Sunday, July 11, 2010

The world cup final: "Don't you love this game in the most hateful sort of way?"

That's what I texted my sister right after Andres Iniesta FINALLY gave Spain the winner in today's game, and it sums up my thoughts pretty well.

As I said earlier in the tournament Spain are a difficult side to support, and watching today's game was 115 minutes of torture followed by a moment of bliss. It would have all seemed like such a waste of a tournament if it had gone to penalties, and especially if Holland had won. Why spend so much time agonizing over a sport when the winning team kicks and fouls its way to victory in the ugliest manner possible? Iniesta, like he did against Chelsea, saved the day again. In the inevitable and everlasting battle between between artists and kick-boxers, between style and ruthlessness, the right side won. A victory for soccer!!

That being said, it wasn't the greatest match I've ever seen, especially when compared with Spain's semifinal against Germany which ended with the same scoreline. In that game, there were no fouls for the first 28 minutes. In this one, there were 3 fouls in the first minute, and they didn't stop there. Although both sides were playing rough, the Dutch walked onto the pitch with the intent of killing the game and making it as ugly as possible (committing 28 fouls overall to Spain's 19, and collecting 9 bookings to Spain's 5). Needless to say I was not such a big fan of these tactics. I also found that of the few of my friends and family who started out supporting the Dutch, most were appalled enough to switch allegiances in the course of the match. Before the final, my Dad commented: "No pity for the long-suffering Dutch??? Ach, you're a cruel man..." I certainly don't pity the Dutch team after that display! I do, in retrospect, pity their fans, who had to watch a group of perfectly capable footballers turn into a bunch of maniacs on the pitch.

Naturally, most of the post-match commentary has focused on the excessive roughness of the game, claiming there was little artistry on display. I think that consensus kind of misses the point, as Spain attacked relentlessly, whenever they weren't busy being kicked. They carved a number of good chances and kept the ball exceptionally well for long periods. Xavi gave the ball away approximately three times, and probably completed over 100 passes. Iniesta was likewise brilliant, and saved himself from his own embarrassing lack of finishing--what was he doing on those other two chances, trying to dribble into the goal??--with a wonderful strike to end the discussion.

more thoughts to come....

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