Soccer: Villa fitness worries amid fears Dutch will play ugly

By Sam Wallace, Pete Jenson

Fernando Torres may yet get his wish to start the World Cup final for Spain tomorrow because of lingering fears over the fitness of striker David Villa, who is understood to be worried about a dead leg.

The team's top scorer at the tournament with five goals, Villa was walking around without obvious discomfort yesterday at their base in Potchefstroom.

However, he refused to speak to Spanish media, sparking reports the problem with his leg may be worse than first thought.

Torres, dropped for the semifinal against Germany, has told manager Vicente del Bosque he is desperate to play.

If Villa is passed fit, Del Bosque is expected to name an unchanged team from the one that eliminated Germany, with the Barcelona winger Pedro Rodriguez giving the side the width that was so effective.

Goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas said yesterday their team spirit had been so good, they had not had a single argument since they convened last month.

"Above all club rivalry - regardless of whether you play for Barcelona, Valencia or Real Madrid - is la seleccin. In the past, all the pieces did not fit together but now, from the first to the last member of the squad, everyone is important.

"There has not been any friction in 40 days together and as Pedro showed in the semifinal, anyone can step forward and play from the start.

"Del Bosque is doing a fabulous job. I have worked with him before and he is the same as always. He does not want to appear in the photos, he does not want the praise, he does not want to be the star. He is charismatic, intelligent and noble. This success is down to him because he has known exactly how to guide us through the tournament."

There are fears in the Spain camp, however, that the Dutch may abandon their more attacking, creative style in order to contain their opponents.

Even Arjen Robben said yesterday that Holland would be prepared to win "ugly" if that was the difference between winning or losing the country's third World Cup final.

"I'd rather play an extremely ugly game and win, instead of a beautiful one and lose," Robben said.

"In the past, we heard often how beautiful it was, but there was no payback. So far, it [the more defensive football this team are playing] has produced. We have yet to show our most beautiful football. But we have always been able to fall back on good organisation."

The Spanish are concerned that because referee Howard Webb is English, he will be more lenient on fouls than an official from another European country, or South America. However, Casillas said that he believed the Dutch would be true to their roots as an attacking team.

He said: "I don't think they will close-up. They have quick players and individuals who are in spectacular form. They will be like us - true to their style.

"I know how quick, and how strong Robben is. Yes, it worries me that he could pose a threat shooting from distance but we have to make sure that we block him.

"Holland are a lot more than Robben. They are strong at the back, and in midfield they have Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt, who are both very dangerous."

- INDEPENDENT

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