Coronation time

Come Sunday, a new name will be inscribed on the FIFA World Cup trophy, with two teams driven as much by talent and ambition as by desperation will vie for the right to be called the world champions. Over the years, both Holland and Spain have been denied the highest honour in football thanks to their own fallibilities despite possessing talent envied by the world.

A chance to set it right will arrive on Sunday, with both the teams having posted convincing victories in the semifinals. Holland’s win over Uruguay on Tuesday had ensured an all-European final, with the last South American survivor making a dignified exit.

Spain then kept their date, dashing the German hope of a fourth title with an impressive display of possession football. Both Holland and Spain have promised much over the years but failed to deliver on the big stage. Twice in the past, the Dutchmen came close, losing to Germany and Argentina in the finals in 1974 and 1978. Spain have been eternal bridesmaids, with not even a single final appearance before this World Cup.

South Africa 2010 has seen a welcome change. Defending champions Italy departed early; five-time champions Brazil failed to cross the second round, crushed by the weight of expectations; Germany and Argentina failed to raise their game in crucial contests. Despite the exit of these big guns, the tournament has not lost its sheen. Holland, and certainly Spain, belong where they are now, having come through stiff tests of character and class.

The Dutchmen have won all their matches so far, even though their much-acclaimed style has yet to shine through in full measure. But the likes of Arjen Robben and Wesley Schneider have answered their nation’s call at every turn and the team has shown big match temperament. In contrast, Spain had a stuttering start when they lost their first game to Switzerland. But they have gone from strength to strength from then on, with their sweet passing game entertaining and exasperating at the same time.

Two years ago, the Spaniards showed they had the grit to match their style, winning the European championships in Vienna. Carles Puyol’s sizzling header on Wednesday has given them the chance to take the ultimate step, with only the Dutch standing in their way. Who will seize the moment is the big question now, as the world awaits the coronation.

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