's four attack-minded players will be asked to do a lot of defending, with the tournament's co-leading scorer Wesley Sneijder dropping deeper to help van Bommel and de Jong in midfield, and winger Dirk Kuyt tracking Sergio Ramos whenever he makes forward runs from his right back position.

When the Dutch do have the ball, expect them to look to find Arjen Robben. His matchup against Spanish left back Joan Capdevila may be the only area where Holland has a distinct advantage. Capdevila doesn't have the pace to keep up with Robben, so Spain may have one of its midfielders double team Robben whenever he is in possession.

Overall, it's hard to see Spain losing this match. Although the Dutch attacking players have the quality to trouble the Spanish defense, because of Spain's ability to control the game with their passing and movement, opportunities to get at Spain's defense may be few and far between. While Holland's defense has performed much better than expected, it may be asking too much to expect them to keep Spain at bay for the entire match.

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