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Dutch legend Cruyff tips Spain to win first World Cup crown

Johan Cruyff believes Spain finally have a strong enough team to go all the way and win the World Cup.
Johan Cruyff believes Spain finally have a strong enough team to go all the way and win the World Cup.
  • Spain favorites to beat Netherlands in Sunday's World Cup final, says Johan Cruyff
  • Dutch legend is also popular in Spain after his time with Barcelona as player and coach
  • Cruyff says Spain now have a strong team, not a collection of individuals as before
  • Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta says European champions must step up a gear to win

(CNN) -- Spain will add the World Cup to their European title by beating the Netherlands in Sunday's final, according to Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff.

The 63-year-old was the leading figure in Holland's revolutionary "total football" approach in the 1970s, when he also starred for Spanish giants Barcelona for five years before managing the Catalan club from 1988 to 1996.

Cruyff's compatriots are seeking to earn the northern European nation a first World Cup title, having lost in the 1974 final in Germany and then again in Argentina four years later when he had retired from the international stage.

However, the former Ajax player and manager believes Euro 2008 winners Spain will break their own title drought on soccer's biggest stage in their first final in Johannesburg.

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"Spain have always had good footballers and never a team, but now they have one," he said, as quoted by the UK Press Association.

"They have worked very well in the last few years and if they get into their rhythm, they should win. Normally Spain play better [than Holland] but that doesn't mean they will win."

Cruyff said coach Bert van Marwijk's unbeaten Dutch side would present a difficult challenge for the Spaniards.

Dream swansong for Dutch captain

"Holland is a very balanced team, they know their strengths and their weaknesses, and up until now they have always been able to make their strengths shine through," he said.

"They have two or three players playing at an exceptional level at the World Cup and the team's level has risen enormously."

Spain must improve on their form so far if they are to become the first team in 36 years to win the European Championship and then the World Cup, according to midfielder Andres Iniesta.

Only two teams have ever held both titles at once, with France doing it the other way around to Germany by winning the 1998 World Cup and then Euro 2000.

This is a historic event, a unique opportunity for us all. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up just thinking about it
--Andres Iniesta

Vicente Del Bosque's Spain team have yet to fire on all cylinders at the tournament, losing to Switzerland in the opening match and then winning all three knockout stage matches 1-0 -- including the semifinal against Germany.

Striker Fernando Torres has struggled to regain his form after knee surgery, leaving five-goal David Villa to shoulder attacking responsibilities.

"The initial defeat against Switzerland upset us all," Iniesta said. "It was the first game and from that moment we had no margin for error. We knew we could not fail. I hope it proves to be the only game we lose.

"We will play better because we will probably have to if we are going to win the World Cup. What we did in the semifinal certainly won't help us to win the final.

"But I have confidence in my teammates, and I think this group is able to take the final step."

Iniesta said his cohorts were well aware of the enormity of the occasion ahead.

"This is a historic event, a unique opportunity for us all. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up just thinking about it," the 26-year-old said.

"We have all dreamed of this moment. But we have to finish the dream. We cannot celebrate anything yet. Before us is the challenge of winning a World Cup.

"We are cautious because we know that we still have the last step, and that last step is the most difficult and the most beautiful."

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