There is only one question going through the minds of millions of passionate soccer fans around the world; who will win tomorrow’s World Cup final? Popular opinion will say most probably Spain, the Spanish believe they already have won and the Dutch, happy to be considered the underdogs, are trying to be quiet about the whole thing. Where I stand on all this, is where things are actually standing.
The first important factor to note in this game is that the Dutch will most likely be using the same formation that Germany used against Spain in the Semi Finals, the 4-2-3-1. Defensively they are almost identical to the Germans; the Dutch possess two wing backs that like to get forward, two relatively slow but big center backs, and two defensive midfielders in front of the back four. Also like the Germans, the Dutch like to play as wide as possible with Robben and Kuyt hugging the touch lines when the Dutch have possession.
But there are some important differences. The Dutch aren’t as defensively sound as the Germans are but they are much stronger, in my opinion, everywhere else. The defensive midfielder duo of Van Bommel and De Jong are in another league compared to Schweinsteiger and Khedira; Schweinsteiger is practically Van Bommel’s pupil at Bayern Munich. Instead of Trochowsky on the right, the Dutch have Robbin, one of the most dangerous players in the game. Ozil is a very promising player, but Sneijder in his role is already well established and his vision and range of passing is second to none. Kuyt is one of the most underrated players in the game; he is always where he should be and gives essential balance to the Dutch side, a balance that enables Robbin to roam free without defensive responsibility. Van Persie might not be as prolific a goal scorer as Klose is, but he’s definitely more mobile and can hold on to the ball.
Now let’s take a look at how both Spain and Holland match-up:
Seeing as the Dutch will be employing the same tactic as the Germans did against Spain, they may very well succumb to the same problems that caused the German’s downfall.
1) Outlined by the blue rectangle, the Spanish outnumber and press the Dutch in the area where the Dutch’s offense initiates. However, contrary to the German duo of Schweinsteiger and Khedira, Van Bommel and De Jong don’t ever have the intention of holding on to the ball when they get it; all they really want to do is lay the ball off as quickly as possible to their play-makers. There really is no better way of overcoming initial pressure then giving a quick pass forward. Van Bommel and De Jong have the ability, more often than not, to give that kind of pass even under pressure.
2) Outlined by the blue circle, Villa, like against the German center backs, has a considerable speed advantage compared to the Dutch’s two center backs. It wasn’t so much a factor in the German game because Germany were stuck in their own half, which left little room for Villa to exploit and run in behind the defenders. However, in tomorrow’s match, if the Dutch do get forward then Villa’s speed could be a factor. At the same time, Van Persie’s speed could cause problems to Puyol and Pique at the other end.
3) Outlined by the purple rectangles, many analysts have been saying that where Spain can be really effective is when Iniesta faces Van der Wiel on the right (Dutch right) and when Pedro faces Van Bronkhurst on the left. However, I find this opinion completely misinformed from a tactical perspective because of the formation the Dutch are employing. If and when the Dutch’s wingbacks are beaten they will still have to deal with a midfielder who comes to help, on the right it would be Van Bommel and on the left it would be Kuyt. As a result of this extra coverage, Spain creating space on the outside will only free them up for a cross and with the height advantage the Dutch posses they shouldn’t have any problems; Puyol’s heading goal came off a corner, you won’t find him in the box during live play.
4) Outlined by the yellow cirlce, another problem that the Germans faced was their best playmaker, Ozil, getting tightly marked by one or two of Spain’s midfielders, Xabi Alonso and Busquets. The last time Busquets had to mark Sneijder, Inter Milan had an historic win over Barcelona and went on to win the Champions League for the first time in 50 years. Having no choice but to mark Sneijder, which is far more difficult than marking Ozil, could very well leave Capdevilla alone to handle Robben (Black rectangle); that’s the equivalent of leaving your kids home alone with a blow torch.
The last match up is that of Kuyt and Ramos. I don’t expect Ramos to have much effect going forward; there is a reason as to why the new Real Madrid Manager, Jose Mourinho, doesn’t want Ramos playing on the outside anymore. You probably won’t find Kuyt taking Ramos on one on one, but he knows how to get wide and exploit the spaces; there will be many with Ramos pushing forward.
Therefore, the Dutch have the characteristics to deal with most of the problems that the German’s were unable to deal with in their game with Spain. Together with the fact that the Dutch are more capable of possession will thus enable them to test the Spanish back-line on more occasions.
If the Netherlands are able to keep the game at a low score, which is possible against what is the least of pragmatic sides, their offensive stars of Robben, Sneijder and Van Persie could make the difference. If Spain keep the ball as much as they did against Germany and shut down two of the World’s most dangerous players, they have ever chance as well.
The outcomes of the match-ups I have outlined, will ultimately determine who wins the match.
Prediction: The Netherlands were my pick to win the World Cup; I won’t back down now.
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Written by akhilleus