Serial underperformers in the World Cup, Spain and Holland will meet in Johannesburg on Sunday for a final fling, after which one of them will be called chokers no more.
And the world will all-hail a new champion. One that will join the group of seven previous World Cup winners. Spain had never got past the quarter-final stage in the World Cup. Holland made it to the finals in 1974 and 1978 but lost on both occasions.
In Shakira, Spain have already got one famous cheerleader.
“I wish Spain the very best. Hope the octopus (Paul) is right. I have to confess that, Hispanic as I am, it is my moral duty to support the Spanish team,” the Colombian singer said at Soccer City on Saturday.
“It’s an even final between two teams that deserve to be here. We’ve got good players but so do they,” said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque. “It’s going to be great propaganda for world football.”
Holland will be boosted by the return of midfielder Nigel de Jong and defender Gregory van der Wiel from suspensions. And they will hope that the curse of 1974 and 1978, when they finished runners-up, is laid to rest.
At least this time, they are not facing the hosts in the final.
“That game [the 1974 final] is precisely what I mean when I say that, too often in the past, the team has started well and then become too complacent,” said Holland coach Bert van Marwijk.
For all the popularity of the English Premier League in India, there will possibly be only two players, Holland’s Dirk Kuyt and Robin van Persie, from that competition starting on football’s biggest stage.
Before we forget about them, here’s a final chance to see Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and all those stars from Barcelona and Real Madrid, who play for Spain.