Yeah, I’m a day late and a dollar short on this, but that’s pretty much the way things work around here (if you haven’t figured it out yet). The 2010 World Cup is over, and I’m a little depressed; not with how it turned out, I’m just bummed it’s over. After a month of watching games almost every day (I watched every single one this time around), it has become part of my routine . . . and I really enjoyed the hell out of it. Yeah, some of the games were duds, but some were positively brilliant. I don’t regret the time I gave it one bit.
The final match between Netherlands and Spain was one that could be filed in the “dud” category, unfortunately. As the guys in the studio said at halftime, Spain came out attacking and playing their game and it was exciting . . . until the Dutch decided to resort to brutal fouls to keep things even. Their performance was one of the worst I’ve seen, and shameful. The game ended up racking up the highest total of yellow cards ever (14, doubling the previous record), and the Netherlands were the instigators. They had one player ejected after he got his second caution, though at least one player also should have received a second yellow, leading to an ejection (for delay of game continuing a play after the whistle was blown, an offense a Spain player did receive a yellow for). This brutal foul, a flying high kick to Xabi Alonso’s chest with no attempt made to play the ball, only resulted in a yellow. Nigel De Jong should have received the red; the only thing I can imagine is that the referee didn’t see the extent of the foul.
I don’t mind good, physical play — it’s a very physical game — but these guys were playing like a bunch of thugs. It was very disappointing, as I have always been a fan of the Dutch. Going into the tournament, I would have been happy if either of these teams won the whole thing. As it turned out, I was for Spain all the way by the time the USA was eliminated. So it was great to actually have a team I’m pulling for win!
The Dutch almost scored a goal in the second half, and really should have. Wesley Sneijder, one of their players I did not lose respect for, played a beautiful ball to Arjen Robben, the guy who came to personify all that I loathed about the Dutch. This guy would dive every time anyone got near, and I hated him for it. He broke free one-on-one with the goalkeeper, and Casillas (who won the Golden Glove award as the tournament’s best goalkeeper) stopped him. That made my night!
Robben is a punk. Later he was denied again. Even the announcers commented that the one time he was actually fouled in the penalty box he didn’t go down; instead he continued the play and Casillas again made the save. If he’d gone down he might have gotten a penalty kick. Instead he played through it; that’s part of the game. Referees will rule the advantage. In that case, Robben stayed on his feet and had a clear attempt to score. If the ref had blown the whistle on the foul, Robben would have griped for not getting the advantage. Instead, after not getting the goal, he chased the referee up the pitch complaining. That is when he finally got a yellow card for being a whiny little punk. That was great. What an asshole.
Andres Iniesta got the goal late in extra time to win the match and the championship. He deserved it; he’d been working so hard and was just getting knocked all over the place by the Dutch. I was happy he got the goal, and I am thrilled for the people of Spain.
I’ve found a couple links with a number of phenomenal photographs from the tournament, including the ones I’ve posted here. THIS ONE captures shots from the first half of the tournament, and THIS ONE is the rest. Great stuff from boston.com, via the “Big Picture” section of their website.
The rest of these pictures all came from Yahoo.
I’m happy with how it turned out. I’m happy Spain are champions; they are the first team since 1974 or something like that to hold both the World championship and the European championship simultaneously (I think the last one to do it was West Germany). I’d have liked the USA to advance farther, but at least they played well. I enjoyed watching Germany play, as well as Japan. I’m happy with the winners of the various individual awards. I love that Thomas Mueller from Germany kicked so much ass (Julia’s maiden name is Mueller). I’m happy my parents got so into it too (we ate pizza and watched the final at their house). I’m happy the ratings were so high, and I though ESPN did a great job with it. Will the success make soccer a huge sport in the USA? No, and I don’t think it would even if the USA had won the whole thing. But I’m content with how it turned out, and sure hope we make it to Brazil in 2014 to see it in person!