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:
It’s all over now, folks. What’d you take away from the 2010 World Cup?