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Friday, 23 July 2010

World Cup Review

Pass, move, show… Pass, move, show… Pass, move, show.
To some it’s mesmerising, others find it monotonous but it's certainly effective. So Spain, deservedly for me, won the World Cup without blowing anyone away.
Their playing style divides opinion, fans love the simple beauty while critics talk of the tedious pass, pass, pass approach. I'm a fan, as 'that’s how football should be played'. I also admire their technical skill and the individual brilliance of their more creative players. While passing the opposition into a trance, Iniesta, Xavi and Villa are always looking to pass or move into dangerous spaces and create opportunities.
Their deserved victory over a thug-like Holland side was a victory for football but they scored no more than a draw in human behaviour. The exaggerated card-waving and theatrical antics will scar my memory of a wonderful side. Iniesta is undoubtedly a world-class footballer, indeed for me, he is the best but visions of him demanding action from Howard Webb will unfortunately sit alongside the image of his composed, controlled and much-deserved WC winning goal. Granted, he received special attention from Jean Claude Van Bommel and Co but we expect, sorry need, more from our sporting icons.
Holland for their part might live to regret their 'ugly' strategy in the final. For sure, teams should play to their strengths but I thought they adopted a crude approach on the night. They never reached 'total football' throughout the event but they had played well, albeit in a more methodical way than previous Dutch sides. Organised and comfortable in possession, they broke well through their better players, Sneijder and Robben. Strangely enough for the Dutch, I think it was a confidence issue in the end. They didn't quiet have the belief they could beat the Spanish playing their usual way. I think they could well have caused Spain more problems giving it a go rather than disrupting the game, relying on set pieces and quick counters.
Germany and even more so, Uruguay surprised many with their progress. The youthful Germany side were supposedly in transition but looked more like the finished article especially when walloping idea-less England and midfield-less Argentina. Eventually they came up short once faced with an organised side, which held possession and had a plan. That said, they were competitive and most England fans would take that before any tournament but especially in a time of change. Uruguay rode the luck at times but battled their way through and entertained in all their games. Forlan deservedly took most of the praise but they all played a part, even if some had a bigger hand in proceedings than others… eh Senor Suarez. As English football analyses yet another early finish, we could do worse than look to learn lessons from Uruguay, a nation of only 3.5 million people.
The tournament itself proved to be unique and successful, bar the empty seats. South Africa can clearly stage a successful, major sporting event, full of vibrancy and colour. The media in Britain raised more concerns than most before kick off so we can only hope the Olympics is a similar success story, safe and secure. The below-par showings from our exhausted and excessively burdened superstars highlights that club football dominates. It’s ironic that the biggest football tournament, a huge global event, lacked quality and individual brilliance because of domestic ‘progression’.
Lastly, I think FIFA missed a sitter, a glorious chance to make a simple yet massive statement with the essence of the game, the ball. To do this, FIFA needed to look long-term but opted for the quick-fix of commercial cash and ended up looking even more silly than usual with the latest incarnation of a football. Why not allow a local supplier provide the balls for the tournament? What a boost this would have been to the real people of South Africa, not just financially. FIFA missed the chance to make a real difference; they missed the chance to leave a real WC legacy.
Sing Sing Africa.

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