Monday, 12 July 2010

World Cup Observations - Part 7: The Final

First and foremost, Congratulations to Spain for adding the World Cup to their Euro 2008 title. They were most people's favourites coming into the tournament and ultimately didn't disappoint. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, player for player, they're the best team in the world with no obvious flaws in their starting XI or perhaps even their squad. Also, if anyone in the team was more deserving of scoring the winner than Andres Iniesta, I'd like to hear it.

The weak link was supposed to be left back Capdevila who was pinpointed as such simply because he doesn't play for Barcelona or Real Madrid! As a part of a defence that only conceded 2 goals throughout the competition and manageing to keep the dangerous Robben relatively quiet when dutchman switched to that side of the pitch, the Villareal fullback has certainly proved his doubters wrong.


In further testament to the quality of the Spain team/squad, World Cup winners of years gone by have often featured odd player that really souldn't be there. This time around, there was no Stéphane Guivarc'h/Roque Junior to walk away with winners medal that their careers certainly did not merit.


But alas, it seems that the general consensus is that the biggest game in world football turned out to be a bit of an anti climax and for all intents and purposes a bit of a borefest. Don't get me wrong, it was far from the best football match ever but if you listen to some people, you'd be forgiven for thinking the game was no more enjoyable than trying to chew on marbles.

What I want to know is if all the people complaining about the match want to think about maybe that this was down to the defences of both sides? How about maybe giving the defenders and goalkeepers some credit perhaps? Or is it a case that maybe these idiots don't really understand that defending is a part of football too? To criticise the lack of so-called attacking flair on display is doing a disservice to the likes of Mathijsen, van Der Weil, Steklenburg, Pique and the aforementioned Capdevila among others. Even panto villians van Bommel and De Jong played superbly when they weren't trying to main and decapitate the Spanish team. Football isn't all tricks, flicks and great goals. A solid defensive performance can be just as impressive and free-flowing attacking football and if you can't understand that, then you are watching the wrong sport.


Some of the people that perpetuate this myth that there is only one way to play football are the bods in the studios who are for whatever reason, paid to repeat one another and repeat 'that was a poor game of football' in as many different ways as possible. Yes, we can see that. How about actually ANALYSING why it is so poor seeing as you are there as 'analysts' supposedly. These people will sit through a typical Chelsea v Liverpool match and claim that 90 minutes of no goal mouth action is an example of a great tactical battle in the so-called best league in the world. However, because they are so clueless about anything beyond our insular little island, everything else is just considered boring.


All week we've been force fed all kinds of rubbish about the fact 'our very own' Howard Webb was to referee the World Cup final like it was something that was even remotely good for English football in some way and as if it mattered in the slightest. Anyone who has even watched just one minute of a match Webb has taken charge of would have known that giving him such a big game was akin to getting Amy Winehouse and the fat bloke from Lost to procreate; the end result is only ever going to turn out hideously ugly.

Webb had what could only be technically described as a 'mare' and left watching fans asking the question 'when is s a red card not a red card?' Before swiftly answering with 'when Howard Webb is in charge'. People complaining about the way the Dutch went out and supposedly kicked the Spanish around for 120 minutes should realise that they only pushed the boundaries of 'physicality' as far as they were allowed to by the man in the middle. Aside from his inconsistencies over fouls, Webb failed to award Holland the most obvious corner in the history of football and seconds later Iniesta scored the goal that won the tournament for Spain.

Some have tried to defend Webb by suggesting it was a "difficult game". Really? I'd always expect that a World Cup final with two committed teams who have never won it before would be a stroll in the park!


Another major talking point came during the second half when Arjen Robben was through on goal in the second half and was clearly fouled by Carlos Puyol. As hell froze over and some pot-bellied pigs were reported to have been seen in South African airspace, the dutch winger actually stayed on his feet and went on to try and score. The widly accepted view of the incident is that if Robben had gone down, Puyol would/should/could have been sent off. Surely Puyol still committed the foul regardless of whether Robben went down or not and should have been punished regardless of the advantage gained?

Did Robben even get an advantage? You could easily argue his momentum had been severely affected by Puyol's foul. Either way, he'll be regretting the fact he chose not to show all the strength of an anemic schoolgirl and tumble to ground from the slightest physical contact. Another poor decision from Webb.


Turns out Spain are the lowest scoring team to ever win the World Cup. While I suggested that they need more goals to do their possession and positive play some justice, no-one can argue that they have played a better game than their opponents on Sunday. The Dutch team is filled with quality players but clearly didn't play as well as we all know they have the potential to and ultimately probably didn't deserve to win the final.

That said, their combative and conservative style almost paid off. By playing the way they did, they gave themselves a decent chance of winning against the goal-shy Spaniards and lo and behold if they were to take one of the few guilt-edged chances they created in normal time, it certainly wouldn't be the Iberians who we'd be referring to as world champions right now.


But apparently, according to some, the Dutch tactics were not in the spirit of the game or something. I find it funny in this country when a foreign manager has the nerve to complain about bad tackles and everyone gets sanctimonious about 'playing to their strengths', takes pride in 'getting stuck in' and playing a 'man's game' etc. Yet these same people that defend rough play have been quick to point the finger at Jean Claude Van Bommel and the rest of the Orange assault team.

That's not to say kicking lumps out of people is right but the preachy self righteous double-standard from those unfortunately allowed a forum to speak is almost as bad in my eyes.

Also, all the whingers calling the Dutch 'dirty' seem to be happy to turn a blind eye to all Spain's diving and playacting. I'm pretty sure that isn't good for 'the game' either, is it?

Which is worse? Tough tackling or Diving? I guess it just depends which side is your bread buttered I guess.


Finally, after the third World Cup final defeat, would it be safe to say that the dutch have played up national stereotypes by constantly making a hash of things? Their fans must be feeling very flat at the moment.



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