Dutch stars set to destroy mode
Midfield enforcer Mark van Bommel insists the Netherlands must "break" Spain's midfield machine if they are to stand a chance in the World Cup final, while wingers Dirk Kuyt and Arjen Robben insisted the side will defend from the front to get the job done.
The ability of van Bommel and fellow destroyer Nigel de Jong to hinder Spain's trademark possession-based football looms as a key factor in deciding whether the Netherlands can score an upset victory and win the race to become the latest new nation to claim the World Cup trophy on Sunday.
Germany failed to stifle the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta in their 1-0 semi-final loss and the weight of possession eventually told in the form of Carles Puyol's headed winner from a Xavi corner. Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk has defended van Bommel's perceived over-physical approach in the lead-up to the final, but the Bayern Munich player admitted he will need to impose himself to shut down Spain's engine room.
"Spain play a spectacular game and it will be very difficult to combat them," Van Bommel said. "We will have to break their midfield and stop their playmakers from playing. That is our biggest mission because Xavi and Iniesta are great talents. They are the best of their type in the world. But we are ready for a big battle. We will need to play our best match for two years to defeat Spain but, if we win this final, we will have deserved it. No one could deny that."
Dutch wingers Kuyt and Robben concurred with van Bommel's view that the Netherlands must disrupt Spain's pass-and-move football, with Robben declaring no players is " too special to get their hands dirty".
Kuyt, who will operate primarily down Holland's left flank, where Spain's right back Sergio Ramos loves to push forward, is renowned for his off-the-ball work rate, but Robben is better known for the damage he can cause in front of goal than his contribution to the defence. But his claims reveal a siege mentality growing in the Dutch ranks as they prepare to repel the Spanish onslaught at all costs.
Robben said: "We will defend from the front. No-one here feels they are too special to get their hands dirty. I was really surprised with how freely Germany let Spain play on Wednesday. We have to start pressing them earlier, and far higher up the field.
Robben said the quality of football on show in the final mattered little, so long as he could get his hands on the World Cup trophy on Sunday night.
"I would much prefer to win a very ugly game than lose a beautiful one. We can still play attractive football but we can always rely on our good organisation as well. If you are organised, you know one goal could be enough, which has been the case so far. The point is, we are in a World Cup final. From now on how you actually play no longer matters. Of course, the intent is there to play good football but the result is far more important. We have heard enough of talk about how our football is very nice. But it gets you nowhere. We want to achieve something.''
Kuyt agreed that there were lessons to be learned from Germany's failure to counter Spain's strategy.
Kuyt said: "We are not afraid at all. You could see the Germans were afraid of Spain. They didn't try to attack. We are going to attack and then you will see weaknesses coming to the surface. If you play like the Germans you are definitely going to lose. We don't have players who are afraid and we don't have players who feel small against the big opponents. There is respect, but not fear."