So that’s it, then. The feast is over. That glorious month spent knowing what you were going to be watching the next day has finally reached an end. Withdrawal begins here. Still, there’s only four more years to go.
Spain are world champions for the first time, and no-one could argue that they weren’t the most deserving winners. Okay, the final was probably the worst World Cup final in living memory, made so in large part by the cynical approach of Holland. Having decided they couldn’t beat Spain on the ball, the men in orange decided they would beat the Spanish off the ball, by literally beating them. Feet, elbows, legs and hands were used liberally, breaking up the passing magic that Spain use to wear out their opponents, eventually enraging the Spaniards and reducing the game to an unsavoury statistic as the most yellow-carded World Cup final in history. Sadly, this match will be remembered only for Nigel de Jong’s insane karate kick on Xabi Alonso, Arjen Robben’s continual histrionics, Mark Van Bommel’s complete inability to get himself sent off and the undeserved jeers aimed at referee Howard Webb as he collected his commemorative medal. Oh, and Andrés Iniesta’s expertly taken goal. Let’s not forget that some football was actually played. Mostly by Spain, but in all fairness when Robben wasn’t rolling on the floor in mock agony like an extra from Platoon or chasing Webb around the pitch, he was by far Holland’s best player and virtually the only one who looked like he wanted to take the game to Spain, rather than just stop Spain taking the game to them.
Poor Howard Webb, the only Englishman to actually make it to the final, has taken a lot of stick for the way he handled the game. Predictably, this has been mostly Dutch stick, with Wesley Sneijder accusing Webb of costing Holland the World Cup, but he has also been criticised for the leniency he showed the Dutch. It’s true that Holland were lucky only to have one man sent off, but Webb seemed determined to give each team as much of a chance as he could to provide a decent game. Imagine the outrage if he’d reduced Holland to nine men before half time (which he would have been well within his rights to do). To my mind, Webb did an excellent job coping with the crèche, and what cost the Dutch the World Cup was the Dutch. End of story. This is what happens when you adhere to that dismal technique, Not Playing Football™. It has been a technique too often used at this tournament, and for the team employing it to have won the prize would have been a travesty.
This is the point where the pundits look back and give their opinions on South Africa’s first World Cup. The verdicts have been almost universally positive. The stadiums were all excellent, the South Africans were joyous hosts, the atmosphere was infectious and I look forward to hearing the vuvuzelas in the new Premier League season, although that may put me in the minority. Any shortcomings were down to the matches themselves, with too many teams seemingly reluctant to just Play Football™. Thank God for Spain.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But then I always do. The mark of a thing’s worth is how sorry you are when it is gone, and I will be suffering withdrawal for a little while. If anyone knows where I can obtain World Cup patches or gum, please let me know.
Thank you, South Africa. It’s been a blast. Get ready Brazil.
Final World Cup Standings
1st – Spain
2nd – Holland
3rd – Germany
4th – Uruguay
The FIFA awards
Golden Boot – Germany’s Thomas Müller.
Player of the Tournament – Uruguay’s Diego Forlán.
Golden Glove – Spain’s Iker Casillas.
FIFA fair play award – Spain
My Awards (perhaps not so prestigious)
Best Match – Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (4-2 on penalties). Okay, so no match should end with penalties, but up until that point the game was absolutely breathless. With one of the tournament’s best goals from Ghana’s Sulley Muntari, the whole match was on a knife edge from the start. It was a game that you just couldn’t predict, and not even Paul the octopus could have foreseen the drama at the end. Absolutely enthralling.
Worst Match – The final. This was more like watching the 70s movie Rollerball than the final game of the world’s biggest sporting event. The only redeeming feature was that the right team won the trophy.
Best Player – David Villa. Spain’s intelligent, alert and imaginative forward was one of the few big name players who lived up to his reputation at this tournament. Only two assists short of the Golden Boot, Villa was the perfect front man for the excellent Spanish side. Take note, Worst Player.
Worst Player – Wayne Rooney. Or rather, that guy who ran around at the front of England’s team who happened to look like Wayne Rooney, but clearly had no idea how to play. What happened to England’s only untouchable player? The biggest disappointment of the tournament, Rooney looked lost, bumbling and error prone from his first minute to his last.