Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Campeones del Mundo

We have a new World Champion. In the aftermath of the dirtiest World Cup final in history, it's perhaps easy to forget that the team that won is one of the greatest sides we have ever had the privilege of watching. Yes, they never reached their best, or the heights of Euro 2008, but it is a testament to their quality that they didn't have to. Rather than focus on the disgraceful tactics of their Dutch opponents, or the performance of Howard Webb, we should applaud Spain, who have easily been the best team in the world over the past four years.

Everyone has already had their say on the final, so I won't go on too long about it. I think Holland were perfectly entitled to play defensively, but it was the constant fouling of Spain that really soured their performance. Though how much of it was a gameplan and how much was Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong automatically kicking the nearest living being is open to debate.

As for Webb, he was dealt a difficult hand given how the Dutch played, but only in England would a ref be praised for trying to keep everyone on the pitch. Kung-fu kicking someone in the chest is a red card offence whether it's a local park game or the World Cup final. Not sending him off because of the occassion is not an excuse, it's just a bad decision. Not only de Jong, but van Bommel should also have gone, on top of Heitinga's red. That said, pretty much every other yellow card was spot on, and Holland clearly didn't lose because of him, they lost because they made little effort to try to win the game, simply aimed to injure the opposition.

I've made no secret of my love for the matchwinner, Andres Iniesta, so it will come as no surprise that I was delighted when he smashed in his goal. What we can take from this final, if nothing else, is that he is most definitely the ultimate big game player. It's slightly strange, because normally the weakest aspect of his game is shooting, but on the big occasion he inevitably turns it on. His celebration was a nice touch as well, a tribute to the former Espanyol captain Dani Jarque, who died of a heart attack last year.

Now that the tournament is over, I'll keep doing blogs, some about the World Cup and some looking ahead, to keep us going until the new season kicks off. A team of the tournament seems a good place to start, so that will be the first thing to go through. I think you can guess who one of the players will be...

To finish with a bit of transfer talk, Liverpool are trying to sign James Beattie and Paul Scharner, how the mighty(ish) have fallen.

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