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I Fall for Afellay

I have a confession to make: I’m tired of this Spain-certainty. Yes: they do have an amazing team. Courageous when defending, brilliant when attacking, Spain is formidable. Their midfield by itself is a thing to behold. What on earth could be the result of having Barca wizards Iniesta and Xavi playing alongside Fabregas, their former Catalan accomplice, and Xabi Alonso, that confident brute? Only magic. So yes: Spain should win the cup. Which is exactly why I think… it won’t! The men wearing “la Roja” are experts in the art of disappointing, and their great run in the 2008 Euro could have been a virtuous fluke rather than the new norm.

My candidate, then? The Dutch. Cruyff’s famous machine of the 1970’s preferred esthetics to results, and God bless them for that. Still, they ended up losing to the Germans, who have the opposite ideal. In the years since, every Dutch team—even the glory of Rijkaard, Gullit and Van Basten, the aptly nicknamed “Swan of Utrecht”—appeared to do us all the favor of taking part in the World’s greatest competition. The embodiment of that Dutch-ness was, of course, Mr. Aloof himself: Dennis Bergkamp. But that is no longer the case. This Dutch team has precision, speed and, it seems, discipline. And beautiful, glorious youth. Let me share two examples. First this one, already posted on Goal Post a few days ago. His name is Eljero Elia. He’s 23 years old. And though I’m sure no one has the passing skills of Xavi and no one reads the field like Iniesta, I’m also certain that Spain has no ballerina like this guy. Then there’s my personal favorite: Ibrahim Afellay. This other attacking midfielder is, at 24, the brain behind the mighty PSV. Afellay at his best reminds me of Zidane’s elegance and Messi’s vertigo (plus, he’s a master at the art of striking the ball). Here’s Afellay:

Add Babel, Sneijder, Van Persie, and Van der Vaart to the mix and hold on to your seats. And, Spain: Don't open that Vega Sicilia just yet.