The individual battle between Iker Casillas and Maarten Stekelenburg concisely sums up the wider battle of the World Cup Final – and that’s not just a lazy summary so we can go on living our lives. Spain are the proven winners with a history of classy performances whilst Holland have done all that has been asked of them without ever looking convincing. Substitute the respective goalkeepers names in place of the nations and the still works.
Casillas had a quietly solid night against Germany. He wasn’t asked do anything spectacular by a surprisingly toothless German side, but the fears were Germany would mount an aerial bombardment to take advantage of the Spanish defense’s biggest vulnerability. They needed their goalkeeper to be commanding and authoritative under the high ball and the captain delivered. He came for crosses with determination and generally got the ball clear of danger with little fuss. It was a display so simple yet effective, it’s importance may have easily been overlooked.
Stekelenburg had a vastly differing semi-final experience. As well as Diego Forlan has been striking the World Cup football, there was little excuse for the Dutch keeper missing his relatively straightforward shot from 30 odd yards. It seemed to confirm widely held suspicions established prior to the tournament. Towards the end when Uruguay threatened an unlikely comeback, the Dutch could also have done with their goalkeeper commanding his penalty area with more authority.
Dutch fans must fear that Stekelenburg is never far from another mistake, particularly considering the enormity of the game. Spanish fans will have no such fears. That’s not to say Casillas isn’t also capable of making a crucial mistake, but based on everything we know, the European Champions have the advantage in the goalkeeping position.