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Iniestazo… azo… AZO! Or, as Jose Antonio Camacho, former Madridista and Spain left back exclaimed: “Iniesta de my vida”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I won’t say the World Cup final degenerated into an awful spectacle of fouling and anti-football, because in order to have degenerated into that, it would have had to have started out better. Regardless, La Furia Roja took home their first Jules Rimet trophy, and were the more worthy team in having done so. Please join me won’t you, for one final review before we move back into the realm of the club. Once more into the breach.
Honestly, I don’t know how much more I can say about the game that hasn’t been said or wasn’t available on a general viewing, but I will try. Let’s get this out there straightaway: Howard Webb did not call a particularly wonderful game, but he was also given the unenviable task of presiding over a one team whose entire goal was to hack their opposing side down, and another side that eventually resorted to diving. It’s a situation no referee ever wants to be in.
That being said, Netherlands came out ill-prepared and little interested in doing anything other than counter-attacking from the outset. Manager Bert van Marjwijk seemed to take Jose Mourinho’s and Guus Hiddink’s playbooks against Barcelona, strip them of any creativity or use of their best players, and then set them loose. Nigel de Jong’s criminal chest kick should have seen him sent off, and Van Bommel also decided he hadn’t nearly ended anyone’s career since the last time he stepped on the pitch, so it was about time to do that. It may sound like I am bitching, and I probably am, but it’s really no way to play a game, especially when you are as talented as Holland, and it really shows a lack of faith in one’s side. I’m just saying.
Either way, both sides had their chances during the run of play with Spain dominating possession and Robben attempting to make up for the shackles on Sneijder and van Persie’s feet recently having been cast in concrete. Xaviniesta was in full effect, with the latter playing even more on the offense, but failing to shoot on 2 wide open chances. Xavi had his normal talismanic game, putting passes where only he can, covering more distance than anyone, and adequately covering in defense. David Villa, sadly, was getting little service and other than one attempt that was blocked at the doorstep, had a frustrating outing. Simiarly, Pedro had issues with the speedy and overpowering Dutch defenders, finding space rarely. A frustrating offensive game for Spain, in that they had possession but either lost it or missed chances when it counted until the end. The Dutch did a good job in defense, only losing their marks or leaving players open sparingly, but tenacity and resilience won the day for Spain.
In the back, when Dutch forays were made, they were usually stopped, save a couple of beautiful through balls that uncharacteristically troubled Puyol and Pique. On the other hand, it must be said that Iker Casillas was the Man of the Match. He made no less than 4 game-saving saves, two of which were on Robben breakaways in one-on-one situations. I would elaborate more on the Dutch offensive play, but let’s be honest, unless your name is Robben, you were doing very little other than providing the occasional pass. Part of this was due to Spanish pressure both on the ball and off, voiding out much Duth creativity (a special note to Sergi Busquets who blanketed Sneijder all night, frustrating him to the point of tears), but the passing and movement also stifled the orange up front, Ramos especially in forcing Kuyt to hold back. Puyol probably deserved a second yellow for his “professional” foul on Robben, but the king of dives is never, ever, going to get that call, especially from Howard Webb.
In the end this came down to one piece of individual brilliance, a few strokes of luck, Spanish resolve, and good team play. Iniesta’s goal was beautiful in many ways, coming off a broken play at the end of Extra Time, and fitting for a player who has made a career of such heroics and patented the Iniestazo. Many have complained about Heitenga’s sending off 10 minutes earlier, but in truth, it was mostly deserved, and the Dutch were lucky to have been playing with 11 men for that long, when they should have been reduced to 9 in the first half. Iniesta did look to have dived a little, but if I was Webb, I probably would have made the same call. So congratulations to Spain are deserved there.
It should be noted that prior to the Final, the Oranje were an entertaining and sometimes brilliant side. They deserve many kudos and it is certainly a sad day for them, finishing second for the third time in their wonderful history. I always have been, and always will be, a fan of a team with such offensive flair that wears the most garish kits one may find.
I know all of this is a bit random and mish-mashed, but in truth, I can’t find much more to say. The best side won in an ugly and frustrating game. The most consistent and best defensive side (having given up only 2 goals all tournament, defensive prowess that was even better than Italy of 2006) throughout the tournament also won. Finally, Barça-style football won, and I think the world saw that yesterday. You all know the rest, you saw it with your own two eyes. Perhaps this side did not have their usual flair for the obscene, but it’s difficult to have any such flair when every team you play packs the box (save Chile), has no interest in moving forward, and mostly attempts to hack you. And in the end, the most important thing is to win, and do it consistently. Spain did that after the Switzerland match, 2-0, 2-1, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0. The Dutch played ugly and lost and missed their chances (of course Spain missed all theirs, save one) and the Spanish fought through it all to capture their first World Cup championship, not in the most pleasing fashion, but in one surely befitting such a World Cup as this one. And that’s all that matters for a deserving champion.
So we leave you where I thought it would end anyway, with Xavi hoisting the trophy and Spain finally putting to rest any doubts about their national side for now, or in the future. They hold the only two trophies that matter and are certainly the best side in the world.
Before we are done, a few final personal thoughts and “awards” from the World Cup, you know, just for fun. Also, be sure to check The Big Picture blog’s amazing and beautiful photo journey through the World Cup.
Player With The Biggest Payday Coming: Mesut Ozil, Germany. He’s 21, plays for Bremen and supposedly has every major club in the world, including Barcelona, making offers. He’s either going to become the wealthiest player at Bremen, or make his move to the big guys soon.
Luke’s World Cup Best XI:
Just missed out: Stekelnberg, Robben, Ryan Nelson (NZ), Sneijder, Messi, Jon Mensah (Ghana), Coentrao (Portugal), Maicon, Ozil.
Most Surprising Team: New Zealand. The All Whites were excellent, finishing as the only undefeated team (although it was 3 ties, but still). The lowest ranked team according to FIFA coming played well against tough guys Paraguay, Italy, and Slovakia. Congratulations boys.
Most Entertaining Team: Uruguay. Their group stage matches were something of a bore, but in the next rounds, these guys were great to watch. Suarez’s golazo to beat South Korea; the transcendent event that was the Ghana match; the comeback against an overpowering Netherlands side; and Forlan hitting the post on the final kick in the Third Place Game. Great tournament boys and we hope you will do it again.
Most Disappointing Tournament from a “Star” Player: Kaka. Torres and Cristiano Ronaldo both had a case here (although in Ronaldo’s case, it may have been more a managerial issue, but that’s neither here nor there), but Kaka was absolutely dreadful. He stifled any Brazilian creativity and was utterly useless for most of his team’s games, especially the Netherlands match, where he was the worst player, Felipe Melo notwithstanding.
Most Disappointing Team: England. Has to be. Italy and France were both bad, but I expected them to be, and so did many others. England on the other hand, barely beat Slovenia and were then demolished, absolutely crushed by Germany. A team with such talent should never do this. An over reliance on overrated defensive players will do that I guess.
Golden Ball: Xavi. I actually don’t have an issue with Forlan here, because he carried an underrated Uruguay side as far as they could go. But Xavi was the cog that led Spain through to the championship. This is just my pick, but I thought any one of Xavi, Iniesta, Forlan, Robben, or David Villa might have won it.
Best Moment: Iniesta scores and memorializes Dani Jarque. Biggest goal of the tournament and Iniesta sends his love to a close friend of his. Beautiful stuff there.
Most Surreal Moment: Suarez, Gyan. In the 118th minutes Suarez saves 3 balls off the line, one with his hands, and then Gyan misses a last second penalty to send Ghana through. Then they lose in the penalty shootout. Brutal. Beautiful. Surreal.
That’s it for Barcelona Football Blog’s coverage and we really hope you have enjoyed it. We will have coverage of the upcoming FC Barcelona and La Liga season starting soon, so please keep coming back for more. Viva España! Visca Barça!
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