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Friday December 19th 2014

World Cup final matchups

By Barry Wilner, AP Sports Writer
JOHANNESBURG — Matchups for Sunday’s World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City (kickoff is 2:30 p.m. EDT):

Possession, possession, possession.

The Dutch like to build their attack from the back, meaning the far back: goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg (1) often begins the buildup with passes to his defenders. Captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst (5) scored the first goal against Uruguay in the semifinals, but he’s rarely involved in the offense. Instead, the idea is to get the ball from the back line to creative midfielders Wesley Sneijder (10), Mark van Bommel (6), Rafael van der Vaart (23) and Nigel de Jong (8), who was suspended for the semifinal.

They, in turn, probe defenses while allowing Arjen Robben (11), Robin van Persie (9) and Dirk Kuyt (7) to making darting runs outside and, often in the case of Van Persie, to the inside. Sneijder usually is the man in control of the ball and distributing it to the forwards.

But Sneijder certainly can finish, and his five goals tie him for the World Cup lead. He’s also adept at free kicks, as is Robben. Watch for Robben to do everything he can to get the ball on his left foot in space, particularly at the edge of the penalty area. And watch the frenetic Kuyt, who pops up all over the attacking zone.

The deep Dutch offense will test Spain’s outstanding defenders, forcing them to close down quickly as the Netherlands gets close to the 18-yard box. Outside halfbacks Joan Capdevila (11) and Sergio Ramos (15) will be very busy… Read More

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