- Football - International - FIFA - World Cup 2010
With some time of my side, I hope to provide you with the most comprehensive betting preview of the World Cup 2010 final.
I’m sure some of you find yourself in a favourable betting position before the ball is even kicked. The identity of the finalists is hardly a surprise as both the Netherlands and Spain have built themselves a momentum entering the tournament. The Dutch arrived in South Africa on the back of a 19-match unbeaten run (now record extended to 19/5/0). Moreover, Dutch-backers would have been further buoyed by the scintillating club forms of Wesley Sneijder (Internazionale), Arjen Robben and Mark van Bommel (both Bayern Munich). As for Spain, it is more cut and dried. Their record before the tournament was an incredible 45/2/1!
So, no one can dispute Spain are rightly favourites over the Netherlands in Sunday’s final. The question is how much i. e. there is enough value for a bet.
The recent success of the once underachieving Spain can be attributed to 3 factors:
1. Uniting the country – Spain is a nation very divided by its history, regions, languages and cultures. Hence, it’s never easy to get 20+ players from different backgrounds and ideologies to believe in a single football philosophy. Either by chance (or not), then coach Luis Aragones overcame the differences and led Spain to the Euro2008 title. His 2 success-defining decisions were dropping the nation’s favourite son Raul Gonzalez and picking a naturalized (black) Spaniard Marcos Senna who was later named in Euro2008 First 11. How ironic Aragones was called ‘racist’ by the British media.
2. The influx of foreign talents - The English Premiership is undoubtedly the most popular competition in the world. This is mainly the result of a successful business model aided by many former British colonies (no language barriers, better time zones etc). It is NOT the best league. That honour goes to the Primera, who are technically and tactically superior. Relaxed regulations (tax, EU etc) have also seen an influx of foreign talents (14 of the last 15 FIFA World Player have played in Primera, not the Premiership) that helped raise the football standards in Spain.
3. Preserving the system - Relaxed migration policies can often hurt the national team (as it has done to England) but Spain have not forsaken their youth development policies. The current Spanish squad is a product of Barcelona’s excellent youth academy (9 in the squad, 6 started vs Germany). Even Athletic’s Basque players-only policy has shaped the side.
With the dominance of Barcelona representation in the national side, it is only natural for Spain to adopt Barcelona’s football philosophy, that is, ‘total football’. In ‘total football’, no outfield player is fixed to a nominal role and every position is interchangeable to maintain the same formation and structure throughout the match. If a player is out of position for too long, the possession game takes over to facilitate correction/adjustment. Then, the buildup starts again.
Here's some stats to back Spain's 'total football' dominance:
Average Ball Possession: 58% (1st)
Passes Completed: 3387 (1st) 2nd is 2472!
Pass Completion Rate: 81% (1st)
Distance Covered in Possession: 288. 7km (1st)
Ironical to say the least, ‘total football’ originated in Netherlands. It was invented (or refined) by Rinus Michels and perfected by the legendary Johan Cruyff. Both Dutchmen spent many years at Barcelona, leaving their ‘total football’ legacy, which today defines the club and the country.
You may not think much of Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets (and I don’t blame you) but he is one of 3 players central in Spain’s ‘total football’ system. He is the utility player, filling in the gaps as soon as another is out of position. When Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos go up on set-pieces, he will form the last line of defence and assume the sweeper’s role. When Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso build the play, he will station just behind them, ready to smother any potential counter. If need be, he will take the card so that the duo can advance with little inhibition. The other 2 key players need little or no introduction – Busquet’s club mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Both are amongst the favourites to take 'Player of the Tournament'.
I remember chatting with a Barcelona fan on a plane 5 years ago and his smirk when I raved and ranted about this kid Iniesta. “No idea, Jose, Sergio or whatever your name was!”
There was never much doubt about Spain’s progression into the final despite stumbling against Switzerland (0-1) in their opening match. That defeat was the result of an untested formation (4-4-2 with Jesus Navas and David Silva on the flanks), poor pitch conditions, nerves, no Iniesta and the fact that the Swiss have one of the best defensive records in World Cup football. Anyway, it proved to be an ideal wake-up call. Spain went back to their trusted 4-3-3 and were greatly helped by an easy, confidence-restoring fixture against minnows Honduras (2-0) in the next match. Seriously, things could turn out really differently if they had played high-flying Chile next.
Speaking of fixtures, Spain had one of the best schedules in this World Cup, playing mostly in the evenings where cooler conditions resemble that in Europe. As for the altitudes, they are the most prepared among the Europeans, having rehearsed in the Confederations Cup a year ago. They lost to the USA in the semi-finals which proved to be another good wake-up call as far as preparation for altitude football is concerned.
Ok, moving on to the Netherlands.
If Spain had fixtures that resembled European conditions, the Netherlands have a second home playing in South Africa – a former colony. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say the support has been that overwhelming to become a factor as the indigenous still root for South African, then Brazil.
As mentioned, the Netherlands came to the tournament in excellent form and Sneijder and Robben’s key role for their clubs have also not gone unnoticed. They extended the good form by winning all 6 of their matches with Sneijder and Robben leading the goal scoring charts (5 and 2 respectively). However, I doubt it will be enough against a dominant side like Spain.
Firstly I always believe every World Cup-winning side needs a consistent #9, just as David Villa is doing for Spain. The law of probabilities doesn’t bode well for a team overly reliant on its midfielders for goals. Dutch frontman Robin van Persie has only 1 goal (a good goal though) in the tournament so far and the lack of opportunities has a lot to do with Robben taking up a similar position and Sneijder not getting on well with the Arsenal striker. In short, van Persie has been outcast! Secondly the Dutch haven’t been playing well – far short of their gung-ho style exhibited in the qualifiers and recent friendlies. Coach Bert van Marwijk has admitted to this but hasn’t done much about it. Thirdly their defence is awfully weak if you look at how the goals were conceded in this World Cup. If the likes of Cameroon, Slovakia and Uruguay can so easily split the Dutch backline, imagine what surgical Spain can do! Last but not least, in-fighting with self-destruction consequences is such a commonplace for the Dutch at international competitions. We have already witnessed the van Persie-Sneijder and Robben-Andre Ooijer episodes. If Spain take the lead or their ball-hogging football continues to frustrate, the Dutch will unravel.
Some would argue Netherlands had an extra day’s rest over their Spanish counterparts. However, do remember that Spain started their campaign later and perhaps critically overlooked, their key players – Xavi, Iniesta, Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas – had injuries at season-end. This is actually a positive (provided they are match fit) as it means a shorter domestic campaign. Strangely enough, Barcelona missing out in the Champions League final could help the country!
By now, you’d have a clear idea where my arguments are heading. Spain are a class above the Netherlands. To most, their total, possession football may not entertain but it is purposeful. It stops the opposition from having the ball (“you can’t score if you don’t have the ball”) and gradually wears them out (as happened to ball-chasing Germany, Portugal and Paraguay). Once they tire, shortcomings and errors will surface. Pity I only backed the Draw/Spain in the Paraguay game! Big odds nonetheless
My price: Spain -0. 5 $1. 95
I'm expecting a Shakespearean ending to this World Cup, where the apprentice (of 'total football') surpasses the master.
|09/07/2010 06:47, read 4998 times