PEPE REINA has already exchanged jubilant text messages with Dirk Kuyt in anticipation of Sunday’s World Cup final – but he hopes the smile is wiped off his Liverpool team-mate’s face at Soccer City.
Kuyt was first to make contact following the Netherlands’ victory over Uruguay in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Twenty-four hours later it was Reina’s turn to respond after Spain had booked their first appearance on the game’s greatest stage by overcoming German resistance.
The chat will continue to be jovial for the next couple of days.
But Reina knows by the final whistle, only one man will be celebrating. And he is confident it will be him.
“I have been in touch with Dirk and I heard from him before and after the game,” said Reina.
Almost certainly, Reina will be restricted to a watching brief, as he has been all the way through the tournament.
The lot of a number two keeper may be dripping with opportunity if you are behind Robert Green in the pecking order, as David James was before the West Ham keeper’s woeful error in England’s opening game against the United States, but not if the number one is also the team’s captain.
If Reina was English, he would be an automatic choice. With Spain he must act as chief support to Iker Casillas, whilst also holding off the challenge of Barcelona’s Champions League-winning keeper Victor Valdes. It means Reina will be watching Sunday’s game from the bench rather than starring in it. And he expects to see a typically industrious display from Kuyt.
“We all know Dirk’s game,” said Reina. “He is a top-class player. It is going to be really tough for us to stop him on Sunday because, as everyone knows, he never stops running.”
If Kuyt’s boundless energy was the limit of the Netherlands’ talents, Spain would be cruising towards their first World Cup this weekend.
But they have other attributes as well. Robin van Persie is proving to be an excellent battering ram, allowing Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder to exploit the space behind in a manner England couldn’t do.
“Holland have a lot of strengths,” said Reina. “I don’t have enough fingers to count them all.
“If they are in the final by beating good teams like Brazil it is because they fully deserve to be there. Sunday is going to be really difficult.”
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