Spain's game has Dutch influence

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POTCHEFSTROOM, South Africa --- Netherlands great Johan Cruyff probably never expected the style of play he made synonymous with attacking soccer would pay off for Spain.

Or that the Spaniards would use it against his country in the World Cup final Sunday.

Two of the world's best offensive teams are looking to win the championship for the first time. While Cruyff led the Dutch to their previous two finals in 1974 and 1978, it seems he's also played a big part in taking Spain to its first title match.

Cruyff is credited with creating Barcelona's possession-based game of quick touches and slick passing that also has become Spain's signature.

Key players Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique all came up through Barcelona's youth academy.

"Spain's style is the style of Barcelona," Cruyff wrote in his El Periodico column on Thursday. "Now, Spain is favorite to win the World Cup."

While Barcelona's first taste of total soccer came during Cruyff's playing days, he implemented it for good as Barcelona coach in the early '90s. Cruyff's "Dream Team," a mix of Dutch players and midfield stars -- including current Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola -- won four consecutive league titles and a first Champions League trophy.

Of Spain's current 23-man squad, nine came up through Barcelona's system, with six being starters.

Coach Vicente Del Bosque has stayed true to the style and fielded seven of the Catalan club's players against Germany, even swapping striker Fernando Torres for newcomer Pedro.

"One consistent thing in Spanish football is that Madrid and Barcelona are the most powerful teams," Del Bosque said. "But we are represented by other teams. There are seven from Barcelona, three from Madrid and one from Villareal (who start). I don't believe we need to limit things to Madrid and Barcelona, and should think of Spanish football as a whole."

Sunday's game

WHO: Spain vs. Netherlands

WHEN: 2:30 p.m. (ABC-Ch. 6)

ODDS: Spain is a 1-2 favorite, according to BetUS


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