11 July 2010

SPAIN 1 (Iniesta 116)

The Dutch made a nervous start. Stekelenburg made a fantastic fifth minute save from Ramos, who met a Xavi free kick with a superb diving header. Ramos forced a corner, Xavi played it short to Xabi Alonso, he curled a great cross to the back post, Villa shaped to volley but crashed the ball into the side netting. Van Persie was the first of many players to be booked for a late sliding tackle on Capdevilla who screamed like a girl, clutched his knee then put his hands over his face. Puyol quickly followed him in the book for a foul from behind. Van Bommel showed them how it's done when he jumped into Iniesta and took out his trailing leg. Ramos' challenge, he was booked for catching Kuyt late, was tame in comparison. Nigel De Jong should have been sent off, jailed and bummed for jumping into Xabi Alonso and driving his right foot straight into his chest. He only got a yellow, Webb showing he had clearly lost control. Sneijder was the second Dutch player who should have been sent off, he went for a 50-50 ball with Busquets only he forget to attack the ball and instead jumped in the air and raked his studs down the inside of the Barcelona midfielder's left knee. At the end of the first half Robben drew a great save from Casillas.

Just past the hour mark Robben blew the clearest chance of the game. Sneijder threaded a pass between two defenders, Robben stayed onside, waited an age for Casillas to commit, tried to place the ball into the corner but Casillas saved with his feet, why didn't he go round? Navas, on for Pedro, fired in a centre which deflected off Heitinga to Villa and as he shot Heitinga, still on the turf, planted down his left arm then swung his legs to kick clear, fantastic block. Ramos missed a free header from a corner and Robben blew another one vs one. Van Persie headed on a longball out of defence, Robben ran between Puyol and Pique, kept his balance as Puyol fouled him, tried to round Casillas but the ball was too close to the 'keeper and he saved.

Xavi dived in the box looking for a penalty. Iniesta played a ball inside Heitinga to release Fabregas who bore down on goal but was denied by a brilliant Stekelenburg save. The Dutch went downfield and won a corner, Casillas flapped at the ball but Mathijsen headed over. Van Bronckhorst deflected a Navas effort wide of the right post. Iniesta dived under minimal contact to get Heitinga a second yellow. Elia was sandwiched on the edge of the Spain box and while the Dutch protested over the non award of a free kick the Spanish broke, lost the ball and quickly got it back, Navas played wide left to Torres, he crossed, Fabregas seized on Van der Vart's half arsed clearance and slipped in Iniesta who flicked up the ball before blasting a half volley into the bottom left corner. Torres blew him hamstring just before the full time whistle. Don't expect to see him at the Euros or next World Cup. He's finished.

The Dutch employed a new tactic to combat Spain's tedious passing game - MMA and it worked. Webb could have shown two reds in the first half but bottled every big decision, maybe he read the Facebook message I sent highlighting Spanish previous transgressions in this World Cup.

I hope Arjen Robben doesn't sleep easy tonight because he cost his team the World Cup.

Spain bent the rules to get to the final and were a penalty kick away from a quarter-final exit but they showed the mental resilience the best team (on paper) Brazil, lacked. I have no time for their tikki-takki style. They now use it as a defensive tactic, passing square to draw fouls (and cards) from the opposition. It will become a career shortener. From here on in teams will simply follow the Dutch model and kick lumps out of them and that's the price they'll pay for diving and playacting.

Spain are the lowest scoring World Champions Of all time. 8 goals beats the previous record of set by CAP's Brazil in 1994 (11 goals). It is also one goal more than Greece scored to win the 2004 European Championship and they played a game less! Let's call a spade a spade. Spain do not play the game 'how it should be played' (whatever that means) nor are they a great attacking side, they are a defensive team who use possession as their first line of defence. Instead of sitting deep and inviting pressure, they pass square in midfield. Ultimately the result is the same, it stifles the opposition, chokes the game and is boring as hell to watch.

Horrible end to what was ultimately a horrible World Cup.

Attendance : 84,490
Red Card : Heitinga 109 (Netherlands)
Assist : Fabregas