PRETORIA - World Cup finalists Spain and
the Netherlands have produced some of the greatest moments,
classiest club sides and top players in football's history but
somehow the biggest prize in the sport has always eluded them.
One country, though, will celebrate their first World Cup
triumph at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Sunday bringing an end
to generations of frustration.
The disappointment has been most acute for the Netherlands,
who unlike Spain, have twice been agonisingly close to the top
The 1970s Dutch team are, arguably along with the 1954
Hungarian runners-up, the greatest team not to win a World Cup.
In 1974 the Dutch reached the final for the first time with
a team coached by Rinus Michels and featuring magnificent
talents such as Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep and three-times
European Footballer of the Year Johan Cruyff.
With a revolutionary approach to the game, dubbed 'Total
Football', the Dutch sparkled as they beat Argentina 4-0 and
Brazil 2-0 in their second round group.
But despite taking the lead with a second-minute penalty,
the Dutch were defeated 2-1 by hosts West Germany in Munich in
Four years later, with several players, including Cruyff,
refusing to take part, it was again the hosts that stood between
the Netherlands and glory - this time in Argentina.
After Mario Kempes had put Argentina in front in the 38th
minute, the Dutch took the game into extra-time with an
equaliser from Dick Nanninga eight minutes from the end of
The Argentines scored twice in extra-time to set off a
ticker-tape celebration in Buenos Aires and the golden
generation were left without a trophy.
It was not until 10 years later, with a side inspired by
Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, that the Dutch finally won a
major tournament with their victory over the Soviet Union in the
final of the European Championship.
In the World Cup two years later, though, the Netherlands
reached the last 16 despite finishing third in the group stage,
they reached the quarter-finals in 1994 and lost in the 1998
semi-finals after a penalty shootout with Brazil.
Spain's successes have almost exclusively been at the
club level with 12 European Cup titles from clubs Real Madrid
(9) and Barcelona (3).
Both the grand old clubs of La Liga have enjoyed much of
their success thanks to the contributions of foreign players
(including Cruyff at Barcelona) but Real's magnificent era in
the early 1960's did translate into a European Championship win
It was not until two years ago, though, that Spain was able
to add a second European title and on the world stage they have
The Spaniards hosted the 1982 finals but disappointingly
went out in the second group stage and it was not until Javier
Clemente's teams in the 1990s that La Roja really threatened to
make an impression.
In the U.S in 1994, Clemente's side reached the
quarter-final stage where they lost to Italy and four years
later in France there was great optimism surrounding a team that
included Real's prolific striker Raul and the exciting Luis
But Spanish hopes suffered a major letdown with an exit in
the group stage after a defeat to Nigeria, just a draw with
Paraguay, and a solitary win against Bulgaria.
Now though, with what is widely acknowledged as their best
ever team, Spain have a chance to become just the third team to
be reigning European and world champions at the same time.
Only West Germany (1972, 1974) and France (1998, 2000) have
held the double-title previously.
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