Slick Spain to reign
Jamie Redknapp expects his pre-tournament picks to be crowned world champions on Sunday night.
Last Updated: 09/07/10 5:24pm
Its been a funny World Cup really. Everybody has been talking about how well the South Americans have done and how the European teams - not least England - have struggled and I think everybody expected Brazil or Argentina to be in Sunday's final.
But it obviously hasn't worked like out like that and here were are left with an all-European final that will give us new world champions in either Spain or Holland.
If I'm honest about the tournament as a whole though, I expected Spain to play better.
They have only scored seven goals in six games to get to the final and obviously David Villa has got five of those, so it's not exactly been the free-flowing feast we know they are capable of.
They haven't been fluent but they have been efficient and here they are in the final - and let's face it, that's all that matters.
That said, maybe they are coming into top form at just the right time. I do think the semi-final win over Germany was their best performance by a long, long way.
They passed it as well as we know they can and the Germans, who were in the form of their lives as well, just couldn't live with it in the end.
But what do Spain do with their line-up on Sunday? It was obviously a really brave decision by Vicente del Bosque to leave Fernando Torres out the other day, but it turned out to be the right one. Torres has struggled for form, he has looked short of pace and more than anything, he has struggled to get his touch back.
Young Pedro came in for him and did very well I thought and whenever Torres has come off in games , David Villa has moved inside and looked good - and more often that not come up with the winning goal!
But, Torres came good in the final of the European Championships two years ago, so there is still a massive decision for Del Bosque to make come Sunday afternoon - but I actually think he will stick with the side that beat Germany.
Some managers - and I know my dad sometimes does this at Tottenham - will say to players 'listen, I'm leaving you out for this one, but you'll play in the next one' and you address it after. If Del Bosque keeps Torres on the bench, it might well create a problem; it just depends on how the Spanish coach deals with his players. And if they win the World Cup, will it really matter?
One man who will be playing without a shadow of a doubt is Wesley Sneijder. He's a had a great couple of years; if you think about it, two years ago at Real Madrid he couldn't even get a game after he'd moved there and everyone expected such big things from him.
But he soon became surplus to requirements and ended up with Inter with the perfect manager at the perfect time in Jose Mourinho; he's given him a role to go and play, express himself, make the team tick - and that's exactly what he's doing with this Dutch side.
I will be particularly interested to see who comes out on top in that midfield battle on Sunday, because I do think that will go a long way to deciding if it's Iker Casillas or Gio van Bronckhorst who is holding that trophy aloft at the end of it all.
As much as I'd love to have played in a World Cup final, I'm not sure I would've liked to play against this Spain side! They keep the ball so, so well and like Sir Alex Ferguson said, they get you on a carousel and you just end up going round and round in circles trying to get the ball off them.,
We expect so much from Xavi and Andreas Iniesta that they might not have quite lived up to those high standards so far, but we saw against Germany that even if they are not hurting teams, they keep the ball so well that they just frustrate them.
If they go 1-0 up they will take the life out of the opposition - and the game - with those little short passes, one-two's, short corners. Even if they are not ahead, the situation doesn't make a difference, because these two - and to an extent the rest of the Spanish side - still trust each other with the ball.
Holland have two combative midfielders in Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong and as dogged as they are (particularly van Bommel), it is hard to see them doing what no-one else has managed and stopping Xavi and Iniesta.
If the Dutch are going to make it third time lucky after 1974 and 1978, I don't think you can look beyond the attacking spine of their team and the trio of Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. Those are the three that will make anything happen.
Dirk Kuyt offers real hard graft, which every World Cup-winning side needs, and is also a big-game player, capable of scoring really important goals.
But Robben immediately showed how important he is as soon as he was and even if he has been quiet, we all know what Van Persie is capable of, so it's hard to look beyond that attacking triangle if Holland are going to upset the odds.
Spain - It is hard for me to look beyond Spain. I picked them at the start of the tournament and although it wasn't the most outrageous of choices, I am going to stick with them. You have to give Holland credit for getting to the final and although I do have my doubts about them at the back, I can't see there being many goals here. When it comes to betting, I used to be an 'overs' man but that has gone out of the window at these finals; now it is the Sky Bet favourite, half-time-full-time - with Spain the ones celebrating.
David Villa - It is fitting that he and Sneijder are going head-to-head if you like, because they have been the two stand-out players of the tournament and one - or both - will end up with the Golden Boot, but I just have a feeling Villa might have a bigger say here. I am not sure about that Dutch defence and be it out on the left alongside Torres, or down the middle, this lad looks like scoring every time he walks onto the pitch.