Monday, July 12, 2010

Earning the (re) cap: Spain - the Netherlands

Spain - the Netherlands
Score: 1-0, ESP
My prediction: 2-1, NED

From a strictly on-the-pitch perspective, the World Cup Final was rather a disappointment in my view. Different tactics appeal to different people, so it might have proved entertaining to some, but Spain and the Netherlands both opted for defence over attack, and the result was a game without a lot of the offensive play or scoring chances I tend to enjoy. Midfield play predominated, the yellow cards piled up and the game didn't really get anywhere during the 90 minutes of regulation time. The Netherlands probably had the best chances, but they came on the counterattack against the run of play and were thwarted relatively easily by Spanish keeper Iker Casillas.

Extra time saw much of the same old song and dance, but the game took a different turn when referee Howard Webb gave Dutch defender John Heitinga a second yellow card in the 109th minute. Spain picked up the pace with the man advantage, and they finally pulled ahead through Andres Iniesta's 116th minute goal. The Netherlands tried some last-ditch attacks, but they fell short and the Spanish came away with a 1-0 victory. It was probably deserved, as they controlled 57 per cent of the possession and had a 18-13 advantage in shots. Still, it would have been more convincing if they'd managed to pull off the win before the Dutch went down a man. In the end, though, it was a perfect win in terms of reflecting what the Spanish did all tournament; control the possession, prevent opposing chances and goals and take advantage of opposing mistakes.

Despite the lack of on-pitch excitement, the match remained suspenseful throughout thanks to its significance. As a soccer clash, it paled in comparison before the previous day's thrilling match between Uruguay and Germany, but this had much more on the line, which raised it to a similar or higher level. It also remained close throughout, which added to the tension. For me, it was far from the most interesting World Cup Final and also far from the best matches of this tournament, but the significance will make it memorable. In fact, it may be the perfect symbol of a tournament where parity was a key watchword and efficiency won out over entertainment.


  1. For me, good defensive football isn't cattanachio, but the ability to shut down opposition attacks without allowing a sight of goal, and turning the play into a successful attack, much like what the Germans are capable of.

    What we saw in the final was not good defensive football. It wasn't good football, period. It's a shame the Dutch chose to approach the match with the mentality that they did, the prospect of an exceptional direct-passing attacking team vs. an exceptional short-passing attacking team would have made for fantastic TV. Too bad.

  2. Yeah, I agree, Amrit; defence isn't necessarily boring, but the way those teams played defence is. By contrast, Inter Milan - Bayern Munich in the Champions League final was also quite a defensive game, but I enjoyed watching it much more; Inter defended beautifully and then went for it on the counterattack. This was more two teams trying to bore each other to death.