Monday, 12 July 2010

The Final.....

Well the World Cup is done and dusted and Spain are the new champions after a brutal and physical final.

This had been hyped as what, on paper anyway, should have been a classic final - the team that created 'total football' and the team that have been heavily influenced by the Dutch going head to head to decide which is the best footballing nation never to have won the World Cup. Sadly the Dutch hadn't read the script and decided that the best way to approach this game would be to hoof the Spanish up and down the pitch, inside 5 mins 3 fouls had been given against the Dutch and the attitude for the next 120 mins was set. The first 15 mins were pretty univentful, Kuyt hit a 25 yard shot after intercepting a poor Alonso back pass but scuffed it, Villa vollyed into the side neting from a corner and then the first yellow card came out, for a high and late lunge by Van Persie on Capdevilla, ten moments later Puyol joined him in the book for a rash tackle on Arjen Robben then on 22 mins the thing that should have happened about 6 games ago happened, Van Bommel was actaully booked for one of his countless number of fouls and it was a nasty tackle, he was very late on Xavi leaving the Spanish player in a heap, and as the clock hit 25 mins in Ramos got booked for catching Kuyts foot late. Sadly this is the theme the game pretty much took for the whole first half, the Dutch kicking anyone Spanish that had the ball that wasn't a defender (and that was only cause Van Persie was already on a yellow) and the Spanish happy to pass the ball around in defence, knock it forward to Xavi or Alonso before they quickly played it back to the defence before a wild challange came in.

One of the highlights of the next 20 mins was De Jong's kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso, that has reportedly left Alonso with cracked ribs, and only getting a yellow card for something that should have probably been a red. The only genuine show of sportsmanship was when the ball was put out so Puyol could get treatment after Casillas clattered him, the ball was returned but nearly bounced over Casillas and in!! He managed to finger tip the ball wide and the Dutch, sportingly, gave the ball back to Casillas but that was that as far as sporting behaviour went. Nothing much happened before half time, and although the English analysts apparently spent a while slagging off the Dutch and their attitude at half time, Spanish T.V were apparently baying for referee Howard Webb's blood after not showing Red's to De Jong, Van Bommel, Sneijder or anyone in an orange shirt that touched a Spanish player. Whilst i can see why they felt De Jong should have been sent off i think that's all they can complain about because none of the other tackles should really have been a red card, although Van Bommel was on very thin ice after a couple of fouls after his yellow.

The 2nd half kicked off and not alot changed either and it took 10 mins the next yellow card to be shown, Van Bronkhorst cynically blocking Ramos as he tried a one two around him and moments later Heitinga was booked for bringing down Villa, although this was the first one that probably could be considered harsh. By this point of the game the highlight seemed to be guessing how many fouls, yellow cards & red cards would be shown before the end. On the hour mark Pedro was taken off to be replaced by Jesus Navas to give the Spanish more natural width and it looked like a good idea but 60 seconds later the Dutch had an amazing chance, Robben 1 v 1 with Casillas and should have finsihed but tried to place it round the keeper however Casillas' outstretched foot managed to divert the ball round the post. If you'd have expected anyone on the Holland team to score than goal it would be Robben and he knew he'd blown a huge chance as he dropped to his knees clutching his head in his hands. 10 mins later and its the Spanish turn to be holding their heads in their hands, with Villa missing an incredible chance, Navas' cross from the right was low and hard across the Dutch 6 yard box which was missed by Heitinga and Villa was lurking, only to see his shot somehow saved by Stekelenberg.

The introduction of a naturally quick wide player by the Spanish seemingly opening the game up a bit so the Dutch bought on their own speedy winger Eljero Elia replacing him although i thought this was a mistake because Kuyts energy and work rate were key to the Holland pressing game especailly with some players like De Jong & Van Bommel starting to tire. Sergio Ramos then missed a free header, alot like Puyols header against Germany, before Van Bommel again tried his luck by leaving his foot in late on Iniesta however no free kick was awarded so Iniesta decides to drop his shoulder in to Van Bommel who immediatly drops like he's been punched in the face by Mohammed Ali. Considering both players are on yellows and i've seen people booked for less i was expecting at least one player to get a booking but Webb just wags his finger and runs off. Moments later Iniesta has a split second glimps of goal but with the clock running down and extra time looming he fails to pull the trigger at the right time and is well tackled by Sneijder who, other than playing the ball to slip Robben through, had been annonymous to this point. Robben then has another 1 v 1 chance but takes to many touch's and Casillas smothers the ball at his feet. Robben isn't very happy about the fact that Puyol had an arm on him for a split second as he was pulling Puyol's shirt but, for once, stays on his feet - this proved to be costly and starts ranting and raving at Webb earning himself a booking, the 14th of the game.

Another key change was Cesc Fabregas coming on for Xabi Alonso, who is clearly still feeling the effects of De Jong's Kung Fu lesson earlier on. This in turn allowed Xavi to sit a little deeper in the midfield and see the whole of Spains attack and giving him slightly more time to pick out his pass and it brings more variety to Spain s midfield, Alonso, Iniesta & Xavi are all great passers but that wasn't working so having the more adventurous Fabregas combined with the direct running of Navas gave more options. Full time came with the score still at 0-0 and i would, in all honesty, say it was about as boring as the '94 final because Spain had turned up trying to play football as they usually do but it was stiffled by the Dutch tactics of just booting everyone that was in a Spain shirt and they where incredibly lucky to have 11 men left at full time. As extra time got under way Xavi tried to claim a penalty for kicking Heitinga's foot but nothing was given, moments later Fabregas was through on goal after a lovely pass by Iniesta but Stekelenberg manages to smother the ball before he can shoot, then within 60 seconds the Dutch win a corner and after Fabregas manages to block Casillas leaving Mathijsen a free header who managed to head the ball over. Another chance fell to Spain but Iniesta ran straight in to Van Bommel rather than freeing Jesus Navas however the Dutch defence were starting to look tired and ragged at the back.

Van Marwijk then threw on Rafael Van der Vaart for Nigel De Jong leaving just Van Bommel to protect the defence, the Spanish then bring on Torres for Villa at half time in extra time and the Spanish continued to retain possesion so to counter the threat of Navas and his pace Van Bronkhorst was taken off in his last game for Braafheid but the inevitable soon happened, no not a goal, but a sending off and the most surprising thing about it was the fact it wasn't Van Bommel but Heitinga who hauls down Xavi on the edge of the area after he played a little chip to Iniesta and left Webb with no choice but to send him off making him the 5th player to be sent off in a World Cup final. 5 mins later and Holland have the ball in the back of the net, however Robben was a mile offisde and punted the ball in about an hour after the whistle had gone and he clearly heard it as he pulled up in frustration before kicking the ball into the goal, that should have been another red card as it should have been Robbens second yellow but, inexplicably, Webb let him off much to the Spanish's displeasure. Moments later however he makes up for it by awarding the Spanish a goal kick instead of a clear cut Dutch corner after Robbens free kick takes a deflection and wouldn't you know it but Spain go up the other end and finally score with Iniesta finsihng a lovely move, he was free in the area as Heitinga wasn't on the pitch and after one touch that the ball sat up and he crashed it home for the winner. The Dutch immediatly spend the next few mins argueing furiously with the ref & his assistant but nothing changed here except Mathijsen getting booked for slamming the ball into the ground. I can understand the Dutch being upset about not getting the corner but they were also complaining that Elia should have had a free kick but i don't think it was. The only thing that happened in the next 2 mins was Torres chasing a through ball and pulling up after his hamstring went again, early reports out of the Spain camp that he may have a full on pull meaning he might not be back to full fitness until September.

It was not a good final and the blame for this lays squarly at the feet of the Dutch who, after doing so well to get this far, compeltly let themselves, their country & their footballing beliefs down with an awful display - yes its hard to play agianst Spain because they are so good at keeping the ball but their is no excuse for the way they behaved during and after the game, they have all come out moaing about Howard Webb but they do not have a leg to stand on, if anything they should be thanking him - if De Jong had been sent off in the first half, as he rightfully should have, i think it would have all been over in 90 min's, if anything Spain probably have more right to complain about him that the Dutch but as they won i doubt they will, Robben also escaping a 2nd yellow in extra time was another decision the Dutch should be thankful for. Fortunalty Van Marwijk at least had the good grace to say the better team had won, but this was after about half an hour of ranting against Webb. Spain are now the European & World champions, rightfully so in my opinion, and will have one eye on defending their European championships in 2012 once this party ends.

That is the end of South Africa 2010, i will review the whole tournamnet and have that up tomorrow afternoon hopefully, thank you for reading!!

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