The two maestros of midfield, the two princes of passing, the two sultans of soccer. In European football circles, Spain’s Xavi Hernandez is largely considered the finest passer in the game. Hot off a Champions League title, the Netherlands’ Wesley Sneijder is quickly becoming one of the best players on the planet.
If you were to ask most managers throughout the world which player you would want to make that incisive pass to cut open a defense to set up a game-winner, Spain and Barcelona’s Xavi would more than likely be the answer.
The Catalonian playmaker has been at the heart of Barcelona’s Spanish and European success in the last 5 or 6 seasons. He is the first to see a pass that can slice a defense to pieces in the blink of an eye. He, and his partner-in-crime Iniesta, are the poster-children for Spain’s renaissance.
The possession-obsessed, precision short-passing game that has made Spain the envy of most of the world is only possible with the accurate Xavi pulling the strings. There is hardly a pass that Xavi cannot make.
If there is one aspect of his game that is lacking it is scoring. Cue Wesley Sneijder.
Four years Xavi’s junior, Sneijder is fast becoming one of the world’s elite players. His range of passing borders on absurd. Pundits in the game wax poetic on the Dutchman’s ability to constantly be “taking pictures” out on the pitch.
There is not a moment in the match where he does not know exactly where his teammates and opposing defenders are. His defense-splitting vision and striker-like finishing ability helped to vanquish first Chelsea (what a ball), then Barcelona in this year’s Champions League, largely outplaying Xavi (although Jose Mourinho had much to do about stifling Xavi).
With five goals and instrumental in most Dutch goals in this World Cup, Sneijder should be in the top three candidates for World Player of the Year. If he were to take Sunday’s final by the scruff of the neck and thereby take the Dutch to the promised land, with a European Cup already in his pocket he would be tough to deny. He is both his club and country’s linchpin and attacking dynamo, their creative heart and soul.
The same goes for Xavi. With two Champions League victories, a European Championship with Spain, and now in a World Cup final, he has vast experience. The game will hinge on his performance.
If the Netherlands’ Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong can slow him down and get Sneijder the ball to work his magic, then the Dutch have a chance. The problem for Holland is, while they have one midfield magician, Spain has two. Andres Iniesta is Xavi’s equal, if not better.
While they may not be a true one-on-one matchup on the pitch Sunday, the winner of Sneijder vs. Xavi will play a major part in who takes home the Jules Rimet trophy. With Sneijder playing with unbridled confidence and youthful exuberance, and with his ability to not only create goals but score them as well, the edge has to be with the dazzling Dutchman.
Predictions in one-off matches are a harrowing ordeal, and I have been made to look pretty foolish in the past, but I like Sneijder to be the final’s man of the match. I can see him scoring the crucial goal that not only gives him this World Cup’s Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards, but the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
He certainly will deserve it.
This article is from the blog: Pitchmen
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