Monday, July 12, 2010

Beauty Defeats the Beast


After 120 minutes of some of the most disgraceful football I have ever seen, especially on a platform like the World Cup final, brute force lost. Beauty and guile won. In a game that saw 14 yellow cards, horrendous tackles, and one flying kung-fu kick, Spain managed to nick another late goal to secure the ever so classy one-nil victory (their fourth on the trot).

The Dutch did everything I expected them to do. They came out and actually held good possession for the opening 10 minutes. Every Spaniard on the ball had very limited time to act. What I also expected, which unfortunately came true, were the bullying tactics. I knew - I KNEW - that Van Bommel and De Jong wouldn't make it out of this match without a yellow card each. When that final whistle blew, it was shocking both were actually still on the field. What a disgusting pair of players. Absolutely shocking disregard for the safety and well being of other people on the field. Every one of the tackles was studs up, late, from behind, or any combination of those.

Say what you will about Howard Webb's display during this game, but you may only be able to fault him for not giving out more than the 14 yellow cards we saw. As one column put it, he was tasked with controlling the uncontrollable. Even with the early cards, the violence didn't subside.

Spain were a bit ugly themselves - and justifiably so. The least carded team in the tournament and the team with the least amount of fouls committed got a little dirty. So what. It's the first time any opponent actually manned up to the moment and took it to this team. It was good to see Spain hold their own against a more physical opponent, especially since many people consider the Spanish team to be quite fragile. But it was enough.

It could have been much different had Robben finished off his chances (and how about the irony of this guy not going down to draw red on Puyol, after being the biggest play actor in the tournament). Spain had plenty of chances too with a free Sergio Ramos header and a Villa shot deflected on the doorstep. But the clinching goal epitomized how Spain have done it this past month. Pouncing on a poor clearance from Van Der Vaart (coincidentally he was playing in the place where Heitinga would have been had he not been red carded), Fabregas found Iniesta who finished with class and coolness. Always attacking and always pushing forward. Never switching off. That is the Spanish way. It's so hard to play mistake free for an entire match, knowing your opponent will punish you will the smallest of errors. That's what happened to Portugal, to Paraguay, to Germany, and yesterday to Holland.

In the end, no team could match the talent and overall quality of Spain. They become only the third team to ever win both the World Cup and European Championship consecutively. It's scary to think about what's next. With the monkey off their back, Spain can now move forward without any pressure whatsoever. Their youth now have veteran experience. Endless talent lie in wait at home. And the style? That won't change and it never will. The world knows how Spain will play moving forward, and it's up to everyone else to figure out a way to stop it.

So congratulations to the most beautiful team on the planet. We don't need to worry about praising a defensive minded team that fouls its way to victories. All the beasts of this tournament have fallen by the wayside. Only Spain, and the most attractive style of football we have ever witnessed, now stand alone atop the podium.

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