Here Comes My FIFA World Cup Breakdown


It’s A Cold Bitter Wind That Blatter The Hutt Brings – Engerland Own Worst Enemies Shocker

Fat Sepp douses the English with his icy distain. Sadly Scotland, Wales and the Irish are caught up as collateral damage

As any fule kno it seems that in addition to, or perhaps instead of, excellent facilities, commercial opportunities and hordes of supporters, what you really, really need is some kind of narrative with which to woo the jaded palates of the corrupt gerontocracy that is the FIFA Executive Committee, a group so venal and mentally ugly they make Emperor Palpetine look like the repository of all that is good in the universe. And it seems that while Engerland has one such narrative lying about (or maybe lie-ing about), it is sadly about being entombed into history rather than about making it and reinforces two very negative things about the English psychology.

First it is hideously insular, parochial and backward looking. We seem to believe not in the possibilities of the future, but in a golden past that is somehow always shockingly out of reach, a past filled with all the things everyone else hates, olde worlde tea, cakes, coppers, larks and those dribbley wingers like Stanley Matthews and defenders like Chopper Harris. A past it must be added which does not hold much, if any, joy for Jonny Foreigner, who is either enslaved, attacked or excluded or if possible all three at the same time.

Even our unofficial catchphrase, ‘Football’s Coming Home’, seems uniquely designed to both accentuate the historical negativity as well as subliminally damn all those pesky foreigners for daring to borrow it in the first place and thrice damn them for actually being somewhat better at it than we are. Anyway it’s patently clear that FIFA isn’t interested in football coming home, it’s the absolute last thing they want. They’re still in their empire building expansion phase, more Go West Young Man than come back home, or in this case Go East Young Man and then Go Middle East.

Second, possibly as a result of the first, we really don’t play well with others, being fundamentally incompetent at institutional politics of any sort, our sense of flat earth fairness and altruism (all Fotherington-Thomas and all if we’re continuing the Molesworth references) completely blinds us to the reality that everyone else is in it to get the best deal for themselves.

Where’s Your Vision Gone (Where’s Your Vision Gone) – Far, Far Away

We seem to be cursing FIFA not for having a vision of extending their greedy grip to new areas of exploitation, but for not making this transparently obvious in the first place. And subsequently for cynically milking their opportunity for all it’s worth. Which they have in the manner which banana republic dictators apply to foreign aid.

The truth is that FIFA’s choices show they actually have some kind of strategic vision, namely continuously expanding their grip on the game worldwide. Blatter the Hutt (who knows a thing or two about politicking) was elected on a remit of spreading the World Cup and effectively breaking the Europe/South America duopoly – a policy that got him elected thanks to three continentsworth of voters who didn’t live in the duopoly states.  And coincidentally it follows the gravity of wealth as the first world cedes sovereignty to the third world oil resources and population wealth. Which is the political story of the 21st Century just as the disintegration of the British Empire, the failure of Communism and the rise of America was the tale of the 20th.

All the chicanery aside, it could be that two winners will actually host fantastic World Cups. Certainly they’ve got more than enough time to develop the stadia and infrastructure necessary to do so. While OPEC (sorry Qatar) will be hosting the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011 in January, so they will actually have more recent experience of hosting international football events than the English.

Here’s how a cynic might read FIFA’s choices of World Cup venues since Italia 90, which was when football started to become a financial cesspit following its implosion in the 80s.

  • America (1994) – Refinancing and commercialising FIFA. The MasterCard Adidas World Cup (I’m beginning to see the money)
  • France (1998) – The masters of political chicanery get their party. Blatter The Hutt elected Head Boy.
  • Japan/South Korea (2002) – Payback pt 1. Hello Asia is that money in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?
  • Germany (2006) – Payback pt 2. Hello Bankers we have some money to launder (I’m beginning to bank my money)
  • South Africa (2010) – Payback pt 3. See I told you we’d have a World Cup in Africa. Sepp is reelected (tbc).
  • Brazil (2014) – Hello to the new world order of the BRICs nations
  • Russia (2018) – Hello oligarcacious corruption and patronage, goodbye to Western Europe (I’m beginning to bathe in money)
  • OPEC (2022) – Hello oil money, pleased to milk you, here are my deposit details. We have to transfer a World Cup to you, but in order to do this we need your account details and passwords. Please turn on the money sluice. And kindly look the other way I’m an old man struggling to withhold my dignity.

That Picture In Full

Jabber and his bitches. FIFA Executive Committee in session. Not entirely sure what the chap in black is doing. Maybe he is the one fule who voted for Engerland. The English member is the small, rodent-like thing on Jabber's shoulder.

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No Stop – Even More World Cup Post-Match Analysis


These Are A Few Of Our Favourite Things

The whole world cup depicted as almost DNA type chromosomes

What could be better eh? A combination of top drawer infographic type instant fact visualisation and the entire World Cup. It’s as if someone else had been forced to spend their entire summer watching it alongside me only they had to take notes. Here the very quality Michael Deal has taken all the action from the 64 games and distilled it into a rather nice chart that you could fool people into thinking was something like the chromosomal DNA matrix of football. You can find it on the Umbro blog.

Now, based on my own recollections of the matches and a magnifying glass, I’m not so sure that statistics really tell you all that much about exactly how a match unfolded. I’m always wary of those ‘highlight stats’ like percentage of possession and shots, which never seem to tell the whole story, but these graphics are interesting in a couple of ways.

First, if they are to be believed, either my memory has gone completely and I am deliberately misremembering things, or someone, somewhere at Stato Central has got a very, very liberal definition of what a shot is. I don’t recall nearly that many shots in the matches I watched.

Second, and way more interesting, is the way you can see the balance of play going. Spain’s match with Switzerland is a great case in point. Spain, as masters of the passing it around the back to one another, seem to be represented with an almost solid block of green as they monopolise possession, while Switzerland appear either to never have had the ball or to be incapable of passing it to one another as great tracts of blank space show through their performance. Equally Engerland’s performances, which I recall being chock full of inept failed passes, appear to be full of possession.

I think that the problem with these stats is that there’s no qualitative side to them, a pass is a pass is a pass, whether it’s a short easy one played between two defenders meandering around at the back or a defence splitting goal creating pass that changes the game. It would be interesting to see if there was some way of both measuring the quality/effectiveness of a pass and depicting it. Then you really would have the basis for a cool visual interpretation of the game.

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Absolutely The Last Word On That World Cup Hoo Ha


What A Difference A Week Makes

Yes, just over a week on (give or take) and the 2010 World Cup luxury liner (the good ship Taxfree Profligacy) has sailed away from plucky South Africa, taking its bangles, baubles and Jubillana the Hutt balls with it on a magical voyage of discovery which will dock at the free port of Oligarcos somewhere in Brazil in around 2014. There it will stay just long enough for Huttmeister General Sepp and his companions to disgorge themselves like plunderous vikings for another 31 days and nights of footballing carnage. The South Africans, meanwhile, have already mothballed some of the more useless World Cup 2010 stadia, while handing the rest over to a number of popular local rugby clubs, thereby fully embracing the legacy of the World Cup. In truth, they’re all far too excited by one of their own winning the 150th Open Golf tournament at St Andrews over the weekend to recall anything that’s happened in the last month.

The Good & The Wretched, Players Of The Tournament

It was back in 2002 when Engerland’s Sol Campbell was included in the Team of the Tournament, as far as I can recall the last time any Engerland player made the grade. Certainly this time there were absolutely no calls for the inclusion of the various fatally flawed members of our team. Having televisually played my way through the entire World Cup, my selection of players is based, not on copious notes and opta-Capello stats, but on vague recollection of odd moments of the tournament.

The Good – Gamechangers

The Good play an unusual and possibly fatal midfield heavy 0 – 3 – 6 – 2 formation.  While on the attack we have a one man defence and no keeper. But every player here changes games. And you can’t buy that kind of performance (although actually you can if you are Man City, Real Madrid or soon to be bankrupt Barcelona).

Keepers

With teams all playing some form of the Mourinho Discipline and a ball that lent itself better to near earth orbit than accurate free kicks on goal, this was an easy tourney for keepers. You got the feeling that almost anyone could man the sticks and it really wouldn’t matter. That thought was quickly disabused during the first Engerland game when you realised that actually, no it wasn’t that easy, and that anybody except for Robert Green could man the sticks and it really wouldn’t matter. I don’t think that any keeper really made a difference, so my good team doesn’t have one. This could prove to be something of a tactical error, but what the hell.

At the back

Philip Lahm – a great left sided defender playing on the right. Let’s put him on the left.

Sergio Ramos – flouncing diva who proved to be rather effective. Needs some kind of teeth operation.

Carlos Puyol – defended mainly from the centre circle. Nice bullet header against Germany.

Midfield

Kevin Prince Boateng – outstanding and still my player of the tournament (amazingly enough – I know, not even I believe it). The dynamo that drove Ghana forward, one of the few players in the entire tournament who always wanted the ball and usually did something useful with it when he got it. Germany owe him big time for having taken out Michael Bullshit in the FA Cup Final.

Andres Iniesta – had for him an average World Cup, but unlike Zidane in the 2006 final, his best moment both won the game and didn’t get him sent off. Sometimes the ball seemed chained to his feet. Immeasurably better when partnered with Fabregas.

Mezut Ozil – has those bleary amphibian eyes on stalks and plays in the Dennis Bergkamp position between the massed ranks of the defence, his work in Germany’s demolitions of Engerland and the Argies was outstanding.

Bastian Bloody Schweinsteiger – I’ve never liked him. But he was good.

Xabi Alonso – not just for being able to take that Nigel de Jong kung fu kick, but for his simple style that echoed Brian Clough’s maxim of get the ball, give it to someone on your team.

Elano – no idea why only Brazilians should have just the one name, but there you go. Much more so than the unfilled potential that was Kaka, Elano was the creative dynamo of Brazil. His loss to a really horrible tackle against the Ivory Coast deprived Brazil of much of their zest and, ultimately, cost them their place at the tournament.

Up front

Thomas Meuller – Golden Boot winner and Best Young Player of the Tournament. He’s like the German Paul Scholes, an indispensable member of the team whose potency you don’t notice until it’s gone. His suspension against Spain was one of the reasons Germany lost the tactical battle.

Carlos Tevez – Leetle Carlito, he is a terminator, he never gives up, chases every ball and looks like he wants to personally eat every member of the opposition.

The Wretched – Misplaced Potential

Let’s forget for a moment the stunning massed ranks of the merely mediocre who dominated this competition and focus on the slightly less many who conspicuously failed to deliver. Bear in mind here we could have had a list that included all members of Engerland, France, Italy, uncle Tom Cobley and all. Testament once again that tournament football is about teams not tanked up superstar individuals. These were players who either were unable to perform or were so scared of playing that they went all autistic and introverted on us.

Keeper

Spooner Bob – or Robert Green to his mum. There is a theory that after around 10,000 hours of practice at something you actually become quite good at it, not so the Spooner (or one might add the whole Engerland team).

At the back

Pretty much every defender from all of those teams that played the Mourinho Discipline overwhelmed by fear and spinelessness. Once it was clear that the Jubillani the Hutt ball made free kicks insignificant, these guys were more than happy to bring attackers crashing to the ground.

Martin Skrtel – a man whose name was made for Scrabble, but should not be allowed near a football pitch, Skrtl (that ‘e’ is really irritating don’t you think) epitomised everything that was wrong with the tournament, leading his team of nit-shaven, sunken-eyed wretches through battle after battle of attritional trench warfare football in dogged pursuit of the one-niller. Probably happiest when covered in blood, knee deep in mud armed with an axe.

Midfield

You could argue that this should include much of the Dutch and Spanish teams, neither of whom fulfilled their potential, but some other players stand out.

Messi – no goals, no real influence on games. Sure he had some nice little runs, but Argentina’s success disguised Messi’s spectacular non-appearance at the tournament.

Kaka – sent off (sent off!!!) against Ivory Coast, Kaka looked laboured and uninterested. Like Messi he came and went and no one left any the wiser.

Steven Gerrard – hard to say if he really was disappointing given I didn’t actually expect much. But on balance he was rubbish.

Marek Hamsik – possibly my least favourite player of the tournament, he epitomised the uselessness of style over substance. He seemed far more interested in his rubbish haircuts and tattoos than in actually playing football. I can’t remember how many times I was told that he was a great, gamechanging attacking midfielder, yet I can’t recall him actually making a single coherent pass. Unlike Messi and Kaka, whose talents simply didn’t fit into a tournament of tight marking and even tighter defences, I’ve never seen any indication that Hamsik has any talent at football. There is a special place in hell reserved for people like this (next to the Sam Allerdyce memorial graveyard).

Up front

The Rhino – this, like Euro 2008, should have been his tournament, but while he missed the Euros as Engerland didn’t even qualify, here he might as well have done for all the effect he had on matches. Given his potency when he emerged in Euro 2004, it’s amazing that Rhino has evolved into this almost undead creature incapable of even receiving the ball, let alone doing anything creative with it. It wasn’t that he looked like he really didn’t want the ball as that he looked genuinely bewildered as to what to do with it should he be unlucky enough to get it. Needs to learn that taking charge of a game isn’t the same as running recklessly all over the pitch chasing the ball.

The Diva Ronalda – again, Ronalda is a player who can change games, but there has long been a suspicion that he goes missing on really big occasions. Certainly his effect on serious games, cup finals, Champions League knock out stages and the Euros support this conclusion. Here he wasn’t able to boost a Portuguese side that was strong in defence and all but invisible in attack (strange given they scored 7 against the North Koreans). Not even he could control the Jubba ball, so one of his primary weapons, devastating free kicks, was completely neutered.

And It’s Curtains For Paul The Psychic Octopus

Thank god for that. Isn’t Oldboy just excellent?

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Also What We Learned From The World Cup Finals


Statistically The Least Worst Team Of The Tournament

Crazy but true. Only one team left South Africa undefeated. And they didn’t even get out of the Group Stage. Yes, dour, plucky little New Zealand ground their way through three draws in one of the easier groups in the tournament. They even scored two goals, almost as many as Engerland. And they kept the might of Paraguay, Slovakia and former World Champions Italy at bay. And, unlike Engerland, they can be pretty certain of an invitation to Brazil 2014.

Getting The Fear

Aside from a strange dedication to the Mourinho Discipline, the teams seemed to be obsessed with one thing, fear. Apparently the majority of teams in the Group stage were crippled by what can only be described as performance anxiety, which inevitably made them introspective, defensive and unable to seize the game. Now, you would have thought that most of these players, who have considerable Champions League and international experience, would be able to deal with pressure without turning into quivering jellies. Apparently not. None of the Engerland team rose above the thoroughly mediocre, France, Italy and others simply imploded and all cited ‘the fear’ as a major factor. The mind boggles.

Balls To You Award

Adidas’ new super-spherical ballon de merde, the Jubba the Hutt, was an unmitigated disaster for anyone not in the business of marketing a load of old balls stitched (or probably seam welded under some highly patented child labour friendly process) somewhere cheap and profitable. It slipped and slid when you didn’t want it to, but was somehow impossible for anyone to actually master when it came to the vital moments of free kicks, long range shots or simply passing to teammates (or was that just Engerland?). Now, it’s the same ball for both teams, so why should it matter? Well, if you’re not Japanese or Diego Forlorn (who could only hit the bar with any regularity with this ball, but could at least keep it down), it mattered a lot. Not being threatening from free kicks means defenders are happy to pull down dangerous looking attackers outside their box safe in the knowledge that they won’t be able to take advantage of the resulting free kick. So bad was the ball that by the end some teams weren’t even putting walls in the way and many others resorted to clever movement and passing from free kicks rather than going the direct approach. It also mattered if you were Robert Green, whose international career, if not his club one, won’t survive his desperate spoon of the ball into his own net. Like Gary Sprake’s own goal against Liverpool in 1967, or Paul Robinson’s miskicked divotbouncer against Croatia, this one was a career killer.

Strategic Winner In The Philosophy Stakes

Not a load of competition for this one either. Sure a last minute flurry from the ‘Playing badly and losing’ philosophy espoused by both North Korea and Engerland did manage to spice up the running for this, but fundamentally this was a battle between the stark defensive Mourinho Discipline and the more free-flowing post-Total Football football. Now Germany aside, pretty much every team played with a defensive Mourinho-minded philosophy. This extended from Switzerland, who have almost elevated this to an international standard, right the way to ‘championes’ Spain, who effectively played a Mourinho style game of attrition with a little bit of passing flair once they’d gone one up and the other side was winded and effectively out of the game.  Sadly no one, Germans included, really found a way around the massed ranks of defensive tedium. Which isn’t to say that the Mourinho Discipline is the way to go, rather that its defensive mindset is more about the fear of losing rather than the chance of winning. It’s no surprise that, more than any previous tournament, the first goal was the killer. It’s clear that this philosophy of not losing will inevitably infect next season’s lower range Prem teams – it certainly has resonance with the likes of Allerdyce, Bolton, Birmingham, Stoke etc etc – and will almost certainly leech its way into the Champions League – look for its omnipresence during the rather tedious Group stages from the likes of, say, long term losers Madrid as well as an unnamed new team from eastern Europe. The challenge will be, how can the likes of Man U, Arsenal, Barcelona et al defeat this carcinogenic anti-football.

Can We Not Do That Again Please…

64 games, of which about half a dozen were really watchable and of these most of them featured the Germans, which is kind of hard to take. A ‘Best of the Free Kicks’ video which includes both of the Japanese free kicks and, er, Diego Forlorn hitting the bar and, well, that’s it. A final that included a ton of yellow cards and one red but precious few moments of footballing creativity. A ball that was somehow both rounder and more rubbish than every other ball ever created, this was the World Cup that wasn’t. Like the dog that didn’t bark, this was the World Cup that didn’t deliver. A tribute to both FIFA’s marketing averice and the teams’ overwhelming fear of success, this World Cup served up a dire prison food diet of football intersperced with occasional moments of footballing class. However, the very few moments of class floated like crumbling crutons on a thin patina of filth. Next time let’s find way to make more matches interesting and worth watching eh.

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What We Learned From The World Cup Finals


Goal Of The Tournament – And The First Shall Be The Best

Tshabalala’s great opening strike was outstanding, not simply for the sheer elan with which he smashed it into the Mexican’s net as for the promise it offered. Here was a goal formed on the playing fields of the best fast-flowing counterattacking sides. A defence splitting pass placed perfectly into the path of a sprinting Tshabalala, who just slammed it into the net. It raised hopes that this World Cup would be about skill and daring and excitement, that someone in Africa would rise to challenge the monoliths (if you can have monoliths that is) of European and South American dominance, that this World Cup would be about the joy of football rather than the stunning negativity, insecurity and fear of most tournament football. Sadly after this moment it was pretty much all downhill.

Not Goal Of The Tournament – Somewhat Spoilt For Choice

We could have Ghana’s non-goal that was blocked on the line by the hand of Dirty Suarez in the Quarter Finals. Or the American’s goal that never was against Slovenia. Or, it might seem, the Italian’s last minute almost-equaliser against the mighty Slovakia. Certainly the FIFA linesmen, who were by and large excellent, seemed to have mislaid their goalmouth specs on something of a regular basis. However, Not Goal Of The Tournament has to go to Frank Lampard’s chip and blip off the crossbar against Germany. Just like an overly imaginative fisherman’s tale, the gap between the line and the ball will only ever get bigger in the telling. However, the failure to give the goal will have two major positive effects on the game, it’s so blatantly a goal that FIFA will have to investigate the use of goalline technology and it won’t be allowed to cover up the myriad of failings of the useless Engerland side.

Best Chant Of The Tournament

Not a lot of choice here as the vuvuzela managed to successfully bloat out pretty much all attempts at chanting. However, the continued booing of Dirty Suarez during the Semi-Final against Holland was exceedingly gratifying. But the winner is the England fans’ reaction to the disallowed (non-allowed?) Not Goal, which was both the loudest and the best chant of the tournament. A World Cup half a world away, broadcast to billions, and the crowd is all singing ‘The Referee’s a wanker’ at the tops of their voices. That was a moment for Sepp Blatter to have nightmares about.

Best Sporting Moment Of The Tournament

It lasted the best part of three days and it wasn’t even in the same continent. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut’s amazing fifth set at Wimbledon was everything that sport should be about, excellence of technique, power of will, composure, discipline, psychological gamesmanship, physical agility and fitness, skill, daring and channelled aggression. They played more minutes in that one set than most players played in the entire World Cup. They didn’t blink, whine, pout, dive, get scared. And it was just a first round match.

Best Least Sporting Moment Of The Tournament

Hands up Dirty Suarez. Sure we might all have done it, it might even have been ‘instinctive’ rather than blatantly deliberate, but you know what, I hope we wouldn’t have. And, yes, almost no one would be bothered if only Gyan had scored the resulting penalty and Ghana had gone through. But this was another example of the extreme cynicism that dominated the World Cup, a moment where the punishment quite patently didn’t match the crime. You have to think that a penalty goal and a yellow card would be a better punishment for this sort of thing. Sure less drama, but quite patently a fairer result.

Best Team Of The Tournament

Most goals, top goalscorer, best young player, most exciting team, and not one, not two, but three four goal thrashings on their way to a Semi-Final loss to eventual winners Spain sees Germany win Best Team. Oh how we laughed when they gave Oztralia the kicking they so richly deserved, oh how we didn’t (well we did but in a crazy schadenfreude sort of way) when they mercilessly dished out the same drubbing to Engerland. And oh how we laughed again when they mullered the crazy Argies. And we can blame it all on divetastic ex-Spur Jurgen Klinsmann. Unlike the useless Engerland, Germany showed all the benefits of ambition, long-term planning, attacking philosophy and preparation. And, unlike pretty much every other team here, Germany came here to win the World Cup rather than simply gain it by not losing. The only team whose matches I’ve bothered to keep.

Least Best Team Of The Tournament

Hmmmm. Where to start? The pitiful inadequacy of both Cameroon and North Korea, neither of whom scored a point. The pulse-draining soul-sapping mediocrity of all those sides hopped up on fear and inadequacy that aimed to stifle the opposition and kill the game. The European giants who didn’t perform, like Italy and France. No, there’s really only one Least Best Team, the now utterly unmighty Engerland. The oldest squad in the tournament should have been chock full of big game, big tournament experience if nothing else, but instead seemed to have cornered the market on fear, insecurity and doubt. They also seemed to have left their footballing basics somewhere else as simple acts like passing seemed utterly beyond them. Apparently riven by strife, inadequacy, boredom and sexual jealousy, they were so bad that their flaccid performances in World Cup 2006 seemed like memories of the Elysian Fields.  If what we do in life does, indeed, echo through eternity, then these guys are going to be hearing the boos that accompanied them off the pitch against Algeria for a very long time.

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What We Learned From Spain vs Holland (1-0)


Will The Real Spain Please Stand Up

6 games in. One loss, three harshly ground out 1 – 0 results, not a lot of genuinely inspiring football played. The Spanish were the team that turned beautiful flowing football into a grim tactical war of attrition, barely raising themselves above the mundane in their previous matches. Following their loss to Switzerland, where their celebrated Tikki Takki pass the ball through the eye of a needle style had conspicuously failed to deliver results, they had seemed tentative at times, apparently going through a kind of crisis of confidence over the best route to win the World Cup. Meanwhile, the Dutch, whose football is inextricably linked to the Total Football style of Cryff et al, seem to have comfortably dispensed with their cultural heritage in favour of a more robust What The Hell It Works philosophy. Given this, which bunch of ‘cultured heavies’ would actually turn up and deliver on what should be the world’s greatest stage was anybody’s guess.

Astonishingly on the balance of the first 5 minutes or so, it seemed as though Spain had been restored to the immaculate side that won Euro 2008. They were awesome, showing the element of ambition and attacking flair that had been missing throughout their previous matches. Sergio Ramos, who is a bit of a diva, was outstanding, rampaging down the right and threatening to score after only 5 minutes. It seemed as though the intellectual torpor which had dulled most of the rest of the competition had been erased. Spain, it seemed, had no doubts and the Dutch would take a real pasting. It might not have been tikki takki, but it was fast, direct, intricate and exciting.

Now the Dutch have two World Cup faces. They have the 1974 Cryff team, the best Dutch team never to have won the World Cup, and they have the 2006 vintage as epitomised by the outstandingly ugly match against Cheating Diva’s Portugal side, where the tempo was set in the first few minutes when Boularouz gave the Diva a full on straight leg into the shin with a neat stud rake to finish as a ‘welcome to the World Cup’ gesture. For a moment it looked like there was going to be a debate about which style was going to take precedence. But in truth, there was never going to be any doubt.

If a team with genuine hopes of winning the World Cup has ever disappointed more, I can’t remember it. We don’t count the useless flotsam like Engerland, France or Italy, who never had a prayer of winning, or those with little or no genuine style like, well, Italy again who graced finals with little style but less expectation. But the Dutch. From the Dutch we expected so much more. Not that this team had really ever given us any indication that there was more, their contrast of Sneijder’s style and van Bommel’s thuggery not so much a blend as an assassination. They never really showed anything other than a blunt low grade desire to win ugly, or failing that to win uglier.

And so it went. The Spanish, as is their wont, had lots of the ball, the Dutch, as was their gameplan, were more than happy to bump, barge, beat and bludgeon them off the ball anywhere on the pitch as long as it wasn’t in their own penalty area. A typical move being, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass (over the halfway line at last), pass, clatter, foul. Cue free kick over the bar. As has become usual the robust defence allowed Spain little opportunity to attack and the lack of speed in their attack, bar the first few minutes, meant that there were almost no opportunities for real chances. Villa, the previous hero of Spain, was utterly insignificant throughout. Meanwhile, the Dutch were racking up the cards at a rate previously only seen in their ‘special’ Portuguese match (although it has to be said in their defence that neither Portugal, nor in this case Spain, were exactly angels themselves). Nigel De Jong’s chest high, studs up front kick into Alonso being something of a standout moment.

Now it wasn’t boring in the way that the classic ‘boring’ final of 1994 was, in this case there was the excitement of the first 5 minutes to recall, but it was a game where the creativity and elegance were thoroughly snuffed out. As the 90 minutes staggered to a conclusion, the only consolation was that there couldn’t be more than 30 more minutes of this until it was all over.

And when we woke up the Spanish had won.

64 Down 0 To Go, 1 World Champion

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