World Cup: Favourites Spain keep feet on ground
Posted Thursday July 8, 2010 – 1.22pm
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque pleaded with his team to keep their feet on the ground ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final against Holland as even Dutch legend Johan Cruyff backed the European champions to triumph.
Del Bosque, whose team reached their first World Cup final thanks to a 1-0 semi-final win over three-time champions Germany, is wary of complacency having seen his side lose their opening group game in South Africa to Switzerland.
“Of course we must celebrate this victory (over Germany) but we will do so with moderation. We will not be blinded by success. We will enjoy this and then start preparing for the final,” stressed the former Real Madrid coach.
“There is nothing more difficult or precious than to win a World Cup. But we still have to play the final. We cannot start bragging or get too conceited yet.
“The triumph is even bigger because of the size of the opponent. You could say Germany were less strong than expected but that was because our team did a great job. The bottom line is we played better than they expected.”
Former Dutch great Cruyff has tipped Spain to win and join Brazil (five times), Italy (four), Germany (three), Argentina, Uruguay (two each), England and France as World Cup winners.
“Spain is now the great favourite. Del Bosque’s team has grown in strength and finds itself in the final at the top of its game. Germany played football which would have been enough to beat any team, but not Spain,” said Cruyff, who played in the 1974 final.
Like Spain, Holland are still without a World Cup title.
They reached both the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals, losing to West Germany and Argentina respectively, but coach Bert van Marwijk says his side are ready to go a step further.
“We will play for the whole of Holland,” said van Marwijk. “I do not think in terms of revenge (for those defeats).
“I will watch the game without thinking about historical statistics. We haven’t experienced winning a final and neither have Spain.
“Spain deserved to beat Germany, I like the way they played, we will play our way against them. We respect them, but we are not afraid of them.”
Spain and Netherlands have been competing in the World Cup since 1934 but have never met which adds to the intrigue ahead of a Soccer City final to be refereed by former English policeman Howard Webb.
Pre-tournament favourites after only two losses in two years – against the Swiss and USA in a 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final – Spain will retain that status.
But the Dutch boast an even better record than Spain at this World Cup, winning all six games.
They reached the final with a 3-2 victory over tournament surprise packets Uruguay in a Cape Town clash settled by goals from Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben within four second-half minutes.
Meanwhile, beaten semi-finalists Germany and Uruguay are preparing for Saturday’s third-place play-off in Port Elizabeth.
German striker Miroslav Klose, who must score twice to overtake the 15-goal all-time World Cup record of Brazilian Ronaldo, has a back injury and might miss the game.