Leading article: Neutral at last

Saturday 10 July 2010 00:00
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If sport is war without the shooting, tomorrow's World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands in South Africa picks up a most venerable conflict.

These two European superpowers went at it for 80 years back in the 16th and 17th centuries. Perhaps we should place our bets on Sunday's clash in Soccer City going to extra time. But who should England get behind on the historical record? It's a tough one. England sided with the Dutch against the Spanish in the Eighty Years' War. But, not long after, Cromwell was tangling with these Protestant cousins.

Spare a thought, too, for our Deputy Prime Minister. Nick Clegg has a Spanish wife and a Dutch mother. Perhaps Howard Webb will not be the only Englishman playing referee tomorrow.

It would, of course, have been good if England had made it to Johannesburg for tomorrow's final. But we have to admit that it is rather nice to be a neutral, for a change, as old empires clash. Hup Holland! Viva España! And may the best team win.

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