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Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Friday, 9 July 2010 13:16 UK

No pain for Spain

Carles Puyol

Highlights - Germany 0-1 Spain

Gary Lineker
By Gary Lineker
Former England captain and BBC Match of the Day presenter

I'm glad Spain have reached the World Cup final because they are the team that plays the most attacking, adventurous and stylish football. I love to watch them.

I always thought the reigning European champions would get this far in the tournament, even after they opened their campaign with a shock 1-0 defeat at the hands of Switzerland.

I'm not surprised the Netherlands have reached Sunday's final at Johannesburg's Soccer City either, especially after their win over Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk has got his tactics spot on and has made his side difficult to beat. He has found a good system that suits his players and is reaping the rewards.

I can see Van Persie and the rest of the Dutch forwards causing Del Bosque's men some problems because I do not think the Spanish defence is as strong as it was

They were excellent during the second half of their win over Brazil, when they fought back from 1-0 down to win 2-1, and have been very good in spells in their other games, too.

The Dutch are a classic example of how a team does not have to play brilliant football to reach a World Cup final.

To be perfectly honest, I don't think they possess the players to be an outstanding side.

Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are world-class performers, no doubt about that, while Mark van Bommel is a very effective holding midfielder, but their defenders and goalkeeper are certainly not in that bracket.

Nevertheless, their success shows that the right tactics and team spirit can pay off in a big way.

The Dutch might be happier to be facing Spain in the final rather than losing semi-finalists Germany, with whom they share an interesting footballing history, but I am not sure how effective their approach will be against the side coached by Vicente del Bosque.

Germany and the Netherlands adopt very similar tactics - and the Spanish proved very effective in nullifying Miroslav Klose and co in the semi-finals.

Both the Germans and the Dutch employ the same 4-2-3-1 formation, using their players in an almost identical way.

Just like Germany with Mesut Ozil, the Netherlands leave Sneijder to roam where he likes without any defensive responsibilities.

The Dutch also play one up front in Van Persie, with two men on either side who drop back to help out. For Thomas Mueller and Lukas Podolski, read Robben on the right and Dirk Kuyt on the left, although the Dutch do swap their wide men round a lot more than Germany.

I can see Van Persie and the rest of the Dutch forwards causing Del Bosque's men some problems because I do not think the Spanish defence is as strong as it was when the team won Euro 2008.


At 32, Carles Puyol is two years older, while Gerard Pique, though terrific on the ball, is liable to make the occasional mistake and do the odd stupid thing, as we saw in the quarter-final against Paraguay when he gave away a penalty for holding on to an opponent at a corner.

That said, Spain do not have too much else to fear from the Dutch.

Del Bosque's side are pretty unique for an international team when it comes to keeping hold of the ball. They do it so brilliantly, such are the skills of Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

For me, the only thing that stops them being overriding favourites to win is the form and fitness of Fernando Torres, the Liverpool striker.

Torres has been struggling since the start of the tournament after having knee surgery in April and I think Del Bosque will probably leave him out again, just as he did against Germany in the semi-final, and play Pedro or even Cesc Fabregas in his place.

It is a real shame for Torres, who is a sensational player when at his best, but the simple fact is that six weeks out of action can take a lot of getting over. Sometimes it can take a while for a player to recover his sharpness, which is crucial for a forward.

The Reds forward could still face the Netherlands but it is unlikely he will suddenly rediscover his best form now, especially with all the pressure that comes with playing in a final.

It might actually help Spain if Torres does begin the game on the bench. That way, David Villa might play in a more central role.

Del Bosque badly needs someone in that central area when his side attack. At times, there has been a gap because Villa has been too far left and Torres too far right. Iniesta and Xavi are not the sort of players to burst into the box between them.

The Spanish definitely need to address that issue but I still feel they will come out on top.

I have tipped Spain to triumph all along, just as I did two years ago. I am definitely going to stick with them now.

Gary Lineker was talking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan

Giovanni Van Bronckhorst and Wesley Sneijder

Highlights - Uruguay 2-3 Netherlands

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see also
Webb to referee World Cup final
09 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Fabregas passed fit to play semi
07 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
More to come from Dutch - Robben and Kuyt
06 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Spain 'grew up' after Swiss loss - Pique
07 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Dutch warned against complacency
05 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Spain can make history - Casillas
06 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Del Bosque eyes World Cup triumph
10 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Van Marwijk 'so proud' of Dutch
06 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
European success delights Platini
06 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010
Team tracker and Predictor
27 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010

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