Go with a smile!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

World Cup 2

There’s not much I have to talk about the world cup. I stopped at the quarters, and there’s only that much you can say about the last 3 matches (or 4, if you count the most useless game of the tournament).

But I was happy for the last 4. This is one tournament where I would normally have rooted for the last 4. Uruguay, because they are underdogs. They took the semi-final spot that was contended by South Korea, USA and Ghana. Obviously one of these would have reached the semis, and if any one of these reached the semis instead of Uruguay, they would have had the label of “surprise semi-finalist” all the same. But in a sense they are even more of a surprise semi-finallist than Ghana because people were thinking that the host continent

There’s not much I can tell from how Uruguay actually played. They had 2 obvious stars, in Forlan and Suarez, but the rest of the team played solidly. But it was great to see a team that had won 2 world cups and then disappeared from view – appear in the semis for the first time since 1970.

Germany were there because they clearly deserved it. Granted, they may have been flattered by matches where they scored 4 goals. Those matches, though, were against opposition where they were able to play to their strengths as a fast counter-attacking team. An Australia who didn’t know how to play, an England that didn’t know how to run, and an Argentina who left yawning spaces in the middle of the park. The 4-0 scoreline against Argentina looked great, but it flattered Germany: if you watched the match, as I did, it was much closer than that.

In comparison, the 1-0 defeat against Spain was a bit of a thrashing.

The famed tiki-taka football style of the Spaniards was heavily influenced by the "total football" of Ajax and Holland. The Spanish has a very strong Dutch influence. Johan Cryuff played at Barcelona during some of his peak years, and later became the legendary coach who led the club to 4 consecutive titles. His replacement, Louis Van Gaal built a youth system that emphasised the "Barcelona style" of playing, and that system produced many of the players in the current Spanish team. It was based on the possession football that was drilled into them since they were kids: pass, move, call. If executed properly, this would create an intricate pattern of passing where it would be almost impossible for the other team to win the ball back.

I think this was what happened in the matches that Spain had played in. You always kept the ball, and sooner or later that, goal would come, and then you kept the ball. Somebody called it "a beautiful form of attrition". The scoreline was only 1-0, but Spain had such a stranglehold on controlling and shaping the match that it couldn't have been anything other than 1-0. It was 1-0 against Paraguay, Portugal and Germany.

The final was between Spain and Holland. I was concerned about Holland, since I knew what terrors Robben and Sneijder were. With all due respect to Germany, Spain had never played another team which had such a potent attacking force. Muller was out for the Spain match, maybe Miroslav Klose was crocked? I don't know.

The Dutch were nicknamed "Clockwork Oranje" during the 70s, when they moved the ball around like clockwork. I think this moniker was appropriate for the way the Dutch played during the final because of the "ultraviolence". The Dutch were given 9 yellow card, and the last one was a second yellow for one of their defenders. Thereafter, Spain scored in extra time, and they became champions. It was an ugly match, but at least the good guys won.

Yes, I rooted for the Dutch because of the way they played before the final. They said the Germans played like the Dutch and the Dutch played like the Germans - fine, but the awesome attack of Sneijder and Robben were great to watch. They scored 2 goals against Brazil, 3 against Uruguay.

But against Spain, I think you had to use spoiling tactics. Germany didn't do that, and so they lost.

Spain 2010 was probably one of the most admired World Cup champions, since Brazil 1970. Holland 1974, Brazil 1982, France 1986, Romania 1994 and Brazil 1998 were other much-admired teams, and a few of these were more admired than Spain 2010, but all failed to win the cup.

I befriended a nice girl while watching the World Cup matches, and she was a staunch Spain supporter. I'm happy for her.

One of the things I noticed was that very few Premiership players made it past the quarter- finals. It could be true that playing in the EPL takes a lot out of you. But it was also that the French and England teams both screwed up badly. Essien didn't play. Ballack didn't play. Drogba got kicked out in the group of death. Cristiano Ronaldo was not in a great Portugese team. Torres was injured. Fabregas was down the pecking order from Xavi and Iniesta.

Possibly Carlos Tevez had an OK tournament. Possibly Kevin-Prince Boateng too - although he got relegated with Portsmouth. That leaves Dirk Kuyt, but he's hardly the star of Holland.

I actually welcome this. Maybe I'm sick and tired of the EPL. It's a shitty little narcissistic scene where people who are greedy for money end up. Yes, they dominated the Champion's League for the few years before and after the 2006 World Cup, but I think that had to do with the concentration of talent in there, due to all that money. I think we need some perspective that I should have had after Spain won Euro 2008: that English football is boring. It's just aggressive and fast.

I think that EPL players are in worse shape after the season. People get injured more. They're tired because of the playing style. A winter break wouldn't do much good because they'll still play the same way with or without the winter break.

Boring boring EPL. There was so much excitement last year when, for the first time since Everton gate-crashed the top 4, there was somebody new there (Tottenham). I think I should do the right thing and give it a miss.

I think, at the end of the day, the EPL will never supplant the World Cup as the greatest soccer tournament. People play in the World Cup for glory, whereas in the EPL, it's all about money. All the genuine-ness has gone out of it. People are too concerned about stability. Don't get relegated. Don't lose your top 4 place. Don't say anything interesting that will get you into trouble with your boss or fellow teammates. Play the same way week in week out.

I noticed that bald people played more than their fair share of influencing the outcome of World Cup final matches.

1998: Baldie Ronaldo got a panic attack during the World Cup, and played badly. Another baldie, Zidane, headed in 2 goals to thrash Brazil and win the World Cup.
2002: Baldie Ronaldo scored the 2 goals which won the World Cup for Brazil.
2006: Baldie Zidane got sent off, and France lost the penalty shootout. Zidane scored a penalty earlier.
2010: Baldie Andres Iniesta scored the winning goal.



Blogger Nat said...

Darn the football, doesn't interest me. However, I might comment on two snippets...
1. Didnt realize the dutch played so violently to be compared to Clockwork orange...
2. When the seeds are planted, you should nurture it to bloom. I have a feeling, years from now you might recount stories on how Spain was a catalyst... I guess for that reason, this world cup was worthwhile ;)

6:47 PM

Blogger 7-8 said...

Eh eh eh eh eh dun jinx it.

In any case it is way too early to talk about sowing seeds.

11:15 PM


Post a Comment