Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Long wait for title ends today for Spain or Netherlands

The Dutch, in training, will play their first final where they won’t face the host (West Germany in 1974, Argentina in ’78).

Associated Press

The Dutch, in training, will play their first final where they won’t face the host (West Germany in 1974, Argentina in ’78).

JOHANNESBURG — Soccer will crown its 2010 World Cup champion today, and in the process, open the doors to an exclusive club for just the second time in three decades.

Only seven nations have won the title, but with two teams that have endured decades of disappointment meeting in front of a Soccer City Stadium crowd that will include presidents, prime ministers and princes, the list will grow by one.

Make way for Spain or the Netherlands.

Since the inaugural competition 80 years ago, Brazil, Italy or Germany have won 12 of the 18 championships. Argentina and Uruguay have combined for four. England has claimed one as has France, the most recent nation to break into the club in 1998.

But as each standard-bearer was eliminated the past four weeks, a refreshing matchup emerged, featuring teams with distinguished yet unsatisfying traditions. These countries have helped define modern soccer and provided a ceaseless supply of talent to Europe's decorated leagues. But Spain and the Netherlands still lack World Cup validation.

For one, the time has come.

"The history of football owes us this one," Spain defender Carlos Marchena said. "There have been great moments in our history (and) we have been through several great disappointments. Perhaps this time we are to change those bitter moments."

The Netherlands appeared in consecutive finals in the 1970s before self-destruction became its hallmark. Until last week, Spain had never reached a proper semifinal (its fourth-place finish in 1950 came in a final group stage among the last four teams).

It was not unexpected that one of these teams would be in the title game. After all, Spain won the 2008 European Championship and joined Brazil as World Cup favorites; the Netherlands was a darling choice after barreling through qualifying.

The fact that both made it, however, defied historic trends:

• Brazil, Italy or Germany had been a finalist in every tournament except 1930 and '78, filling 20 of 36 title-game slots.

• With two European teams here, soccer's most distinguished confederation will finally win a World Cup outside its continent.

• If the Dutch lose, they would inherit the dubious distinction of a third second-place finish without a title. (Germany has been beaten four times in the final but also has won three trophies.)

Losing has not been in the Dutch vocabulary this World Cup cycle. They won all eight games in qualification (by a 17-2 scoring margin) and all six in South Africa, culminating with a 2-1 comeback over Brazil in the quarterfinals and a 3-2 triumph against Uruguay in the semis.

"And we are not going to allow Spain to beat us now," said midfielder Wesley Sneijder, the conductor of the Dutch attack, whose five goals share the tournament scoring lead with Uruguay's Diego Forlan, Spain's David Villa and Germany's Thomas Mueller.

Added midfielder Arjen Robben, "We have yet to show our most beautiful football."

Spain's campaign began with a stunning 1-0 loss to Switzerland, just its second defeat in 31/2 years — the other came against the United States in the 2009 Confederations Cup. But La Furia Roja (the Red Fury) began to find its form.

In the knockout phase it has earned three narrow 1-0 victories. In Wednesday's win over Germany, Spain kept the ball like a child unwilling to share a new toy. Today, Spain or the Netherlands will earn something far more valuable.

"No Dutch player has ever become a world champion in football," coach Bert van Marwijk said. "That's something special. But still we have to approach it as any ordinary game."

Long wait for title ends today for Spain or Netherlands 07/10/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 10, 2010 11:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals


    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'


    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.