The stage is set: Holland plays Spain Sunday in the World Cup final. If you're not Dutch or Spanish (or, possibly, even a soccer fan), what should you be looking for? Here's four surprising and unusual takes on the upcoming match.

  • The Final (Brand): Adidas vs. Nike  Though the World Cup "has been a field day for marketers" in general, writes Elie Ofek at the Harvard Business Review, "the stakes are particularly high for those brands that actually sell football gear. Two contenders, Adidas and Nike, each have a shot at becoming undisputed market leader when the whistle blows on July 11 and the final game concludes." They've been more or less neck-and-neck so far.
  • England Is in the Final After All!  Sort of. The referee will be English, observes The Telegraph's Jim White, who calls the English "world-beaters at straw-clutching." Meanwhile, "did you know that while Paul the Psychic Octopus may make his unfailingly accurate predictions from within a tank in Oberhausen, he was in fact born in Weymouth? Or that scientists from Loughborough helped design the Jabulani football? Or that our Deputy Prime Minister is the son of a Dutchwoman, and married to a Spaniard?"
  • The Final Game as Beauty and the Beast  "Holland are the blunt instrument of soccer villainy," declares Alan Black perplexingly at The Huffington Post, basing the proclamation mostly on the historical Dutch connection to Calvinism and midfielder Wesley Bneijder's "scary sneer." By contrast, "Spain is the oil painting of the Finals."
  • Historically, Holland's the Beauty  Slate's Brian Phillips admits to an attachment to Holland, "soccer's most gorgeous losers .. they became the icons of soccer romantics who would rather see teams play beautifully and lose than win and be boring." It's a case of the famous Dutch "total football" approach—"fluid position-switching, with players moving into open spaces and the whole formation adjusting on the fly"—against Spain's "tiki-taka soccer--inexorable passing, patient build-up play, constant pressing on defense." The problem, though, is that the Dutch don't actually play "total football" anymore, having "gradually phased [it] out ... in favor of a more prgamatic, and rougher, style of play." Now they just want to win. So Phillips is rooting for Spain: "It's not because I don't like Holland; it's because I like the history of Holland so much."