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World Cup final: Netherlands to play unfamiliar role of spoiler

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Eugene Hoshiko/AP

(Read caption) A Spain fan held a Spanish flag on Sunday before the World Cup final soccer match between Spain and the Netherlands at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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On this potentially most glorious of days for Dutch soccer, there is a bitter irony to the World Cup final Sunday.

The Netherlands has reached the cusp of its first-ever World Cup title not by playing the flexible and mesmerizing brand of soccer that it largely invented in the 1970s, but rather by making the same concession that soccer teams the world over have repeatedly made: Winning soccer is more important than beautiful soccer.

Yet it is on this day in particular that that sacrifice will appear particularly galling.

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