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Spain or Netherlands to Get 1st World Cup Title

Spain aims to create a football dynasty in Sunday's World Cup final against a Netherlands team trying to emulate its opponent by finally shrugging off a long history of chronic underachievement.

Spain ended a 44-year barren spell when it won the 2008 European Championship and can become only the third team to be world and European champion at the same time.

Spain's exquisite talent is reminiscent of that of the Dutch when "Total Football" carried them to the 1974 and '78 finals. Special Section: 2010 World Cup
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But the Dutch lost each time and still carry the title of the best team never to have won the World Cup.

The Netherlands' streak without a title only stands at 22 years but whatever happens at Johannesburg's Soccer City, one of the teams will become the eighth champion in the 80-year history of the World Cup and the first new name on the cup since France 12 years ago.

Spain won Euro 2008 after adding midfield steel to a free-flowing style based upon first-time passing and quick movement.

Although Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets now provide the midfield shield that protects the defense and allows the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and David Villa to dismantle the opposition, the pattern is so effective that Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk is among those pursuing something similar.

Captain Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong, who should return from suspension after being replaced by Demy de Zeeuw for the 3-2 semifinal win over Uruguay, are more physical and destructive than their Spanish counterparts but offer a similar platform from which the Dutch build.

It's a policy that has denied the Netherlands the weight of neutral support it usually enjoys from fans of entertaining football, but has brought six straight 90-minute wins at the tournament and a first World Cup final appearance for 32 years.

"We won every qualifying game, every game here. We are not going to allow Spain to beat us now," playmaker Wesley Sneijder said.

But in an ideal world, Van Marwijk wants style and substance.

"We play well. Spain plays well, but they are more attractive and this is where we want to get too," Van Marwijk said.

More sparkling Dutch sides than the current crop have come and gone, most notably those eliminated in the second round of the 1990 World Cup and the semifinals in 1998, but none have as successfully blended hard-nosed indefatigability with raw talent.

Sneijder won the Champions League, Italian league and Italian cup with Inter Milan this season before scoring five of the Netherlands' 12 goals at this tournament. Victory Sunday would make him the first European to win the world title in the same season as such a treble.

"They don't even give you time to think about it," Sneijder said. "Afterward, I'll have time enough to enjoy it. Now it doesn't really enter my mind."

Winger Arjen Robben has overcome injury after missing the first two matches and, if he and hitherto goalless striker Robin van Persie are on form, Spain's defense could wobble.

Spain also has a misfiring striker in Fernando Torres, whose first touch, pace and confidence have deserted him in South Africa.

Coach Vicente del Bosque dropped the Liverpool forward for the 1-0 semifinal victory over Germany but hinted that he may recall him for the showpiece. Torres endured a similarly goalless European Championship before playing as a lone forward in the final and scoring the only goal.

Del Bosque will stick with more or less the same lineup that has steadily improved since the team's surprise opening loss to Switzerland, meaning that as many as eight players who appeared in the 2008 European Championship final are likely to start.

"We've kept a certain block of players in these six games, so I don't think there will be many changes," Del Bosque said.

Del Bosque fielded the same starting 11 for three straight games before replacing Torres with Pedro Rodriguez. Pedro excelled in his first start, which came in only his fifth appearance.

Striker Villa shares the lead in the tournament scoring charts with Sneijder but, while Del Bosque wants Spain to stick to the attractive style of football that has made it favorite, he is looking at defenders Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol to do their bit.

Spain hasn't conceded a goal in three straight knockout matches.

"We will be halfway there if we defend like we did against Portugal and Germany," Del Bosque said.