World Cup Review: Final

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.

Lars Baron/Getty Images Europe

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:
Forlan-David Villa

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!

First Update
Second Update
Third Update
Fourth Update
Fifth Update
Round of 16 Update
Quarterfinals Update
Semifinals Update

If you like this, feel free to follow me on Twitter, @lukeisamazing

By Luke

We calls 'em likes we sees 'em.


  1. Nice write up Luke! I really enjoyed your posts!

    If Ozil were to sign for Barça, where do you think he’d play? Would he be in competition with Xaviniesta?

    1. A tough question for sure, but I see Ozil as somewhere between Xaviniesta, although I think joining this year would be bad for him, growth-wise, because he needs regular playing time, and he’s not good enough, right now, to start over either of them, nor could he play over Busquets.

      Rumors I saw were Hleb + 20M for Ozil, but he stays at Bremen on loan for 1 year. I am a huge fan of Ozil’s, but I see him as even more of a risk than Cesc would be. He’s so young and needs more experience to get to that greatness point he can attain.

      Then again, when I saw Cesc playing with Xaviniesta yesterday, I thought I saw the future, so who knows? I may experiencing visions?

    2. I think Ozil said he is going to fulfill his contract, so we won’t see him this summer. Cesc isn’t coming, so I hope our staff is looking at other players. 3 signings now, dammit!

  2. i have to go with ronaldo as the most disappointing. yes, the team was bad but he in no way at all tried to do team-play. he kept on shooting from everywhere no matter how many team mates there are available.
    rooney is another big disappointment.

    torres actually made good runs, positioned himself right during the group stages. kaka too.

    hopefully there wont be anymore gooners in this post.

  3. What a beautiful, beautiful tournament. And recaps, Luke. Whether I agree or disagree, thanks for providing such intriguing commentary.

    La Furia Roja!

    If that doesn’t hype our boys up for next season, what will?

    1. Also, Forlan winning that golden ball was a bit of justice we rarely see in the world of sports. He was the best player in the tournament (bar none) and deserved that award more than anyone has ever deserved any MVP award (bar none). I was surprised, though, that FIFA saw that. But why should I be?

  4. Thanks Luke, for all the wonderful writings, and insights into the world cup – BG

  5. Nice round up, you’ve done a great job all WC.

    For the Golden Ball, Forlan was a good choice, can’t hate on that, but if it were between Xavi or Iniesta, I would have to go with Iniesta because to me, he created more than Xavi this tournament. Iniesta was the one destabilizing player for Spain. Plus, I don’t think Xavi was himself till the Germany match.

  6. Nice write up
    I don’t agree with everything said, I mean yes on a Barcelona Blog I should expect people taking side with Spain, but still. The Dutch I think played a much better game then was given credit to them, they fouled, yes, but who doesn’t? Maybe a few fouls were too harsh, but that’s football, I mean there is a referee on the field, isn’t there?

    I think that Spain deserved to win the world cup, but I am sick and tired of hearing everyone (especially the British press) talking about how the Dutch played anti-football. I think they defended very well, and didn’t just sit back with ten men, they actually pressed the midfield of Spain very well, and in my opinion had great influence on Xavi and the rest of the Spanish midfield to have one of their worst games for a long time.

    I am a die hard Barcelona fan, but still supported the Dutch in the final as I have been supporting them since 1988 when they won the Euro.

    Anyway, I hope and pray the Dutch are able to pull another good run in Euro 2012 and maybe in Brazil 2014 as I fear that this was their best chance for many years to come.

    1. hmm, I wouldn’t agree with Xavi having a terrible performance. The Dutch did a great job of containing Xavi, they made sure there were always three Dutch players within a few steps from Xavi and when he got the ball he had no more than three seconds to dispose it before being tackled or advanced apon. Fair enough, thats the common trend of modern football, Containing Xavi is the #1 task on any opponents task list. The Dutch did a great job of that. Iniesta on the other hand had a cracker of a match and always looked like he could breeze through any tight squeeze on the field and showing what a magnificant player he is. But I think Iniesta can’t do his thang without Xavi.

  7. In my opinion, the reason why Busquets played more than Yaya was because Pep wanted Busi to play more with Xavi and Iniesta so that he blends well during the World Cup. and I think it has worked. He was flawless in this tournament. did his job, did not dive….one of the best player for Spain.

    1. Pep wasn’t playing Busquets so he played better during the World Cup. Pep was playing Busquets because he is our future and the more experience he got, the better. Plus, he has attributes that were better for the matches he played in. We are seeing dividends of it now, but Pep play him for Spain’s sake, but for Barças.

      And also, I’m one of the biggest Yaya fans out there, but I remember having a weird feeling one match towards the end of the season when Yaya started over Busquets. It was only for that match, but I remember feeling uneasy with Yaya playing and I wanted Busquets to be in their instead. It’s so stupid, but I got mad at myself for thinking like that at the time, but I guess that little incident shows how well Busquets was playing at the time. Weird, I know.

    2. Yes, why do everyone have to go through such lengths to find a reason for Busquets to be starting for Barcelona other than actually being a worthy starter?

  8. Oezil has a great future but from what i saw(this world cup, i’ve never seen him before), he doesnt seem to have the technical ability to play in our tight midfield. He seemed to flourish more in space, and running in to it.
    A side effect of our strong team is that its difficult to find players who can excel above what we already have, esp in att positions. This is why we are so obsessed with cesc. I think sweinsteiger would be great for dm, but at what cost?
    I hope for now we just focus on developing thiago,jds as a reliable backups(thats all we need now). I see cesc as a must buy in the future. His sharpness around the box allows for more interchanging of att and mids

    1. notice how ineffective he was playing against spain?
      it was because like you said, no space. and to play for us, you need to get used to that.
      and btw, he said he will stay at bremen. but he might renew midway through the season

    2. I don’t get why he is going to renew midway through the season, though. If you’re going to renew, you do it in the summer, because starting January 1st, teams can talk to the player and negotiate contracts without contacting Bremen.

  9. I think that the media hooraw about this match has been silly. The guy at the Guardian was scoffing at the Dutch, saying that they didn’t go into the match as equals, which explained their tactics. Sorry, but they weren’t equals. Look, we’ve seen this all with Barca. You come out, you play an open match trying to match us, and you die. Simple as that. Barca (aka Spain) will almost always score one more goal than you, barring some crazy sort of breakdown.

    So now what?

    You come out, play tight and physical, and work like dogs to keep the passing lanes closed. That’s what the Dutch did, and they did it extraordinarily well, almost cadging out a match win had Robben not shot right into Casillas’ comfort zone (he will stop low, hard shots all day and night). If he chips Casillas, pundits are now writing about how Spain was the best side not to win the tournament.

    Were the Dutch physical? You bet. Dirty? Only a couple of times. DeJong should have gotten a straight red. I can understand Webb not wanting to affect the match, and keep 11 men on for both sides, but that play will come to define how he called that match. He tried to get control with cards, but that wasn’t the answer, because players knew that he wasn’t going to send someone off too early on a second offense. So there were a lot of stern talkings to, and a match that didn’t flow as it should have been able to.

    World Cup matches are generally low-scoring, but this was as intense a footballing spectacle as I have witnessed in a while, because one play could change everything. And there were great matchups all over the pitch, from Busquets getting elbows deep in Sneijder’s ass, to calling out the cavalry every time Robben went capering up the pitch into Spain’s end.

    Xavi was amazing all tournament long, and Iniesta reminded me of how brilliant he is, after his injury-ravaged season deprived us of Ghostface at his mercurial best. If he ever decides to start shooting, stand back.

    Busquets showed in this tournament exactly why Guardiola likes him so much. His style meshes so well with that of Spain/Barca, and if he continues playing as he did during the tournament, we’ll be just fine at DM.

    People don’t realize that Spain/Barca parks the bus with possession, and the way to not give up goals is to keep the ball. It bettered Italy’s miserly defensive record of 2006 by simply keeping the ball. It makes so much sense, but it’s so difficult to play in that style. You can be an extraordinary footballing side and win 1-0, if you play your style to maximum effectiveness, as Spain did. The whole notion that “playing football” means gobs of goals and an open match is nonsense. Media folks should know better.

    I’m not a fan of diving, and never will be. But I also feel like diving has levels. Busquets, in the Champions League match was shameful. Iniesta’s in the final was self-protection, as in “I’m tired of getting the crap kicked out of me every time I get the ball. If they can cheat, I can sell light contact.” And cheating begets cheating. Had Webb called the match as it should have been called, I’m convinced that the diving wouldn’t have happened by anyone. Once cards start flying that early, then everyone wants to try to get a card on someone, and the match gets messy.

    Now, it’s on to the regular season. We still have needs, and Fabregas ain’t one of them. Here’s hoping we resolve them in an effective way. We still have to shop Hleb, who has killed his chances with Guardiola by being such an ass. There’s that right and left back thing, and midfield cover. So we have to get busy.

    Finally, hats off to Luke. His WC coverage has been excellent, better than that of any club-centric blog, in my opinion (no, I haven’t seen them all, but I’ve seen lots of them). Between that, SoMa’s literary gems and Euler’s dispatches from ground zero, can anyone doubt that the best just keeps getting better?

    Thanks to everyone for the comments, the thoughts, the goadings that make us raise our game to meet your standards. Let’s all have a great season.

  10. 8 goals in 7 games.


    Most boring world champions ever?! Arguably.

    1. It would’ve helped if you had watched the games, instead of dozing off and then waking up only to see the scoreline..

    2. I did watch the games and watching the defenders pass to the midfielders then back to the defenders then back to the gk then back to the defenders then back to the gk then back to the defenders then back to the midfielders then give it to Villa and he does all the actual attacking wasn’t very interesting.

    3. all that and how the ball and players flow thru the gaps of a bunch defenders. spectacle.

    4. brah, wouldnta been like that if every team spain played didnt put 10 men behind the ball. learn some futbol mate

    5. That would mean subscribing to the theory that goals=excitement. That isn’t the case. High-scoring World Cup matches are rare. High-scoring finals are rarer still.

      Most TV sets come with an “off” button, which comes in handy if something is boring.

  11. First of all, thanks for the fantastic coverage of the WC, Luke and well done to the rest of the ‘equipo’ for such a fantastic blog..

    Interesting piece about the awkwardness generated in Catalonia after the protest and then the WC win (on BBC of all places)..


    And about the prank played on Cesc – It was exactly that, a prank.. It wasn’t meant to offend Arsenal, nor was it part of a larger plan to bring Cesc here.. If someone thinks otherwise, I think that is his/her problem.. Neither Pique nor Puyol meant anything else..

  12. I want to take a minute to point out just how good Sergio has been at this WC. For me he has been one of the most consistent players on the pitch, even when Spain werent clicking he was on his game. Is it just me or does he seem to have grown up immensely since his infamous dive vs Inter. Since that day I have seen no more silliness from him. He just does his job and he does it very well.

    I always thought he had potential and I always had faith that Pep was preferring him over Yaya for a reason, but I honestly did not expect to see him evolve so quickly. Just compare the player we have today to the one we had at the beginning of the season. It is quite a staggering difference.

    I know there are a lot of Yaya lovers out there, and I am definitely one of them, but considering this young mans potential I am really not that dissapointed that he is gone. It only leaves more room for this young man to grow and develop. He is only 21 so if he keeps improving can you imagine what he will be like at 25. Lets not forget he is playing in one of the toughest positions in modern football.

    Once again Pep has proven that he knows exactly what he is doing…

    1. I said it before and I am saying it now, you are watching the evolution of the new Fernando Redondo.

      As for the silly prank, I posted my 5 cents about it on my blog. So I will keep the comment short: It was not the smartest prank.

    2. Agreed about Busquets, Hilal and I have to give credit to Ramzi who has been pointing out what Busquet’s brings to the team for almost 2 years (?) now. He’s made a lot of people eat their words…

  13. ————–Valdes————-

    I can’t wait!

    1. Let’s pour one out for Yaya Toure. Honestly, I am not happy about that one at all but it seemed his agent was the problem, not Barca. He needs to go down as one of the Barca greats.

      My bet is Pedro cracks the starting line-up before the end of the season.

  14. Dutch played exactly as one would have expected them to based on their previous matches. Spain played better football though. Robben had chances to seal the match but he could not convert them.

    Overall, i would rate this as average world cup and Spain as excellent winners of this world cup. I do have to say that for me, there were no outstanding individuals that came out of this WC. Iniesta maybe comes close and Forlan is a deserving mention but not one person who defined the cup. Which is exactly how it should be as in this WC, teams and systems were way above individuals.

  15. By the by, this is what Cesc’s father had to say about the incident:

    “It was a day of celebration and anything goes,” Francesc Fabregas told COM Radio.

    “If anyone misinterprets it, they have to see that it was part of a celebration.

    “Cesc has it very clear what Arsenal has been and is for him.

    “He is super grateful to them and it has never crossed his mind to do something wrong towards them.

    “Cesc said what he wanted to do [sign for Barcelona] the day after the end of the league so that Arsenal had time to react.

    “It would have been nasty to say it today, when they are almost on the verge of starting the pre-season.

    “But he always did so thinking about Arsenal. It remains to be seen how everything turns out.”

  16. Throughout the tournament, I basically cursed any time a non-Barcelona player was brought on. Fernando Torres never deserved to be on the pitch with his fitness and it almost cost us missing the Quarters. Capdevilla was a weak link (followed not too far by our new expert flopper Sergei). And Ramos, while entertaining had WAY too much of the ball and scares me when he’s running the offense, particularly with his high turnover propensity leads to counter-attack, our biggest threat.

    HOWEVER, 2nd man of the match after Casillas for me has to be Jesus Navas. Dutch had absolutely no answer for him and he electrified the offense in place of Pedro. Felt like he was a game changer. I was somewhat of a hater before, but the kid is brilliant when he is on his game.

    In either case, VIVA ESPANA, and lets soak it in. I’m glad Puyol has officially deified himself to the rest of the world…well deserved.

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