Van Bommel set on stopping Spain
World Cup 2010: Johannesburg
The players of Spain and the Netherlands, as well as their coaching staff and supporters, face their day of destiny at Soccer City on Sunday.
The winners will make history by becoming the eighth team to win the Fifa World Cup. Back home the triumphant players will become legends.
Thankfully there is a pleasing variety of potential match-winners on both sides; technically gifted players who possess the ability to unlock the opposition with a moment of invention and skill.
David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Xavi for Spain, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben for the Dutch - these are just six who could provide us with a final to savour.
But when thinking about the match and whose influence could prove to be decisive, I keep coming back to Dutch midfielder Mark van Bommel.
He plays alongside Nigel de Jong in a deep-sitting central midfield role. Together they provide the defensive stability that allows the Dutch full-backs and attacking midfielders to push forward.
They are also charged with snuffing out the opposition and winning back the ball.
Van Bommel is the 'rough em up man' in the Dutch team and how effectively he performs on Sunday will directly impact on Spain's much-feted passing game.
He will occupy the same space as Iniesta, Xavi and Xabi Alonso, the first two of whom are on the 10-man shortlist for the prestigious Fifa Golden Ball award given to the tournament's best player.
We saw against Germany in Durban on Wednesday how easily Spain control possession when they are gifted the space and time to do so - and it is a point that has not been missed by Van Bommel.
"We have to break their midfield and stop their playmakers from playing," said Van Bommel, a former team-mate of both Iniesta and Xavi at Spanish side Barcelona.
"That is our biggest mission because they are both great talents."
Fifa statistics show that Van Bommel has committed 12 fouls in six games. His only booking was for dissent late in the semi-final against Uruguay after the Bayern Munich man argued with the referee.
But he could have been booked for a tackle on Walter Gargano earlier in the contest, while fouls on Martin Caceres and Sebastian Fernandez were also cynical.
A cursory browse around the internet will tell you that Van Bommel is not to everybody's taste. The words cynical, robust and nasty are used to describe his style of play.
Indeed, Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk has this week publicly defended his midfielder.
"I don't agree with what people are saying," said Van Marwijk, who is the player's father-in-law.
"The yellow card on Tuesday was his first of the competition. He has shown a lot of discipline in his play."
It would be both wrong and naive to cast Van Bommel as some kind of old-fashioned hatchet man, as a player who is graceless and entirely devoid of footballing ability.
Players in that category do not play for PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and Bayern.
Van Bommel was uncompromising during the Netherlands' win over Uruguay
Think back to a friendly against England at White Hart Lane in 2001 and the opening goal of a 2-0 win that Van Bommel scored. It was a truly stunning strike from 35 yards and hinted at a player with a high technical ability.
He retired from international football in September 2006 when Marco van Basten was in charge but returned after a two-year absence following the appointment of Van Marwijk.
Van Bommel now finds himself one victory from becoming a World Cup winner and I expect him to do everything possible to try to shut down the Spanish midfield on Sunday.
However, against the backdrop of so many column inches about the supposedly easy ride he has been given by referees, it will be interesting to watch the approach of Howard Webb at Soccer City.
The Rotherham-born official is the first Englishman to take charge of a World Cup final since Jack Taylor in 1974. He has not stood for any on-field nonsense in South Africa and has made his approach very clear early in the games he has refereed.
Taylor awarded a penalty to the Netherlands after just two minutes of the 1974 final in Munich after a foul on Johann Cruyff by Uli Hoeness. Johan Neeskens scored but the gifted Dutch side that had been coach by Rinus Michels went on to lose 2-1.
They also lost the 1978 final as well and have waited 32 years for their third attempt to lift the trophy that their contribution to the global game surely deserves.
Osvaldo Ardiles was in the Argentina team which defeated the Netherlands in 1978 and believes that the Dutch team back then resembles the current Spain side, characterised as they both are by a desire to own the football.
Spain, the Euro 2008 champions, are in the final for the first time - and have reached this stage after three 1-0 wins in the knock-out rounds.
Alonso said after his side's 1-0 victory over Germany in Durban that he felt Spain were becoming increasingly fluent in midfield.
"The way we are playing is good because we give so much importance to the association between the players, keeping the ball and having good options," said the 28-year-old.
If the tiki-taka flows it could be a long evening for Van Bommel, who at 33 is approaching the veteran stage and ill-suited to chasing shadows.
But if a cynical trip or a subtle tug of the shirt is required to halt an attack in its infancy then I do not expect him to hesitate, while a continual series of niggly fouls to break up play could be the order of the day.
The World Cup will have a new winner for the first time since France 1998 - and, love him or loathe him, the impact of Van Bommel on Sunday will go a long way to deciding whose name is on the trophy.