1. Who is this guy?
Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder has had a remarkable year. At this time last summer, he was being shopped for sale by his club, Spain’s Real Madrid. He eventually landed in Italy with one of that country’s biggest teams, Internazionale Milano, where he proved the key addition in leading his team to league and European titles. Now, Sneijder is on the verge of winning the World Cup, all within the same calendar year.
2. How has he done in this tournament?
Sniejder has been an analog for the Dutch’s entire tournament. At any given time, he doesn’t seem to be doing anything remarkable, but through timely play, he has five goals, almost all of them crucial to the Netherlands’ results. And although he deserves credit for being in position to take the goals, some of his tally involve more than a bit of good fortune. Regardless, sitting tied for the tournament lead in goals scored (with three other players), Sneijder is one of the few remaining contenders for the Golden Ball, awarded to the tournament’s best player.
3. What’s his role going to be on Sunday?
In the system the Netherlands play, Sneijder is the key player. He will be in a central, attacking midfield position and tasked with orchestrating the Dutch’s transition and attack. He is the player responsible for setting-up goal scoring chances for the Netherlands’ three other attacking players: Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie, and Dirk Kuyt.
4. Which opponent will be his closest on-field match-up?
Spain’s two defensive midfielders, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, can make this a long day for the Dutch if they can stifle Sneijder, but as Busquets may have to help with Robben, Alonso may be asked to play with more proficiency in defense than he’s accustomed.