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S Africa counts down to Cup final
Spain and the Netherlands to face off in their quest for World football glory.
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2010 19:12 GMT
Soccer City will host the climax of the World Cup in South Africa, as Spain take on the Netherlands [AFP]

Spain and the Netherlands are preparing to contest the World Cup final in Johannesburg - the biggest game in the footballing history of both countries.  

The final, which kicks off at 1830 GMT on Sunday, will see both teams going into the match on the back of a formidable run of results after a tournament that is being seen as a roaring success by organisers.

And after some uncertainty, it has been confirmed that Nelson Mandela, the South African icon, will attend the closing ceremony before the match.

"He's decided to come," Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, his grandson, told Al Jazeera.

He said the 91-year-old would probably watch the match at home after greeting fans.

European champions Spain, who started slowly but peaked perfectly to eliminate a talented young German side in the semi-finals, are favourites to claim a first World Cup triumph.

Spain's patient, posession-dominated style of play has seen them recover from an early tournament defeat to Switzerland and sail into the final, despite never seeming to get out of second gear.

Many of their goals have come from midfield as their star striker, Fernando Torres, has struggled for form following surgery prior to the tournament and is not expected to play.

Instead, Spanish hitman David Villa is one of the tournament's top scorers, tied on five goals with the Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder, Uruguay's Diego Forlan and prodigous German talent Thomas Mueller.

Dutch masters?

Standing between Spain and the Jules Rimet trophy are a Dutch side who arrive at the Soccer City stadium on the back of an enviable winning streak.

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They have won all their qualifying matches for the tournament and every game in South Africa.

If they can notch up another victory on Sunday, they will be the first team since Brazil in 1970 to win the World Cup with a perfect record, and will exorcise the demons of two previous World Cup final failures. 

The Dutch are considered the best footballing nation never to have won a World Cup, although they have disappointed some fans in this tourment by adopting a pragamatic, defensive style of play in place of the free-flowing, attacking football they are known for. 

The game is the climax of a tournament that has been regarded as major triumph for South Africa, with predictions of the competition being hit by a wave of crime and chaos proving utterly unfounded. 

Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president, thanked the nation on Saturday, saying that hosting the tournament had made South Africa champions despite being the first host country to go out in the group stage. 

Experts say holding the World Cup has helped improve South Africa's image, boosting racial reconciliation and national unity in a country still troubled by divisions, 16 years after the end of apartheid.

Source:
Agencies
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