Spain face Holland in final

Spain face Holland in final

Spain face Holland in final

Puyol climbed above the defence to head the winner from a Xavi corner and send Spain to their first World Cup final. The Spaniards dominated most of the match but struggled to finish off a German side that was lacking their usual pace.

They created a clutch of chances in the second half and finally, Puyol broke the deadlock. Spain will face Netherlands at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday. The Dutch have been in the final twice before but have never won it so a new world champion is guaranteed. Also, for the first time, a European team will be winning the title outside their own continent.

The Netherlands will be looking to make amends for their defeats in the finals in 1974 and 1978 while for Spain, it will be an opportunity to shed the underachievers’ tag pinned on them due to their repeated failures on the big stage.

Spearheaded by the great Johan Cruyff the Dutchmen were hot favourites to win the title in 1974 but were humbled 2-1 by West Germany in the final. In 1978, they lost to Argentina in the title-decider after another brilliant run despite missing Cruyff, who decided not to play in the tournament.

This time, the Dutchmen should be wary of Spain given the occasional defensive frailty they displayed against Uruguay in the first semifinal. However it must be admitted that they were without defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong and right-back Gregory van der Wiel through suspension.

Spain, after suffering a shock defeat in their first match against Switzerland, have been in good form and they would be unforgiving of any lapses in concentration by the Dutch. David Villa’s presence adds teeth to the Spanish attack, with the striker having slotted in five goals so far.

But the Dutch can compensate for errors at the back with potent goal threats in the shape of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben. The duo will be crucial if the Netherlands are to go one better than Cruyff and claim the first world title for one of football’s most-deserving nations.