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Rediff.com  » Sports » Netherlands v Spain: How they square up

Netherlands v Spain: How they square up

Last updated on: July 10, 2010 09:47 IST

Intriguing battle on cards

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Sunday's World Cup final between Netherlands and Spain pits two tactically similar teams against each other.

Both the Dutch and Spanish play with two full backs who like to attack and two holding midfielders in front of the defence. Both played without an out-and-out striker in their semi-finals against Uruguay and Germany respectively.

DEFENCE

Spain's central defensive partnership of Carles Puyol and Gerard Piquet is one of the most solid at the World Cup and has conceded only two goals in six games on the way to the final and none at all in the knockout stages.

Both are also very strong when they go forward for set pieces and Piquet often likes to join the midfield.

Sergio Ramos on the right and Joan Capdevila on the left are both attack-minded.

It is a similar story on the Dutch side where John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen form the central defensive partnership with Gregory van der Wiel and Giovanni van Bronckhorst playing more as wide attacking midfielders than defenders.

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Image: Carles Puyol and John Heitinga

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Midfield battle will be the key

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MIDFIELD

Spain had only one holding midfielder at Euro 2008 in Brazilian-born Marcos Senna. However, they have not found a replacement who is able to perform the role on his own and now share it between Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso.

This has made Spain much less potent in attack than they were in Switzerland and Austria two years ago.

Attacking midfield pair Xavi and Andres Iniesta are two of the world's top players and have managed to unlock three of the world's toughest defences, Portugal, Paraguay and Germany on the way to the final.

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Mark van Bommel, who has an uncanny knack of getting away with tackles other players might expect to get booked for, is the guard dog in midfield, aided by Nigel de Jong. With the two full backs constantly pushing forward, they have an important role.

The Dutch play with an attacking midfield trio of Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt and Wesley Sneijder -- Sneijder in the middle, Robben on the right flank and Kuyt on the left.

Robben is only a threat if he can get on to his left foot. Kuyt does not look entirely comfortable on the left flank, invariably cutting inside his marker rather than going outside.


Image: Xavi and Robben and Kuyt

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Both Villa and Sneijder running for Golden Ball

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FORWARDS

Robin van Persie is the lone Dutch striker and even he is not a genuine target man. Even when he does not play well, he plays an important role as a distraction to the opposing defence who also have to deal with the Kuyt-Sneijder-Robben combination just behind him.

Spain, in their semi-final against Germany, played David Villa alone in attack with Pedro as more of an attacking midfielder. Villa prefers to play on the left rather than as an out-and-out striker.

Fernando Torres would give the option of a conventional centre-forward if Spain are prepared to gamble on his form.

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Image: David Villa and Wesley Sneijder

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