Prepare Yourself for the World Cup Finals Prepare Yourself for the World Cup Finals

Prepare Yourself for the World Cup Finals

by Zach Dundas

July 13, 2010
The radical Dutch teams of the 1970s blew the soccer world’s collective mind, but lost two finals. Spain is the soccer equivalent of the Chicago Cubs—an elegant icon of the game, yet more closely associated with epic meltdowns than triumph. This time, Spain is the flashy favorite that has yet to find its best form. The Dutch are now cast as gritty, sometimes ruthless, sometimes thrilling professionals—a gang of aging hard-cases, pulled together to do one last job, plus a couple crafty assassins in their prime. 
If you really want to give this thing the old college try by smashing an unfeasible reading binge into a caffeine-fuelled, last-hours frenzy, I have two books to recommend. David Winner’s Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football will let you in on the intricate cultural history behind The Netherlands’s team—specifically, how life in a tiny, largely man-made country gave Dutch players a unique understanding of space and a democratic, cooperative ethic. To delve into the Spanish game, I recommend cherry-picking from David Goldblatt’s monumental world soccer history The Ball is Round

The Ball is Round is about all soccer, in all countries. But Goldblatt is particularly intriguing on the subject of the endless rivalry between Spain’s two biggest clubs, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. During the Franco dictatorship, Real Madrid ruled European soccer, while Barcelona served as pretty much the only legal expression of Catalan identity. The latter then redefined the Spanish game when it hooked up with Dutch (twist!) superstar Johan Cruyff. Today, these two giant clubs—think Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, respectively—are still the polar opposites of Spanish soccer. Together, they will supply almost all of Spain’s starting line-up on Sunday.

Weird, right? That’s soccer for you. Now get going—you’ve got a lot of reading to do before Sunday.

Photos by Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images (the Netherlands) and Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images (Spain.)

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Prepare Yourself for the World Cup Finals