That's what is awaiting a World Cup champion this Sunday, July 11, 2010. The ultimate prize in soccer world has no cash equivalent. Glory, Pride, Respect, Fame - now and forever. Your name will never be forgotten.
SPAIN vs. HOLLAND. The battle will be legendary!
Who will rise to the occasion? How will both teams cope with stress? In the WC final match players' characters are revealed, mental strength plays a much bigger role than soccer skills and, in the end, whoever has a bigger heart goes home and life will never be the same.
HOLLAND, a challenger, a.k.a the best soccer nation never to lift up the World Cup, focuses on its tactical philosophy intertwined with exceptional skills. Holland is so determined to win WC that its coaches and players finally understood and accepted that they do not have to win playing only a beautiful way thrashing opponents with a smile on their faces. Consequently we saw in this WC hard-fought victories against Denmark, Brazil or Uruguay. When possible, Holland will entertain fans showing its world-class skills (like in 2nd half of the semifinal against Uruguay) but mainly it will maintain its strategy on stopping the Euro champs relying on its counterattack. Holland is a better, more experienced and braver version of Greece (I mean Germany).
SPAIN, a huge favorite, was so impressive against Germany that it made it look like Greece indeed (10 defenders, 1 forward). It was perfomance worthy of a WC champion. If only it were a final...
Interestingly, in 2006 WC Italy played its best game in semis against...Germany. 2-0 victory featured a superb performance of Marcelo Lippi's squad. However, it was France that outplayed Italy in the final and only for the Zidane's infamous exit Italy luckily won the cup.
For the past 2 years Spain has been a definition of a perfect team. They truly play soccer, out of lack of a better word, perfectly. Will this be enough against the Dutch? Perhaps. But 2006 experience teaches to be extra cautious. And you should always respect your opponent. One mistake and it's opening loss to Switzerland all over again. I do pick Spain to win yet Holland's triumph would not surprise me for it is a very good team playing a determined and tactical soccer.
And there have been upsets before. The biggest of them all occured in 1954 (WC in Switzerland) when Hungary, known as the Golden Team, lost to Germany 2-3 after beating them 8-3 in group stage (Hungary was the best team in the world at the time being unbeaten for a record of 32 consecutive matches). In 1974 (WC in West Germany) my beloved Poland was the best team of the tournament. Its semifinal loss "on water field" (there was a severe thunderstorm right before the game) to, naturally, Germany 0-1 stripped another golden team off the well-deserved championship (Poland won Olimpics in 1972, finished 2nd in 1976 and finished 3rd in WC 1974 by beating Brazil 1-0, then the defending champs). In the final match it was the favorite Holland playing a "total football" that was upset by Germany 1-2 (interesting note: the first goal scored by Holland in 2nd minute came before any German player had even touched the ball!). In 1998 the defending champion Brazil was a big favorite only to watch France (Zidane enters the world stage) win 3-0. This is the only great game France played during that WC barely passing by each opponent on the road to the final. As I already mentioned Italy only played a fantastic game in the semifinal against Germany in 2006. This time France was upset by Italy (rematch of Euro 2000 final "stolen" by French in the 90th minute).
The biggest game on the biggest stage with world watching demands nothing but perfection and creativity from every player. This is a dream to so many, myself included. This is a dream that only the best makes it a reality for himself.
My wife tells me that this is just a game. No, my love, this is not just a game. The game represents what each country is made of. It translates into political and economic life as people tend to forget about everyday's problems, conflicts and petty arguments while cheering for their teams. The game unites entire countries for these 90 minutes and while a loser must cope with a life-long heartbreak, a winner secures a place in the soccer's pantheon of greats.
Undoubtedly, this is a beautiful game.