Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

David Healy: Spain primed for perfect World Cup finish

David Villa

If, like me, your life has been taken over for the last month by the World Cup, you will want a big finish. The question is will Holland and Spain provide it?

I believe they can, though I've thought that before in this tournament only to have been let down.

The players are certainly there on both sides to give us a thriller.

Let’s look at Holland first.

When I was growing up I used to hear talk about the great Dutch sides of 1974 and 1978.

Throughout this tournament, the current Holland team have been compared to the Total Football era and not favourably, which I think is unfair

Johan Cruyff, Johann Neeskens and the rest were obviously world class players, but they never won the World Cup.

It was the same for the Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit side who commentators will say were far better than the Dutch class of 2010.

They did brilliantly to claim the Euro 88 crown, but the big one eluded them.

I wonder what the critics of the modern day Dutch team will say if they win on Sunday.

Wesley Sneijder is obviously the main man for Holland, but they have other match winners like Robin van Persie.

He hasn’t been at his best in this tournament after returning from injury but he’s a confident bloke and will feel his time to shine has arrived.

Arjen Robben is another who doesn’t lack self belief. On his day with his pace and finishing ability, he could win any game on his own.

I also rate hard working Dirk Kuyt who knows where the goal is.

Another Dutch player to keep an eye on is the captain Gio van Bronckhorst who scored that sensational goal in the semi-final victory over Uruguay.

He could do it again in the final because his shooting from distance is outstanding. Rangers fans will tell you that. I know a few of them who would love to see Gio lift the trophy after giving years of good service at Ibrox.

Like the Dutch, brilliant players jump out when you look at the Spanish squad list.

Xavi and Iniesta in the middle of the park make them tick. Up front David Villa will be a huge threat while Fernando Torres, in exactly the same situation as van Persie, will be desperate to get out onto the biggest stage of all and prove his worth.

I’d add though that Pedro would be unlucky if he was left out of the starting line-up for Torres because he was excellent in the semi-final success over Germany.

Another who has impressed me is Gerard Pique.

Sir Alex Ferguson let Pique go to Barcelona believing that our own Jonny Evans was good enough to come through at Manchester United. Pique’s displays for Barcelona and Spain in recent years give you an indication of just how highly Fergie rates Jonny.

After Spain defeated Germany, I heard them described as powder-puff because they didn’t get the ball into the box enough and have loads of shots on goal. What a load of rubbish!

They are a patient side whose style is to keep the ball and search for openings. It is fantastic to watch and it wears the opposition down because they have to focus so intently. All that passing eventually led to Carles Puyol heading home from a corner because the overworked Germans relaxed for a second. That’s not powder-puff football. More like perfect football.

And that’s why I’m going for them to beat the Dutch.

It’ll be tight, but Spain will reign.

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