JOHANNESBURG - There seems to be an increasing belief that the revving up of Spainís train will take the Spaniards to the World Cup trophy.
As Sundayís World Cup final between Spain and The Netherlands approaches, most of the euros are being placed on Spain. After all, it is the defending European champion and has shed its reputation of falling flat on the global stage.
But if this World Cup has proven anything, itís that nothing is a sure thing. Spain could well be tilting at windmills.
The Dutch have a very real chance of finally bringing home the World Cup title. This sudden love affair with the Spanish is somewhat strange.
Until they played Germany, the Spanish had not been dominant in any of their games. It took a second-half goal to beat Portugal. It took a late second-half goal to subdue Paraguay. In that contest, Spain came perilously close to being eliminated. It took a penalty save by Iker Casillas to get them through and a double-bank shot off the post by David Villa to seal the deal.
They dominated the Germans but could still only score one goal.
The Dutch will play the Spanish with a lot more physical presence, a la Paraguay, than the Germans did and Spain wonít like it at all.
Why all the love for the Spanish? They are having trouble scoring goals except for Villa. Despite all their intricate and well-woven passing, they donít create a lot of chances.
Even though Casillas has come up with some big saves, heís had some near fatal bobbles. Even against Paraguay as Spain attempted to close out the game, Casillas mishandled a shot and was forced to make a great leg save or the game would have gone to extra time.
Sure Spain beat Germany but whom else did it beat? Certainly none of the teams it eliminated was supposed to cause it much trouble.
The Netherlands beat Brazil, the five-time world champions. Then it drew a tough Uruguay squad and while the final 3-2 scoreline didnít reflect it, The Netherlands was in control for most of the game.
Those results have infused the Dutch with confidence. They believe they can win especially against a tough team. That wasnít always present in the past. This time around, there is a certainty in the ranks that they are destined for the trophy.
The Dutch also have the benefit of being the underdog. The longer they are in the game, the more pressure mounts on the Spanish.
It is a team that is playing very well. The Dutch havenít lost in 14 games including the six in this World Cup and the qualifiers.
The Dutch appeared to have overcome their usual deficiencies when it comes to egos and personalities. While Robben is still disliked, as long as the Dutch manage to win, that remains in the background. When Robin Van Persie tossed a hissy fit after being substituted in a game, everyone held their breath waiting for the total meltdown in the dressing room. Coach Bert Van Marwijk let it run its course and nothing else happened.
Thatís not to say there isnít tension in the room but at least for now, that tension is taking a backseat to the success of the football club.
The Netherlands is willing to do whatever it can to win. It is willing to play ugly football if it has to. Robben was quoted as saying that playing beautiful football would be nice but everything takes second place to winning.
When a team is willing to do that, it opens a few more doors on the road to victory.
This will be the third time The Netherlands has made the final. There is no such thing as a team of destiny but one has to figure the odds are with them after being there twice before. Not everyone can be the Buffalo Bills or the Minnesota Vikings who have gone to the Super Bowl four times and lost.
But most importantly, itís time for the squid to have its tentacles yanked. There have been many annoying things at this World Cup but nothing as annoying as the big deal made over Paul the Octopus.
Paul has picked Spain to win. Paul is 6-0 so far in this World Cup. Thereís no way an Octopus continues to stay that hot.
He starts a one-game losing streak Sunday and Monday he becomes a plate of calamari.