Saturday, July 10, 2010

The World Cup Final

Soccer City in Johannesburg became the mecca for the globe's football fans and delivered a spectacular closing ceremony which was attended by Nelson Mandela who tragically lost a great-granddaughter in a car accident just as the tournament kicked off.
The final, an all European affair provided the opportunity for either Spain or Holland to not only become champions of the world for the first time but also become the first European side to win the cup on foreign soil.
On the stroke of 7:30 Howard Webb gave a blast of his whistle and World Cup final 2010 was underway.

Sergio Ramos had the first chance of the game in the 5th minute when his header forced a great save from Dutch keeper, Stekelenburg. On 11 minutes it was Ramos again who smashed a shot across the face of goal only for it to be cleared by the shaky Dutch defender. From the ensuing corner David Villa volleyed into the side netting. Spain were in the ascendancy.

Van Persie, Puyol, Van Bommel and Ramos found themselves in Howard Webb's notebook as the match reached the midpoint of the first half and the game fizzled into a war of attrition and the tackle's continued to fly in. De Jong became the fifth player to go into the book when his chest high tackle put Xavi Alonso on his back writhing in pain. Total football it wasn't.
As the half hour approached the game resembled a battle instead of the game all true fans had wished for.

Mathijsen scuffed an effort for Holland in the 35th minute when he really should have scored and that was followed a minute later when Pedro drove a long range effort well wide.
Alonso tried his luck with a 35 yard free-kick on 43 minutes but drove it wide. On the stroke of half-time Robben forced a save from Casillas at his near post from a corner.
A dismal 0-0 at half-time throwing laughs of hysteria at my prediction that this would be an epic finale.

Spain's Capdavila missed a sitter in the 48th minute from a corner when he swung like a blind man at the ball.
Robben had Casillas on the floor again with another weak effort in the 52nd minute. Dutch captain Van Bronckhurst made it half a dozen bookings soon after and was soon followed by Heitinga into the book. It was now officially a kick-fest and Howard Webb's whistle began to burn the bald Englishman's lips.

Robben broke free on 62 minutes and missed a golden opportunity to put the Dutch ahead when he failed to convert a one on one with Casillas.
Capdavila made it eight bookings in the 67th minute. Joint tp scorer David Villa finally had a chance to score in the 70th minute but failed from four yards out. The golden boot was still up for grabs.

Sergio Ramos looked a gift horse in the mouth on 77 minutes but closed his eyes when he missed a free header from six yards out from a Spanish corner.
Robben once again failed to capitalise on a one on one with Casillas on the 83rd minute. His protests earned him a yellow card but in all honesty he only had himself to blame for not going down under the weight of Spanish challenges that threatened his taunting run. The booking count is a record for a world cup final.
The game petered out and ended 0-0 at full time. A truly depressing final match of an equally depressing tournament.

Spanish substitute Cesc Fabregas saw his effort saved by Stekenleburg in the fifth minute of extra-time and Mathijsen squandered a chance for the Dutch a minute later. At last the 'game' seemed to be opening up but it seemed neither side wanted to produce an individual willing to write themselves into their nations history books.
Navas came close in the 11th minute but seen his effort deflected into the side netting. Fabregas again came close on 14 minutes but dragged his effort just wide of the post.
0-0 at half time of extra-time.

Fernando Torres, the man I predicted to be the tournaments top scorer was introduced during the brief interval. (Laughable... I KNOW).
In the third minute of the second period Heitinga was given his marching orders when he pulled Iniesta to the ground. The resulting free kick ballooned over the crossbar. A minute later Van Der Wiel had Webb's notebook bursting at the seams when he became the seventh Dutch player to see yellow. Robben was lucky not to receive his marching orders soon after when he put the ball in the net long after Webb had blown for offside.
Sneijder came close in the 115th minute but his free kick inched wide.
Seconds later Spain broke free and finally the deadlock was broken when Iniesta scored following a mistake from Van Der Vaart. Dutch hearts were broken and Matijsen saw himself booked for dissent. Iniesta followed him into the notebook for taking his shirt off during the Spanish delirious celebrations. Xavi followed his teammates soon after making it 14 bookings in total.
It didn't matter for minutes later Spain added the world title to their European crowd. The Dutch were made pay for their approach to the match which did nothing to honour the country which gave the world total football back in the 1970's.

As Iker Casillas lifted the trophy and sent his country into rapture the abiding thought from this fan is they were the team that deserved it in the end. Their was no third time lucky for Holland. Overall though the whole tournament was a shambles, a game that once inspired a world in need of inspiration, now a sad reflection on what it once was.

I guess at the end of the day it boils down to an incident in Paris late last year when the cheating of a Frenchman denied Ireland their place at this finals. Would they have won it?
Of course not. But they would have added something to an otherwise forgetful tournament. A bit of life, a bit of humour, a bit of all the good things in life. It was FIFA's and the world's lost.

I guess remaining bitter will stop me from healing the wounds that opened in Paris all those months ago. So I'll reflect tomorrow and bitter I'll remain.

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