Monday, 12 July 2010

Is That What You Do In The Face Of Skill?

19th World Cup Final, Soccer City – Johannesburg; Netherlands 0 Spain 1 (After Extra Time)

Sometimes the final of a tournament put’s the cap on a wonderful tournament, sometimes the final is a damp squib after a good tournament and sometimes like in 1990 and here, the final was as poor as the rest of the tournament.  Spain deserved to win the game and the tournament because they were the most skilful side, the best side defensively, and when it mattered the most incisive side.  My only criticism is that at times they pass the ball just for the sake of passing the ball even after the chance has appeared.

The game started with Spain keeping possession early on.  Ramos had a header early on which he should have scored with.  As the first half wore on though the Netherlands got back into the match, with less than fair means.  Van Persie picked up the first yellow after 14 minutes for going in late on Captevillia, Puyol then picked up a yellow a couple of minutes later for a foul on Van Persie.  Van Bommel picked up a yellow for a tackle from behind on Iniesta, while his midfield partner De Jong picked up a yellow 5 minutes later for a foul straight out of the Graeme Souness book of X-rated fouls (pictured left).  One of my childhood friends who i still see regularly,  had a phrase which perfectly describe’s the Netherlands tactics “Is that what you do in the face of skill?” .

The second half was not a great improvement.  Robben had a great chance to open the scoring, but his shot was diverted by Castillias foot, while with 9 minutes left Iniesta is thwarted by a Sneijder stop.  Robben had a golden opportunity minutes later when he was through and shrugged off a challenge from Pujol, but couldn’t recover from that challenge.  In extra time, the game opened up, but still failed to hit the heights.  Substitute Fabregas was put through on goal but saw his shot saved by Stelelenburg.  Minutes later Iniesta was put through but indecision cost him his moment, Navas saw a shot deflected by Van Bronkhorst, while just before half time in extra time Fabregas shot just wide of the goal.

Advantage Spain arrived with 10 minutes to go in Extra time, when the Dutch defender Heitiga brought down Iniesta going for a 1-2 from his Barca team mate Xavi.  The English referee Webb sent the Dutch defender off.  Webb it has to be said did not have the best of matches, but was not aided by the behaviour of the players.  With 4 minutes to go, Spain produced a passing movement which brought about relief more than excitement.  Substitute Torresput a cross into the box which found its way to Fabregas, who passed to his right to an advancing Iniesta who volleyed past Stekelenburg (picture right).  Four minutes later and the ordeal was over.

Iniesta’s goal, the two Robben chances and a couple of Spain chances are the moments which have saved this game from being one of the worst games I have seen.  South Africa 2010 has not been a successful World Cup, with a very poor standard of football played with a joke of a ball, and many games played in front of stadiums which were not full.  Everyone concerned with football needs to take a long, hard look at themselves starting with FIFA.

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