An Eighth Side In


Whether La Roja or the Oranje, FIFA will welcome an eighth nation to its World Cup champion kingdom today.

Long characterized as the top futbol nations never to have hoisted the golden trophy, Spain or The Netherlands will join Brazil (five titles), Italy (four), Germany (three), Argentina (two), Uruguay (two), France and England as the only countries to bask in that glory.

While it won’t be the same as if the U.S. or Mexico were in the mix for ABC or Univision (as motherland, Spain’s presence has to boost the U.S. Hispanic media leader’s Nielsen fortunes here), the finalists play artistic and offensive soccer that should make for an entertaining match. The audience total will go a long way toward showing just how much/many Americans have come to care about the world’s biggest sporting event.

The hope here is that one side scores early, the other chases the action and the match truly opens up. A 3-2 scoreline would do wonders for the sport in the States. Yesterday’s third-place contest — where obviously the stakes weren’t nearly as high — was one of the most entertaining matches from South Africa, with both Germany and Uruguay playing end to end. The outcome wasn’t settled until Diego Forlan’s free kick rattled off the crossbar on the last play.

If Forlan and Uruguayan followers, including “The Prince,” Enzo Francescoli, the founder of Gol TV, were forlorn, viewers won’t be if Spain-Holland attack with the same intensity.