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.

Comments are closed.