By Mark Vincent Lincir
The way I judge who will win the World Cup is not by which players the teams will have on the field. It’s by who they leave off of it. When you can leave Arsenal (for now) midfielder Cesc Fabregas on the bench and not blink an eye, you know that your team is loaded.
The game might be slow and tactical, but it will be beautiful, because both teams, from top to bottom, have players that can and will play the ball around to feet. There’s no bang it and run…there’s nobody relying on pure athleticism in many parts of the field (i.e. Team USA)…it’s all footballers, all over the place.
I am excited to see that a new World Cup winner will emerge and increase that ever-so-elite list of seven winners to eight. But there will still be one very legitimate footballing nation that will go home with nothing and that just shows how special the World Cup is. Sure, there were surprises this time around…certainly Uruguay has put itself back on the footballing map and Ghana looked very good, but the cream always rises and Sunday will feature two nations with tons of talent that have never won the World Cup.
How does that happen? Well, two-time champion Uruguay won it twice and that was a long time ago…England and France have one it once each. And then you get to the multiple winners…Brazil, Italy, Germany and Argentina. The big boys club. Now, either the Netherlands or Spain will join the one-time-winner club, the big question will be…can they come back and win more?
If Spain and neutralize Robben and van Persie, they will be in good position to win the Cup on Sunday. If Spain’s backs struggle with the one-on-one abilities of both Dutch players, it will be a long day. On the other hand, if the Netherlands sits back too much early on and lets the like of Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso build a rhythm, it will be all over for the Dutch.
Both teams will be looking for the same thing early on, and that is possession. Both teams rely on everyone getting their touches early and then settling into their patterns and rhythms while the other teams chases. With both teams looking to do the same thing, it will be interesting to see who can deny the other their opportunity to play their own game.
The winner will be the one that upsets the other’s intentions. I think that Spain will have a better chance of shutting down the Netherlands big guns and have too many of their own big guns for the Dutch to handle.
PREDICTION – Spain 1-0 in overtime on a Xavi goal.
IN OTHER SOCCER NEWS – the speculation over whether the US Soccer Federation will renew the contract of Bob Bradley continues. I personally think that US Soccer President Sunil Gulati is set on bringing Bob back for another four years and is simply playing the diplomat whenever he says something that could be construed as critical toward the current US coach. Listen, getting to the second round out of a group that was not considered tough is not impressive. The way we did it and the fantastic finishes were very exciting, yes…but the U.S. team still lacks in many positions and in tactics. Is Coach Bob the right guy to continue to guide the ship? No, he is not.
The most logical answer is Jurgen Klinsmann, if he even wants it. But Jurgen should want it. He was critical of the U.S. and its system during the Cup. He lives in the United States, just a half hour drive (without traffic of course) from the Home Depot Center where US Soccer is based on the west coast. He’s been there as a player and coach and could bring some much needed knowledge to the US squad. Imagine Jurgen working with the U.S. strikers…do you think that might help? Imagine the impact he could have in the locker room before games, having been there as a coach and player himself?
The time has come for US Soccer to stop fearing gifted players and coaches and open their arms to a whole new world of top class soccer and the only way to do that is to start bringing in the guys who have been there and done it. Maybe the U.S. doesn’t even need to go foreign, maybe they give U.S. soccer hero Claudio Reyna his first coaching job as national team coach? Whatever they decide to do, they need to decide to do something…because staying with the same coaching staff will yield the same results. Sneak into the second round and then get out-classed by a better team (Ghana). That would have been considered a massive success 20 years ago…not anymore.
BACK TO THE FINAL – England’s Howard Webb will referee Sunday’s epic battle and I am not happy about that. Webb loves the camera a little too much and will want to put his stamp on the game in order to satisfy his ego, which is not a good thing. Look for him to have an impact on the match in the first half…not for the better either. I would have preferred FIFA to put somebody a little more unassuming in the Final, but that wouldn’t lend itself to any drama. And if there is one thing we’ve learned about FIFA if you already didn’t know (because you live on the moon or something) is that FIFA loves drama and that will always continue…much to the detriment of the game.
Can’t wait for the reality show to come out…which I’m sure is in the works.
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