World Cup: fighting talk ahead of Holland v Spain
Updated on 11 July 2010
As the Netherlands and Spain prepare for the final football clash, two journalists write for Channel 4 News about their nation's dreams for World Cup victory, and whether a psychic octopus could ruin it all.
Spain: 'All the world has been impressed by our flowing football'
We have to say that we are all walking about in a bit of a trance at the moment, writes Borja Pantzov, special correspondent in South Africa for soccer-spain.com, for Channel 4 News.
Have Spain really made it to the World Cup final, or is this just a dream?
True, Spain has many world champions in other sports, basketball, cycling, Rafa Nadal winning Wimbledon twice, we have won many youth international tournaments in football, and we are the reigning European champions at senior level after beating Germany two years ago. But this is the World Cup, and in all our other participations we have never made it past the quarter finals.
Everybody in Spain (except my grandma, who doesn't like football) is supporting "la Roja" right now, and there are even a few timid Spanish flags hanging from balconies in my native Barcelona, something which at other times would not be tolerated by the more radical Catalan nationalists.
But hey, why not, there were no less than seven Barcelona players in the semi-final line-up, and all the goals so far have been scored by Barça players. We are all in this together!
But are we really favourites to win? According to the Spanish press yes, all the world has been impressed by our flowing football which our players learn at a young age in our youth teams, but then Franz Beckenbauer said that we pass a lot but sometimes forget to score!
Up to now though most of the sides we have played against have followed the Swiss, with eight or nine players in defence and hoping to score on the counter-attack, and we have only won the last four games by a single goal. We don’t think that Van Marwijk will do that though, his style of play is similar to Spain's, and if we are allowed to play our normal game we should be unbeatable.
Still though, Holland will have a lot of local support, and several of their players (Sneijder, Robben, Van Bommel, Huntelaar etc) have thorns in their sides and chips on their shoulders (must hurt!) after failing to make an impression in "La Liga".
We do have one thing going for us though, Paul the famous German octopus has predicted today that Spain will win. One of our favourite meals in Spain is "pulpo con patatas", but if Paul gets it right the octopus will be declared a sacred animal, and the dish will be struck off our menus!
Let's hope he has picked the winner just one last time, if not for the future of Spanish football at least for the future of Spain's cephalopods!
Netherlands: 'The Dutch believe in a new generation'
Football is etched into the Dutch psyche - no fewer than 12.3m people, 81 per cent of the population, watched the semi-final against Uruguay an all time high, writes Gerhard Verduijn, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, for Channel 4 News.
The record will of course be broken on Sunday for the final with Spain – town centres are being equipped with giant screens and Museum Square in Amsterdam will again turn into an orange sea of football crazed humanity.
Sixty thousand packed the area for the semi-final – the game shown for them on an 88 square-metre screen.
When the Dutch team won the European Championship in 1988 houseboats were sunk on the canals of Amsterdam as fans climbed on the roofs seeking to catch a view of the winning team's waterborne victory parade. The houseboat owners are already breaking out in a sweat as Amsterdam promises another canal tour if the World Cup is secured.
And belief is growing, latest opinion polls in the Netherlands show that 63 per cent of people say Holland will become world champions. This may not sound that high but given the normally ultra-critical reaction to the Dutch national team – this is something of a minor miracle.
The success itself is being put down largely to the team coach Bert van Marwijk. In place from the usual Dutch mix of highly talented and yet highly incendiary, warring players and constant demand to have a say in the team tactics, he has created an efficient – some might say slightly dull – style of play which has put the art of winning above the beauty of the game itself.
Having lost two prior finals (against Germany in 1974, and Argentina in 1978), the Netherlands is hoping convinced things can't go wrong now, third time lucky?
But tension is building - people are aware of Spain's strengths, there is praise for their individual strength and the and lightning fast midfield play.
But the Netherlands have won all their matches at the World Cup and are undefeated in the last 24 games. And with the some of the best players in the tournament in the team – Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, the best of the best - the men in orange are a formidable force.
As ever, amateur football in the Netherlands will benefit from Holland's success. In 1974, every boy wanted to be Cruijff or Van Hanegem, in 1988 Gullit or Van Basten. In 2010, the role models are Sneijder, Robben, Kuyt and Van Persie. The ranks of football clubs will be bulging with a new generation of hopefuls seeking to emulate the new generation.
The Dutch are a practical sort of people, who like to rely on their own strength and common sense.
So people pay attention to forecasts by experts but predictions by an octopus meet with scepticism — especially when the octopus hails from Germany, Holland's arch-foe and eternal rival when it comes to football.
Unsurprisingly, the fact that Oberhausen's Paul has cast in his lot with Spain, cuts no ice with the Dutch. Better still: here in the Netherlands people point out that Paul's prognoses were right on the mark for all the matches of the 2008 European Cup — except the final.
And of course, there's a Dutch octopus too – a lady one called Pauline and guess what she predicted a Dutch win – so did a parrot.