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 teammate's face at Soccer City. Kuyt was first to make contact following Holland's 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. He wished us luck yesterday and now it is 100 per cent certain that Liverpool will have a World Cup winner. "That is something to be proud of at least but hopefully on Sunday Dirk won't be that happy."
Almost certainly, Reina will be restricted to a watching brief, as he has been all the way through the tournament. The lot of a No 2 keeper may be dripping with opportunity, but not if the No 1 is also the team's captain. Reina must act as chief support to Iker Casillas, whilst also holding off the challenge of Victor Valdes, Barcelona's Champions League-winning keeper. The Liverpool keeper says he expects to see a typically industrious display from Kuyt. "We all know Dirk's game," said Reina.
"He does an awful lot of work and we know how important he is for the team. "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 energy was the limit of Holland's talents, Spain would be cruising towards their first World Cup this weekend. "Holland have a lot of strengths," Reina said. "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."
Nevertheless, Spain still start as overwhelming favourites to exert a superiority that has been evident since that scorching run to Euro 2008 glory in Vienna. There was one wobble against the United States at last summer's Confederations Cup, and the poor form of Fernando Torres has deprived Spain of the cutting edge their brilliant passing game requires for it to be truly effective. But it has not stopped them moving to the brink of history.