Spain 1-0 Holland

Posted: July 11, 2010 in World Cup
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The absolute worst possible outcome. I’d bet on the crushing inevitability of Spain to win 1-0 in this match, not realising that the fuckers at Sky Bet don’t pay out if the result comes after extra time. Rupert Murdoch, I’m coming for you. I’m coming for all of you.

“A victory for football”? Fuck off. So this is football is it? Have Spain actually been at this World Cup, or have I just been watching a recording of them playing on a loop since Game 2. Every game is the fucking same, except this time someone other than Villa scored. No team in World Cup history has won the thing with a lower goal tally. In fact, Spain finish 3 goals shy of the next lowest-scoring champion. They won all four knockout games by a score of 1 to 0, after the comparative goalfests of a 2-0 win over the mighty Honduras and 2-1 against 10-man Chile. Six years ago Greece won the Euros doing much the same thing but most people seem to have erased that from history on the grounds that it was apparently very boring and defensive to watch. Watching Spain during this tournament, I’ve been desperate for one of the ballboys to lob an extra Jabulani on so we can have a proper game.

Can I just break off from my tirade here to say how wonderful the BBC’s MOTD end-credits were just now. District 9 pastiche, very very good. I would also like to say that DIEGO MOTHERFUCKING FORLAN HAS BEEN NAMED THE BEST PLAYER AND WHO AM I TO ARGUE! Get in there my boy!

Back to Spain. What the hell is their problem? I couldn’t work out whether Del Bosque had brainwashed them into thinking that games are won by the number of opposition players they can get sent off. Granted everybody was kung-fu fighting but what was up with Xavi, haranguing Howard Webb every time someone fell over. Iniesta was on the turf howling in pain until he realised that no freekick was forthcoming, so he leaped back to his feet and sent Van Bommel flying instead. Xavi did likewise except he launched himself up wagging an imaginary yellow card. Really, a bunch of moaning twats. Magnificent players, an incredible squad, probably the best couple of midfielders I’ll ever have the privilege of seeing play, but Jesus Navas they’re so bloody unlikeable.

Maybe their problem is that they’re too good. They honestly believe that 1-0 is as safe as 4-0, given how easily they keep the ball. It’s this no-risk safety about Spain that I really dislike. It must be great if you’re a fan but when you want to see their squad of devastatingly awesome footballers flourishing on a world stage, demolishing a team of cloggers (plus Robben and Sneijder) like Holland, they just aren’t interested.

Oh my lord but Holland were dirtier than a Soho sex-shop. This was terrible. Sort of brutishly entertaining during an opening hour in which nothing else happened apart from Van Bommel somehow avoiding a red card or two, Nigel De Jong trying to insert his leg studs-first through Xabi Alonso’s chest like Alien in reverse, and countless other niggles, stomps, trips, crunches and general shenanigans. The Spirit Of Warnock had descended on the Oranje.

And yet Holland had the best two chances in normal time. Sergio Ramos aka The Ugly Horse had seen his header well saved by Stekelenburg, but that was pretty much that for Spain. For the Dutch, Sneijder played a simply brilliant through-ball that set Robben away with just the keeper to beat. He took his sweet time about it, Casillas dashed out and in the end saved with the stud of his right boot. With just a few minutes remaining, a flick header from Van Persie saw Robben make an absolute mockery of Puyol’s ability to run as a 10-yard headstart was quickly erased. Puyol tugged on the worryingly-bald Dutchman and a red card would surely have been forthcoming had Robben gone down, but he kept his feet and eventually bundled the ball into Casillas’ arms. The way he reacted suggested he was probably trying to wait until he’d got into the penalty area to fall over.

Extra-time only ever looked like producing one result as Spain were in several times, Fabregas fluffing a chance (Navas was square for a tap-in) before Jesus himself had a shot deflected this wide and into the side-netting (“half the ground thought it was in”). Johnny Heitinga received an inevitable red card for tugging down Iniesta, and it was that wee baldy himself who got the decisive goal, controlling a neat ball by Fabregas and smashing the shot into the net. The Dutch protested slightly justifiably that they should have had a corner and a freekick moments prior but come on lads, hard to feel sympathy when you’ve spent the game engaged in Mortal Kombat.

Let’s be honest; Spain deserve to win this World Cup. I don’t think they’ve been the best team here (more on that in a couple of days) but they’re undoubtedly the hardest to beat, and the hardest to play against. Xavi was absolutely incredible today, I read on Zonal Marking earlier that he completed 39 out of 40 attempted passes in the semi-final against Ze Germans so I was watching him closely during this match. Hell, there wasn’t much else going on half of the time. He just does not give it away. It is generally all simple passes but the way he twists, turns, and slaloms away from pressing defenders is remarkable. I wonder if I’ll ever see a better, purer midfielder than him. A joy, genuinely, for all my bitching.

Alongside him Iniesta is almost as good, and Sergio Busquets has been quietly efficient in letting that pair flourish in advanced positions while he and Alonso sit deep. Sergio Ramos has played as a right-winger, and although Capdevila got some abuse at the start of the tournament I’ve not seen him put a foot wrong from left-back. In mitigation that abuse stemmed from him being an apparent “weak link”, but when you’re as good as Spain your weakest link would stroll into most other sides in the world.

Despite only conceding 2 goals in the whole World Cup, I always felt their defence was vulnerable, although Puyol and Pique counterbalance each other quite well. One all muscle and no pace, the other quick to anticipate and move. Iker Casillas has proved a rock whenever called upon – today was probably his most active game and he made two superb saves from Robben when 8 times out of 10 you’d expect the forward to score. His penalty save against Paraguay was one hell of a turning point.

David Villa is the man that got them this far, but I felt that Spain were vastly improved by the introduction of Pedro in place of Torres. Pedro looked like a little dynamo, and was one of the better players on show tonight – like Villa, always available and always able to twist away from a marker and advance the play. In fact the real evidence of how good Spain are comes from the players who have cameoed; Pedro, Llorente, the excellent Navas (even if he does look like he should be in Twilight, as the missus correctly pointed out). Every other side in the world should be green with envy. They’ve achieved what their talent merits.

How Holland got to the final, I’m not really sure.

So the 2010 FIFA World Cup has come to an end. A slightly dissatisfying denoument for someone with a dislike of tika-taka and a love for an upset. A World Cup with surprises, a few shocks, perhaps too few “classic” encounters and some big-name flops but a new breed of footballers springing through. No-one was shot or attacked or anything like what was being predicted. Goals were scored. Gaffes were made. And on the night the best team won.

I’ll be back on here at some point in the next couple of days with the NDJD awards for the whole tournament, plus a few other final words.

Goodnight.

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