WORLD CUP FINAL: Spain 1-0 Netherlands
8 goals in 7 games net Spain the World Cup. Despite the paltry scoring, they’re deserving champions — I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a midfield dominate possession so completely and effortlessly in every game. They sent teams chasing after the ball until an opening presented itself, usually late, and they could punch home a goal.
There’s not a lot to report from the 120 minute foul-fest inflicted on us by both teams other than that the 12 total yellow cards doubled the previous record in a final. We saw the Dutch abandon their Total Football roots to become a chest-kicking, groin-bashing mixed martial arts squad, and the plan nearly worked. Spain still held the ball for more than 60% of the game, but there was much less flow and build-up than we normally saw from them. Full time plus extra time saw the best 2 teams in the world put only 8 shots on target, and even that makes the game sound better than it felt.
Holland’s Arjen Robben had a couple glorious chances to win the World Cup. His best came when Wesley Sneijder put him through in the 62nd, all alone vs Casillas. Robben fired to his left, and Casillas laid out for the ball. Only a few of his outstretched toes caught the ball, but it was enough to deflect the powerful shot and save the day for Spain.
The Dutch had a few other chances to go ahead, but they were far from the only team to blow chances. David Villa missed one from point blank, Sergio Ramos wasted an unmarked header, and Iniesta found new and interesting ways to dribble the ball into defenders in the box.
But no one will be complaining about Andres Iniesta after today. In the 116th, Torres flopped a ball that wound up in Fabregas’ lap at the top of the box. He rolled it to Iniesta on his right, who took a touch and then sent a low ball to his left and into the net. Van Stekelenburg had been solid in goal for the Netherlands the entire tournament, and he managed to get an arm on Iniesta’s shot, but it was hit too true to be flung off course. Still, I think he caught more of the ball than Casillas did on that earlier Robben breakaway; tough to take if you’re the keeper, no doubt.
With that, Holland’s negativity went unrewarded, and that’s probably for the best. Sneijder, Kuyt and Robben made great impressions the last few weeks, but it would’ve been depressing if a team capable of beauty were handed a trophy after raking in 7 yellows by themselves. Spain engaged in some nasty contact, too, and also had some embarrassing dives (including Iniesta’s that sent Heitinga off in the 112th), but they were the more positive team. Every team — including new-look Germany and the Netherlands — went all out to defend against Spain. While every single one of them succeeded in making it an ugly game, they were all sent home for their negativity. Germany lamented their unwillingness to go forward after their loss; I wonder if the Dutch will feel the same?
So what have we learned from the 2010 World Cup? Among many other things:
- Fernando Torres is a mess, physically and mentally. He pulled another hammy at the end of this game and looked miserable in the post-game celebration. He goes from game-winning scorer at the 2008 Euros to ridiculed dead weight at the 2010 World Cup. Ouch.
- David Villa’s the best striker in the world. Valencia have to be kicking themselves for selling before this run, and with Barca/Spain teammates Xavi and Iniesta feeding him every game, Villa should put on quite a show in 2010-2011.
- Germany’s kids are outstanding. That third-place game left a lot of people wondering how 2010 Golden Boot winner Thomas Müller might’ve impacted the game against Spain had he not been suspended. They had stars all over the pitch — Schweinsteiger pulled the strings masterfully, Ozil came out of nowhere to wow us in the group stage, and Neuer looked solid in goal.
- If David Villa isn’t the best striker in the world, Diego Forlan is. Not only can he finish in the box, not only can he drill free kicks from anywhere in the field, but he has outstanding vision and passing touch. He won the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament and I don’t see how anyone but Villa could argue. It’d be nice to see him get one last chance on an elite team.
- Wesley Sneijder also has an argument, actually. He’s the best quarterback in the world. And not a bad finisher, either.
- England still sucks.
- Everyone wants to love Diego Maradona even though he’s a selfish, bigoted ass. Remember, this is a guy who ran over a photographer and then called him the asshole.
- Negativity was prevalent, from Switzerland to Holland (that’s a lot farther in World Cup terms than geographic terms) to Paraguay, but unlike the Champions League, it came home empty-handed.
- Brazil was the second-best team of the tournament. They deserved to go out thanks to Felipe Melo’s meltdown, but they were the only team that might’ve been able to impose a will of their own against Spain. But hey, they were unusually negative themselves, so if they were gonna blow a tourney, I’m glad it was this one.
- Will football ever sound right without vuvuzelas again?
It’s all over now, folks. What’d you take away from the 2010 World Cup?