A new name on the World Cup is assured on Sunday – and Spain’s experience of Euro 2008 success could well prove decisive in Johannesburg.
While the Netherlands have to go back to 1988 for their only major tournament triumph, also in the European Championship, La Furia Roja coach Vicente Del Bosque has been able to call on many of the squad who tasted glory in Vienna two years ago.
Although the Spanish were upset by Switzerland in their opening game at South Africa 2010, they have improved as the tournament has progressed and in their 1-0 semi-final victory over Germany they displayed the sort of form that has brought them so much joy over the last two years.
Del Bosque said: “We can do something now that we’ve never managed before at national level. We had never won anything until the European Championship two years ago and that has given us the impetus to be here and for a good future.”
However, Spain know they face their biggest challenge yet from the Dutch, who have won all six of their games at South Africa 2010 to reach their third World Cup final.
“The Netherlands are a great team,” said midfielder Sergio Busquets. “They’re very effective on the break as they have very quick forward players. I think that Wesley Sneijder is always behind their most dangerous moves, because he’s the one who pulls the strings for them in attack. But we’ll do our best to stop him playing. It’s going to be a very difficult task, though. Every game is harder than the last and a final even more so. I think the two best teams at this tournament have reached the final. All we need to do now is play to our strengths and give it everything we’ve got.”
Spain are likely to field the side who started the semi-final, with Pedro Rodriguez again being preferred to the out-of-touch Fernando Torres up front.
The Dutch, in contrast, are set to recall two players who missed the 3-2 semi-final win over Uruguay through suspension – right-back Gregory van der Wiel and defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong – and Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk is glad to be at full strength.
“In my opinion Spain have been the best team in the last few years,” he said. “I like the way they play. But when the whole world says they are favourites, that doesn’t interest me. This is a game for two countries against each other and I think both countries want to win and can win – and we have confidence in ourselves.”
That is unlikely to be enough, though, in the countries’ first meeting at a big tournament and Spain should complete a world-European double.