Xavi: Final not just about midfield battle
Spain midfielder Xavi Hernandez expects Sunday's World Cup final against the Netherlands to be more than just a midfield battle despite the two teams holding perhaps football's best collection of players for that position.
The game at Soccer City ''won't just be a war of midfielders'' according to the Barcelona playmaker, although he said better ball possession is likely to be one of the determining factors. Spain has Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso in its midfield, while the Dutch rely on Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Mark van Bommel.
''It's true that whichever team has better ball possession will be halfway toward a win,'' Xavi said on Saturday. ''We'll intend to impose our style of play from the opening minute. But the Netherlands will, too. Possession will clearly be the key to the game.''
Xavi promised that the European champions will come out aggressively from the start, as it has in each of its six games in South Africa - even if the goals haven't really followed.
Coach Vicente del Bosque expected the Dutch to also attack and was ready to adapt to whatever the Dutch throw at Spain. Xavi couldn't remember Spain having to get physical in any recent match.
''Spain has always looked to play an attractive game, an offensive and attacking game,'' Xavi said. ''That's what we like and people identify with this. But the Netherlands' football also looks like the one that Spain practices.''
Captain Iker Casillas believed the accolades that have followed Spain for its play were unlike any other despite comparisons to teams such as Brazil.
''Spanish football has been amazing for more than three and a half years,'' Casillas said. ''Spain created a style of play that it has stuck with and practiced to this day even with a change of coaches and players. Being in the European Championship and two years later the World Cup final shows that.''
Despite trying to play the beautiful game as best it can, the Spaniards have struggled to score. David Villa is joint top-scorer with Sneijder, Uruguay's Diego Forlan and Germany's Thomas Mueller with five goals, and has accounted for all but two of Spain's scores in the tournament.
Fernando Torres has struggled and may not start for the second straight game.
''Sure we haven't scored many goals but the football we are playing is notable,'' Xavi said. ''We've generated a lot of chances but the percentage that we've scored is not usual for the Spanish team. Let's see if we can improve that tomorrow.''
Casillas, who has won Champions League, Spanish league and Intercontinental Cup titles on top of an under-19 World Cup trophy, was feeling nerves in the buildup to Sunday.
"I'm very nervous because it is such an important game,'' said the Real Madrid goalkeeper, who is considered one of the world's best. ''I've already got butterflies in the stomach.''