Holland legend Johan Cruyff confesses: I’m supporting Spain!

July 9th, 2010

Holland great Johan Cruyff, who experienced the pain of a World Cup final defeat in the 1970s, has revealed his excitement ahead of Sunday’s final… and that he is supporting Spain. Cruyff led the Dutch to the 1974 final and helped his country qualify on the way to the 1978 showpiece, but has also played a big part in developing Spain’s famous brand of possession football thanks to his spell as Barcelona coach in the 1990s.

Key players like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Gerard Pique all came up through Barcelona’s youth academy, and Cruyff is credited with creating the style of play that has seen Barca win two Champions League trophies in the last five seasons, a  game of quick touches and slick passing that has also become Spain’s mantra.

Cruyff’s early ’90s “Dream Team” – comprising a mix of Dutch players and midfield maestros like current Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola – won four straight league titles and the club’s first European Cup.

‘Spain’s style is the style of Barcelona,’ Cruyff wrote in his column in a Spanish newspaper. ‘Spain are now the great favourites.’

He added: ‘Vicente del Bosque’s team has grown in strength and finds itself in the final at the top of its game. Yesterday evening Germany, which put on a display against Argentina, played football which would have been enough to beat any team but not Spain.

‘If Spain goes for you, it kills you. There’s no doubt that Germany knew what it was going to go through, just like Holland is probably thinking now. If you go up against a team that wants to keep the ball, you’re going to suffer.

‘Spain, a replica of Barca, is the best publicity for football. Who am I supporting? I am Dutch but I support the football that Spain is playing.’

Of Spain’s current 23-man squad, nine came up through Barcelona’s academy with six being regular starters.

Former Spain coach Inaki Saez was the first to recognize the technically gifted emerging generation, and Luis Aragones continued the work after Spain had failed to get out of the group stage at the 2004 European Championship. Four years later, the team became European champions.

Del Bosque has stayed true to the style and fielded seven of the Catalan club’s players against Germany.

‘I manage a young group of players who are very well-seasoned in the world of football,’ Del Bosque said from Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.

‘We’re very lucky people to have so many great players. We’ve been detached from success for so many years that now is the time.’

Spain’s ‘underachiever’ tag seems finally to have been shelved, although a triumph at Soccer City would confirm it.

Even Puyol’s 73rd-minute goal in the 1-0 win over Germany was Barcelona-esque, as the central defender soared high to score an identical header in a record 6-2 win at Real Madrid in 2009.

‘It’s a play we do at Barcelona,’ Puyol said. ‘Two days before the game, Del Bosque explained that they defended by zone and I told him we could do it. Luckily, it worked out well.’

Source: DailyMail

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