Saturday, August 28, 2010

La Happenings: World Cup review special

After over two years of beautiful passing football, with exquisite goals to match, Spain had to play ugly to win the World Cup, and with close one-nil wins and goals from headers, they did just that. La Furia Roja became world champions after Andres Iniesta slotted home a pass from Cesc Fabregas in the 116th minute of the final in Soccer City, Johannesburg.

They were hailed as the kings of champagne football, as the most watchable side in the world, yet they were also critiqued for their lack of a plan-B, the lack of an ability to break teams down. A loss to Switzerland in Spain’s opening game only increased these worries, fears that the World Cup would be won by the Inter-Milan of the international scene, rather than the Barcelona.

However, wins over Honduras, Chile, Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and finally Holland saw the European champions lift the ultimate honour in football, the World Cup. For the first time in their history, the Spanish national team became World champions.

And oh did they celebrate. Cities all around Spain went wild, with huge parties in Madrid and Barcelona. However the victory was sadly not as dramatic as was widely tipped. Many labelled it beforehand as a game of passing football, pitting two of the ‘prettiest’ teams in world football in the ultimate spectacle. Spain v Holland was only just behind Spain v Brazil in the hoped for final.

But when it came, the victory was soured by a poor 120 minutes of cynical play. 13 yellow cards and a red to John Heitinga turned the opportunity for a brilliant display of passing football to a game of rough tackling and bad football.

While some may argue that Holland had every right to use such tactics, seeing it as a perfectly legitimate way to play, there is no denying that it ruined the possibility for a night of gorgeous football.

Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque said after the match that, Holland made it very difficult for us to play comfortably. I’m here to speak about the beautiful things in football. It was rough at times, but that’s part of football.” Sadly, these things happen, but ultimately the better team won, and justice was served.

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk also felt like adding that “It’s not our style to commit horrible fouls. It’s not our kind of football. But I would love to have won it with football that was not so beautiful. Both sides, also the Spaniards, committed terrible fouls.” Wouldn’t we all have loved to have won the World Cup?

Spain played like Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final, Holland as Inter. Only this time, tactical genius Jose Mourinho was not involved, and La Furia Roja, a large chunk of the side made up of Barca players, were too good. Just too good.

The Spanish side are now both European and World champions, and despite having won everything available to them, the side will not be slowing down yet. Stars David Villa, Xavi and Iker Casillas all have another World Cup in them, while other important members of the squad, David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres, are still relatively young. Even if Xavi, at 30 the third oldest member of the World Cup squad, was to call it a day soon, he would be replaced by Fabregas or Javi Martinez, two world class midfielders.

Spain has always enjoyed incredibly talented players, from Telmo Zarra to Raul, Alfredo di Stéfano to Fernando Hierro. However there was always that doubt, that lack of confidence in a team that never before made a World Cup final. After taking the Euros in 2008, a team brimming with star quality finally found its feet.

They surpassed negative football and foul play to win the World Cup in South Africa 2010. With such confidence now instilled in the team, a second and even third World Cup does not look doubtful. After years as the ‘coulda beens’ of world football, La Furia Roja, the Spanish national team, is now ready to write themselves into the history books. World, watch out.

The best part of the victory? I tipped it! I predicted in the Half Time Heroes World Cup special that Spain’s “...time has finally come,” and I was right. Pity I didn’t put my money where my mouth was...

Featured in Half Time Heroes World Cup Special, the best web magazine around!

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