“I am Dutch,” Cruyff said last week to El Periódico in Spain, where he lives. “But I will always defend the football Spain play.”-A Dutch Great Helped Transform Spain’s Game
That is an easy transition for him because the soccer Spain plays is downright Dutch, and it can trace its roots to Cruyff. At the height of his playing career in 1973, Cruyff joined Barcelona and played there five years, winning the Spanish championship and the Spanish cup. He had even greater success when he coached Barcelona from 1988 to 1996, winning four league titles and the 1992 European Cup.
He also helped establish methods used at the club’s acclaimed youth academy, La Masia, where a third of the current Spanish team learned a style of play that was neither Spanish nor Dutch, but which is internationally appealing and very effective....
The Spanish style is based on the Dutch system of “total football,” developed at the Amsterdam club Ajax, where Cruyff learned the game. It requires every player on the field to be a playmaker, as a dribbler or passer, depending on what the situation requires.
Open sections of the field were not gaps to be traversed with long passes or frantic runs forward; rather, they were areas to mount an organized, well-fortified attack with keen passing and combination play. That is the sort of play Spain has used here to dominate possession on its way to the final after losing to Switzerland, 1-0, in its opening match.
“I think Spain is the country playing the best football in the past few years,” Netherlands Coach Bert van Marwijk said Saturday. “I’ve been the coach of the national squad for two years now, and during that time, it has crossed my mind that I would love to play Spain, and now it is happening.”
He added: “Both teams have their own style, and they do resemble each other. Right now, Spain has executed better.”