You only have to look at the statistics of this game to see it wasn’t the best final ever. Fourteen bookings and one red card demonstrate just how physical and bad-tempered the game was, with the Netherlands doing their utmost to prevent Spain from playing their natural game. While the actions of manager Bert van Marwijk’s side helped them stay in the game as long as they did, they didn’t make for an entertaining spectacle, with those in my living room more concerned with how good old Howard Webb was doing.
The game, and the tournament as a whole, lacked the drama of a Zidane head-butt but it would be fair to say that the best side in the world did win the World Cup, which provides a fitting end to this year’s competition. In fact in a tournament short of goals it is only right that a scrappy 1-0 victory should provide the crescendo, penalties would have been far too dramatic, especially for my Mum who drew Spain in the office sweepstake and thus was clinging to the sofa as if the prize money was the Jules Rimet trophy itself.
Fortunately for the Spanish, and my Mum, they had the best team in the tournament and despite an initial blip they progressed through the tournament ruthlessly, climaxing in four consecutive 1-0 victories. Despite all this talk of style over substance we mustn’t forget that Spain haven’t actually been playing beautiful football, but the best teams are always able to win when they’re not performing at their best.
Torres has definitely had better days, while the much-hyped Pique and Puyol were, at times, susceptible; outmuscled by the Swiss in their first game they could have conceded on more than one occasion tonight had the Dutch been able to take their chances. The Spanish won’t care though, all they’ll want to do tonight is celebrate and who can blame them.
One man who probably won’t be celebrating is Mr Howard Webb. Despite the whole of England being behind him, and with this being touted as “his time” it seems the pressure might have got to him. He has definitely had better days, nobody wants to send anybody off in a World Cup final, and he won’t be happy to see the “expert” pundits criticising his overall performance but he didn’t do too much wrong, regardless of what the Dutch say. Nevertheless, at least he isn’t Graeme Poll.
Many people seem to be suggesting that Spain’s win is deserved because the Netherlands were in someway “anti-football” but that would be harsh on the Dutch. Granted they haven’t been the prettiest footballing side in the world but they have got results and surely that is what football is all about, nobody was complaining when Jose Mourinho ‘parked the bus’ against Barcelona to masterfully secure passage to the Champions League final.
The Dutch are unfashionable but we know that we would take England getting to the final in any way possible. They were undoubtedly physical, with Mark van Bommel seemingly on a mission to get sent-off in every game he played, but if that is what victory requires so be it. They weren’t going out to injure players, and even if they did force our Howard to use his cards more than he would have liked, they weren’t outside the rules of the game to the same extent as Uruguay’s Luis Suarez. Let’s celebrate the success of the Spanish, it’s nice to see the best team in the world lift the trophy, but don’t knock the Dutch too much for not lying down and letting Villa and co waltz around them.