Battle for the World Cup

Spain vs. the Netherlands

A break-down of the two World Cup contenders by World Cup wins, GDP, unemployment, poverty, population, religion, government type, and oracle octopus predictions.

One month of intense soccer matches comes down to one day—Sunday, July 11, 2010—when the winner of the World Cup will be crowned king. Will it be Spain, led by Captain Iker Casillas, or the Netherlands, led by Captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst? For the betting fans out there, here is an array of angles, some of them unconventional, to help you make your choice.


Consider how the teams have fared in the past.

• Neither Spain nor Holland has ever won a World Cup.

• Holland has been runner-up twice, in 1974 and 1978.

• Neither has won third place.

• Both teams have come in fourth place once—Spain in 1950 and Holland in 1998.


It has actually factored into this year’s World Cup. Argentine coach and former soccer superstar Diego Maradona never failed to attend a game without his trusty rosary beads, while some in Germany used the national octopus Paul—who has correctly guessed the winner of each of Germany’s six 2010 World Cup matches—to predict whether or not Germany would win. And predict it did. The eight-legged mollusk correctly picked Spain to defeat Germany and move on to the finals, and it has again predicted that Spain will defeat Holland in the final.


Soccer players and their fans alike all seem to turn religious during the World Cup games. Strikers about to take a penalty kick are often seen making the sign of the cross, while goalies commonly look up to the sky after saving a shot. But both teams in this year’s final are largely Roman Catholic, so those who believe God is on their side won’t have much leverage.


Both countries are governed by forms of monarchies—in the case of Spain, a parliamentary monarchy, and in the case of the Netherlands, a constitutional monarchy—and both have negative GDP growth rates. But the countries diverge on other important indicators.


The Netherlands, which declared independence from the Spanish Empire on January 23, 1579, is bordered by Belgium and Germany. Spain is bordered by France and Portugal. If soccer skills were to rub off between neighboring countries, some might predict that the Netherlands—which shares a border with the strong German team expected to take third place—might have an advantage over Spain—whose neighbors didn’t fare as well.


According to the most recent CIA numbers, Spain’s GDP/real growth rate is at -3.6 percent while the Netherlands is facing a similar GDP/real growth rate of -3.9 percent. But has the $3.733 trillion debt owed by the Netherlands—compared to the $2.41 trillion owed by Spain—put a strain on the practice equipment, quality of soccer fields, or the salaries of Holland’s national team? What has been the effect of Spain’s 19.7 percent unemployment rate—almost quadruple that of Holland’s 5.6 percent unemployment rate—on the friends and families of the Spanish players? And what about rampant poverty? According to the CIA, 19.8 percent of Spain’s population lives below the poverty line. Cut that in half and you have the poverty rate of the Netherlands, at 10.5 percent. Could that have an effect on Spanish players’ confidence in, and pride for, their country, as they walk on to the field Sunday to represent their homeland?


Underdogs seem to be another noticeable factor in determining wins this year. FIFA currently ranks Spain as number 2 and the Netherlands number 4. But upsets seem to be the norm during the 2010 World Cup games. From the U.S. v. England match that ended in a 1-1 tie, Mexico’s 2-1 victory over France, and Switzerland’s 1-0 victory over Spain to South Africa’s 2-1 victory over France, Serbia’s 1-0 win over Germany, and Slovakia’s 3-2 win over Italy, underdogs may be the team to bet on.

Whatever your betting strategy—whether it be listening to Germany’s psychic octopus, praying before the game, taking into consideration economic indicators, rooting for the underdogs, or supporting the team ranked by FIFA as stronger—tune in Sunday to the 2010 final and see which team is handed the World Cup.


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