Not the spectacle of football we were expecting in this final, thanks to the rather unsavoury tactics displayed by the Dutch team. Thankfully the Spanish were able to rise above it and fulfilled Paul the Octopus’s prediction.
I’ll be honest and say I didn’t bother with the 3rd place play-off – a dinner party was a much more appealing alternative after a day of hard labour and a huge Strawberries and Cream frappucino! The fact that the Germans won doesn’t mean a great deal in real terms, as for them, they still missed out on the final, and Uruguay were national heroes regardless of the result. Diego Forlan was later voted the best player in the tournament, and young Thomas Mueller won the Golden Boot thanks to 5 goals and his three assists (the assists were used as a tie breaker after about 4 players managed to notch 5 each throughout the tournament).
The final was bound to be a tense affair, with two teams, neither having tasted World success before (hell, the Spanish had never been past the Quarters and the Dutch were two time losers) facing off to be only the eighth different winners of the World Cup. The build up had seen the Dutch state that they had made plans to stop the Spanish passing game, and boy did they try it! Van Bommel, De Jong, Heitinga, the list of offenders goes on. In fact De Jong was extraordinarily fortunate to make it to half time after his chest high assault on Xabi Alonso.
The 2nd half saw much the same, except the Dutch started to come out of their shell, certainly for a while, with Robben having two good opportunities to score, thwarted by Casillas on both occasions, although the second time he was closely attended to by Puyol, which prompted Robben to sprint after English referee Webb to remonstrate. All he got was his name in the book. The ninety minutes ended with no break to the stalemate, and so another 30 minute war of attrition was waged by the tiring Dutch. Fabregas had been introduced and had a great chance, only to be stopped by Stekelenburg’s leg. Then, as penalties loomed, Johnny Heitinga tried to swap shirts with Iniesta ten minutes early, and had his game cut short as he saw a second yellow card come his way. Gradually, Spain began to assert their dominance and finally, with a mere 5 minutes or so left, Iniesta lashed the ball into the corner of the net and sent Spain crazy. As the match ran down, there was more drama to come, with Fernando Torres pulling up sharply after coming on late on. There was nothing the Dutch could do, and when the whistle blew, the party started in Johannesburg, Madrid, and well, anywhere there were Spanish people!!!
Captain Iker Casillas managed to wipe the tears away long enough to receive the trophy from Sepp Blatter, raised it to the sky in triumph, passed it on to a team mate and then burst into tears again.
Rather harshly perhaps, the English officials were booed as they went up to receive their medals, but that’s just sore losers for you. Even the greatest Dutchman, Johann Cruyff derided the Dutch approach and praised Spain as one of the few teams still playing a brand of ‘Total Football’.
As for me, I’ve got no excuse now. Time to knuckle down and create more adventures for my legendary hero…. Dave!!!
Watch this space.