Spain vs. the Netherlands gives us not a contrast of styles, but an evolution of styles. Barcelona, the class of Spain’s La Liga, has adopted many of the precepts developed by Holland, which is best-noted for its “Total Football” concept introduced in the 1970s.
This Dutch team doesn’t exactly personify that concept, which was very influential, and which purported to create teams in which every player was capable of playing every position, so that if a player vacated his spot another with the ability to fill it simply moved in. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the basic premise.
Both of these teams display that kind of adaptability among their individual members, but both, more than say Brazil, are defined by their performance as a unit more than by any individual stars, though each side in this match has its share.
It’s hard to pick against Holland, which is unbeaten in South Africa. And in fact, I think there’s a kind of intangible edge from the Dutch.
But Spain had perhaps the most impressive performance of this World Cup, in my mind, in shutting down Germany. Spain is so talented in the midfield, and its pressing style and ability to dominate possession is going to be tough for the Netherlands to counter.
So after a good bit of back-and-forth, I’m going to go with Spain in this one, betting that its ability to control possession will lead to something good.
But it should be a great final. These are the two winningest nations in World Cup competition never to have won the championship. And they meet for the first time in World Cup competition.
A look at some other (and more thorough) previews:
— The best of the best, from zonalmarking.net
— The Guardian calls it a “captivating climax.”
— The New Republic doesn’t need any “stinking octopus.”