From the fans' point of view, I thought the two World Cup semifinals matches offered a great contrast in styles.
Holland's 3-2 win over Uruguay was end-to-end stuff, with great goals and drama. It was exactly the type of game to attract the non-soccer fan. The first goal by the Netherlands' Giovanni van Bronkhorst was world class. And although you might argue the goalkeeper could've done a better job, Diego Forlan's equalizer for Uruguay was wonderfully taken, too.
Then it all came down to a flurry of chances by Uruguay in the final seconds, with hearts still pounding and the sweat pouring when the referee blew the final whistle.
Spain's 1-0 victory against the Germans? Well, that was one for the soccer purists. It was like a giant chess match of tactics and patience. Obviously, there wasn't much scoring but it was so interesting to watch how each side carefully tried to probe and attack the other.
Other than the final result (I really expected Germany to win), it unfolded exactly as I expected. Spain looked to pass, pass and pass some more until it got just the right scoring opportunity. Germany kept absorbing Spain's attack and grinding out chances on its counters.
In the end, Spain cashed in on a great header by Carles Puyol off a corner kick. He got some help with brief and uncharacteristically poor defending by Germany on that set piece. And before the match, who would expect Spain to score on a header -- not the much taller Germans?
Overall, I really thought Spain's Vicente del Bosque out-coached Germany's Joachim Low. Del Bosque started off with the tough decision of holding out (forward) Fernando Torres in favor of Pedro. Then he stuck to his game plan, played to his squad's strengths with its great possession play and defending. In particular, Andres Iniesta was absolutely brilliant in midfield for Spain and, in my book, the man of the match. He seemed to be involved in everything.
The Germans, meanwhile, never looked to get on track did they? I really think they missed midfielder Thomas Muller, who was out with the suspension. But credit Spain. They did precisely what everyone knew they would do and no one could stop them - including the Germans.
I can't wait for Sunday's final. It's a fascinating match-up. It be interesting to see how the Dutch handle Spain's midfield. That job might fall to Holland's Mark Van Bommel, who is an aggressive, hard-nosed midfielder who goes for your ankles first and worries about yellow cards later.
It's fairly clear this is a very technically-gifted Spain team. But this Dutch squad has its own unique style. The great Dutch teams of the 1970s were a forerunner of things to come in soccer, playing a system people hadn't seen before - "Total Football." With that Dutch side, the left back could end up on the left wing and the right-sided midfielder could turn up at center forward, all while keeping the team's intended structure. Back then, everything revolved around the great Johan Cryuff for Holland.
This 2010 Dutch team is more of a unit, with the emphasis on team play. They work very, very hard for one another. But then again, so do the players for Spain.
I think this final has the potential to be a classic. No matter what happens, there's going to be a new name on the trophy because neither team has ever won it. That in itself is an alluring prospect.
Rodney Marsh, 65, is a former England international who played for several English clubs and went on to captain the Tampa Bay Rowdies during their heyday in the North American Soccer League. He has worked as a commentator for British television and radio and is providing The Tampa Tribune an exclusive column in the United States. Read more on Marsh at his official web site, www.rodneymarsh.net.