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Looks like all Spain


John Barnes

Looks like all Spain

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AFTER five very entertaining weeks, only two sides remain in the World Cup.Most pundits spent the first four weeks advocating the qualities of the South American sides, but here we are, about to witness the showcase final contested by two European sides, neither having won the tournament previously. I read with interest Johan Cruyff’s comments that Netherlands will win because this time round they are not playing against the host nation in the final (as they were in 1974 and 1978). I have to say that I can’t agree with his logic and I expect Spain to win for one very simple reason – they are the better side.Much of the debate leading into today’s game will focus on the Spanish selection. Winning goalI expect Del Bosque to return to his quarter-final selection and start Torres up front. He hasn’t performed particularly well so far but, proved he was the man for the big occasion in 2008 when he scored the winning goal in the Euro Final in Vienna. When you look at it, not many of the ‘star’ players like Rooney or Ronaldo have played remarkably well in the tournament. Torres had a couple of niggling injuries in the run-up to the tournament and there are huge expectations being placed on him by both fans and media alike which perhaps have hindered his performance to date. I don’t expect Cesc Fabregas to start but would expect to see him for the last 20 minutes. Pedro did nothing wrong in the semi-final win over Germany – he showed a great appetite for work and so he’ll count himself very unlucky to miss out on playing in a World Cup final. The rest of the team picks itself with the in-form Barcelona-bound David Villa partnering Torres up front. One goal from him should guarantee him the title of top-scorer – a well deserved title given his performances to date.  Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie are the key players for the Dutch. One to watchSneijder, fresh from having won a Scudetto and a Champions league with Inter Milan this season – and having previously played with Real Madrid, is the one to watch for the Dutch. He too could finish the tournament as top – or joint-top – scorer as he is also on five goals. They took a chance taking an injured Robben to South Africa but it has paid off with some very good performances from him and I expect he will have a big game today. He is a match-winner in his own right and Netherlands need him to perform if they are to have any chance. A lot of the leading and more fancied teams came into the tournament with question marks hanging over their defensive qualities. The Spanish back four have yet to concede a goal in the knock-out stages and, whilst I expect Netherlands to trouble them, the Spanish defence should be able to close down the Dutch trio of Robben, Sneijder and Van Persie. The Spanish central midfield trio of Xavi, Alonso and Iniesta should dominate possession in that sector, with Villa and Torres providing the firepower to bring the Jules Rimet trophy back to Spain for the first time in history.Interestingly, Sunday’s match will result in either Spain or Holland becoming the first European winners of the tournament on non-European soil, and, should Spain win, there will only be one unbeaten team at this year’s World Cup – New Zealand. • John Barnes is a former England player who has 79 international appearances

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