World Cup Final Nears with Spain Favourites
Saturday, 10 July 2010

Two days before the climax of Africa's first World Cup, silky Spain seemed everyone's favourite to beat the Netherlands though both are desperate to lift football's ultimate prize for the first time.

From schoolchildren in South Africa's Soweto township to bookmakers around the globe and even Paul the 'psychic' octopus in Germany, all the talk was of Vicente del Bosque's side.

"They play beautiful football. We want to be like them. Of course they will win Sunday, come on Spain!" said 13-year-old Dumisani Motye, imitating striker David Villa's shots on a dusty soccer pitch next to tin shacks in Soweto.

Before then, there is of course the matter of a third-place playoff between Germany and Uruguay Saturday. They have to pick themselves up from semi-final disappointment to compete in a game both had hoped they would not be playing.

As if being outwitted by the slick-passing Spaniards in the semi-final was not miserable enough for German coach Joachim Lowe, he came down with flu and had to miss his team's training session Friday to stay in bed.

EUROPEAN FIRST ON FOREIGN SOIL

Coming into the tournament as favourites, Spain appear to be hitting their best form just at the right time, but they will not be complacent against a Dutch team now boasting a 14-match World Cup winning streak including qualifiers.

"It doesn't interest me who is favourite for the final, I just don't care what the whole world is saying," said Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk.

"We will just go out and play our own game."

Like the Spaniards, Netherlands have never won a World Cup and want to erase memories of losing the finals of 1974 and 1978. Both nations have produced great and entertaining sides down the decades but earned reputations as nearly-men as they have failed time-and-again to go all the way.

As well as producing a new name on the winners' list, Sunday's match is already guaranteed to be Europe's first World Cup triumph on foreign soil.

That had looked unlikely at the start when South American teams stormed through, while France, Italy and England all flopped. Even Spain lost their first match against Switzerland, while the Dutch started ponderously by their standards.

As the pundits ponder how Spain's skilful passing game will shape up against the Netherlands' explosive attack, there was no doubt in the mind of one expert: a celebrity octopus.

Paul, who accurately picked the outcome of Germany's six World Cup games by choosing food from two containers with different flags on them, went straight for Spain Friday.

"The octopus Paul makes us champions," crowed Spain's sports daily Marca on its website. Spaniards will be thankful that calls by some Germans for Paul to be grilled and eaten, after he called the semi-final defeat, went unheeded.

FLIGHT FURY

Organisers of the World Cup have been congratulating themselves on a highly successful tournament that has defied the predictions of pessimists who said Africa was not up to it.

Their record, however, was blemished by chaos at Durban airport before the Germany v Spain semi-final that caused hundreds of fans to miss the match. One of the causes was VIP planes which refused to move from the airport.

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) said Sunday it had put aside more than $50,000 (33,064 pounds) to compensate irate fans. One of them, a German, was due in court for allegedly assaulting a cabin member when his plane was diverted to Port Elizabeth.

On a merrier note, Cameroon's former international Roger Milla challenged the Spanish and Dutch to try and produce a goal celebration Sunday as memorable as his famous corner-flag dance at the Italy 1990 World Cup.

"You need natural rhythm, movement of the hips. It is all about spontaneity, and it has to be personal, your own thing. Of course, you also have to score a goal first, don't forget!" said Milla, whose goals took Cameroon to the quarter-finals in 1990.

Milla told Reuters that South Africa's 'Diski dance' was the best celebration of the tournament so far.

German striker Mirsolav Klose's acrobatic somersault and Wesley Sneijder's hilarious tapping of his bald pate after a rare headed goal for the Dutch also drew the master's praise.

Source: bdnews24.com

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