The first FIFA World Cup™ on African soil continues to throw up historic moments at every turn, with the Netherlands and Spain emerging victorious from two tense, close-fought semi-finals to set up a Final that will guarantee a new name on the Trophy.
Up against two-time world champions Uruguay and three-time winners Germany in the last four, the Oranje *and La Roja* won through in Cape Town and Durban respectively and will now square off at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium, with the winners becoming only the eighth nation to claim the coveted crown.
Both teams can offer compelling arguments for the favourites’ tag going into a showpiece occasion that will be the Netherlands' third Final appearance and Spain's first. Bert van Marwijk's Dutch charges' efficient brand of football has brought them an unbeaten run of 25 games and they are also on the verge of becoming only the second team to follow up a 100 per cent record in qualifying by winning each and every game at the final tournament. The only side to do so previously was the legendary Brazil squad of Mexico 1970.
Spain, for their part, are the reigning European champions and will be buoyed by their elimination of a Germany side that pummelled England and Argentina in reaching the last four. Can Vicente del Bosque's classy, short-passing side become the first national team to follow up UEFA European Championship success with a global triumph since West Germany in 1974?
ResultsUruguay 2-3 Netherlands
Germany 0-1 Spain
Goal of the semi-finalsUruguay 0-1 Netherlands, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, 18 mins: *What a way for the *Elftal's left-back and captain to score his first goal for the national side since UEFA EURO 2008. Not only did the Feyenoord defender's strike break the deadlock in a tense semi-final, the 35-year-old posted a strong contender for goal of the tournament when receiving the ball on the left flank before thumping a stunning 40-yard drive beyond the outstretched arms of Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera and into the top corner. Curiously he had scored a virtual replica for Feyenoord in a Dutch Cup match in January.
One to rememberAn intriguing subplot looking ahead to the Netherlands-Spain Final will the battle between Dutch attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder and Spanish hitman David Villa for the adidas Golden Boot. Both the Inter Milan creator and Barcelona's newly signed forward are on five goals apiece, though both would surely forego that individual honour for a winners' medal come Sunday night at Soccer City.
Quote of the semi-finals"I love beautiful football but I also want to win. I've been with this team for two years now and over that period I've told the players that we've got a mission to accomplish and we need to believe in ourselves. We're a small country so it's incredible that we've reached the Final. The last time we reached the title decider was 32 years ago," Bert van Marwijk, Netherlands coach.
Stat of the semi-finals3,000,000– On Wednesday, South Africa 2010 broke through the three-million spectator mark after 62 games played and with the Final and play-off for third place still to come. In FIFA World Cup final tournament history, only at USA 1994 and Germany 2006 did more people catch the action at first hand.
Voice of the fans"Spain, the Netherlands and Germany were the best teams at this tournament! We're in for a great final, and Spain or the Netherlands will lift the cup for the first time ever," FIFA.com user Geoavra.
Have your sayWith the likes of Sneijder, Xavi, Arjen Robben and Villa set to be involved, there will be no shortage of big names come Sunday’s Final. In your view, which of these superstars looks likely have the biggest influence on the destination of the title?