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World Cup: Dutch hope title hopes don't go up in thin air

After opening its World Cup at altitude, the Netherlands has spent much of the past month playing at sea level in Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. But now they're back in Johannesburg and Soccer City, which are more than a mile high. And that can affect both the players and the highly erractic Jabulani match ball, the players and their coach said Saturday on the eve of their World Cup final with Spain.

"It is good that we had some days to get used to circumstances again; it is necessary. You could see that how the ball reacted today," said Dutch Coach Bert van Marwijk, whose team practiced long passes in the thin air.

Captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst agreed the change in altitude takes some time to get used to.

"You can really notice it," Van Bronckhorst said. "We have to concentrate and focus because the ball has a different trajectory. You have to adjust again, especially with long passes through the air as the ball moves completely different.

"But once you get in the match, things go automatically."

Spain is even more confident about the conditions, said midfielder Xavi Hernandez.

"I don't think we'll have any problems with the altitude or the ball," he said.

-- Kevin Baxter, reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa


 
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