Sportsball (World Cup 2010), Matchday Twenty-Five (The World Cup Final)

Spain 1-0 Netherlands

So, there you have it. New World Cup Champions.

Spain started out far brighter. They were the ones pushing on, while the Dutch seemed unable to create anything upfront. Spain managed to work some opportunities, but the Dutch were doing just enough to keep them out. It was cagey, it was nervous.

The Dutch, once the half-hour mark was passed, managed to re-assert themselves a little more, getting some set pieces to work with. Nothing coming from them though. Casillas was nearly embarrassed by a mistimed flap and Stekelenburg pulled off a good reaction save towards the start. That was about it. It was not an entertaining first half.

The game had already taken a nasty turn, and I feel it’ll be remembered mostly for that. The Dutch were certainly more guilty than the Spanish. The first few, you could wave away as accidental, but by the end of the half, there seemed to be a definite edge to the Dutch tackling. De Jong’s was the worst of course. I felt Webb was mostly fair with the yellow cards throughout the game. He was consistent at least. But De Jong’s kick was as clear a red card as I’ve ever seen.

The second half started and the game picked up a bit. Neither side seemed to be trying too hard, when suddenly the Dutch got their chances. The first, the result of lax Spanish defending. Casillas was smart enough the raise his right leg at the last second and get the crucial touch. The second, Robben did amazingly well to muscle in past Puyol, but took way too many touches. Casillas did well again, to pick the right moment to go to ground. Crucial for keepers to ctay cool under pressure in such an environment

The yellow cards were coming thick and fast introducing an element of farce to the game. De Jong and Van Bommel were getting cautions for what would be assault outside of a football pitch, but Webb continued to pull out yellows for kicking the ball away and taking your shirt off.

The Dutch had the better of the second certainly, but neither team was doing anything too special. Both had trouble fashioning chances, being reduced to speculative long-range efforts. The Dutch had diffuculty coordinating flank attacks, with numerous crosses being directed at penalty boxes where no orange shirts could be found. By around 80 minutes, both teams seemed content to wait for extra time.

30 more minutes got added to the clock and away we went again. Heitinga’s second yellow was harsh, as the infringement was minor at best. Villa came off for Torres, a baffling decision. Villa had an alright game, not the threat he was in previous games, but still, far better than Torres of course, whose lone contribution to the game was a dive that was embarrassing to watch. My advice to Fernando: Go home and try to forget your performances in this tournament.

The goal, when it came, was the killer blow it was always going to be. This game was always going to be either 1-0 or penalties. Ineista positioned himself perfectly, and the Dutch defence played him on, all complaints to the contrary. Ineista kept his cool and finished well. Not the best World Cup winning goal, but will Spain care?

The Dutch pushed on as best they could with 10 men, but in the brief time that was left they never looked like scoring. Heartbreak for them, three finals, three defeats. But aside from Robben, too many players were anonymous. Van Piersie had little impact and Schneider lacked the influence he’d had in the previous rounds. Van Bommel remains a thug whose lack of a red card this tournament is an absolute disgrace.

For Spain, sweet, sweet triumph. The underachiver tag is well and truly gone now. Xavi was immense in midfield and Puyol was the defensive marshal Spain needed him to be. Casillas showed glimpses of the form that previously made him the best keeper in the world while Ineista proved himself equal to the task in front of goal.

So, Spain are the World Champions. Deserved the win, they were the better team after 120 minutes. Questiones remain about Webb’s officiating, but I’d prefer a card-happy ref to one that makes a mistake that costs a goal. The Dutch had their chances and missed them. I’d feel sorrier if the image of De Jong planting a kick into another players chest wasn’t emblazoned in my memory.

Spain are champions and worthy champions. Congratulations to them, the world’s best team.

Prediction wise, wrong about Uruguay, right about Spain. 50% for the last round of matches. That’s a total prediction result of of 31/48.

64% for the tournament overall. Not too shabby.

My Sportsball 2010 coverage isn’t quite done. At some point in the next few days, I’ll post up my final thoughts, on each team, the winners, the losers, and the tournament as a whole. Until then.

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