Wednesday 7 July 2010

World Cup thoughts - Day 26 & 27

Day 26

Holland 3 v Uruguay 2

Boring, functional, grinding out results!

Terms you might have associated with old Arsenal teams before Arsene Wenger arrived or previous Germany teams in World Cups.

But no, we're talking about Holland!

Holland make it to their first World Cup final since 1978. I still don't think Holland have played that well to be honest.

I know they beat Brazil, but nobody could have predicted the emotional collapse from the Brazilians in last week's quarter final.
So Despite going ahead through Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's fantastic goal you got the impression that the weight of expectation was too great for the Dutch, something we've seen before with England. There were periods during tonight's game where they really didn't look convincing at all.

It made me think that perhaps that's one of the great challenges of winning the World Cup these days. It's not just about beating the opposition and progressing through the rounds; it's about being able to deal with the huge level of pressure and expectation that many of the big footballing nations have to deal with.

That pressure seemed to weigh even more heavily following Diego Forlan's equaliser. Another great strike, although you have to question what the keeper Stekelenberg was doing.

A word on Forlan - he's been my player of the tournament. He's been superb! Things didn't seem to work out for him during his time at Manchester Utd but since moving to Spain and finishing top scorer in the Spanish league on two occasions, he's really proved his quality. Even more so during this World Cup.

Wesley Sneijder and Ajren Robben scored two goals in three minutes to seal the victory, although Uruguay made the last few minutes of injury time interesting when they pulled a goal back.

It's a bit hard to feel any affection for this Dutch team as they don't have the style and class of the great team of the 70s and other Dutch sides.

But may be its time for them to put substance over style and actually win something rather then being beautiful losers.

Day 27

Spain 1 Germany 0

Spain the great underachievers of world football are in their first World Cup final.

The winning goal came from an unlikely source in the form of Carlos Puyol. Great header though, and you could feel the emotion and relief as he and his teamates celebrated.

It was an intriguing game to watch. If you were to compare it to watching a typical Premier League match you could be harsh and describe it as boring, but that's missing the point.

Interntational football at this level tends to be more tactical and intriguing! Watching the Spanish play you sometimes might think, 'what's really happening' but at the same time lots of subtle little things are going on - it's quietly absorbing I think.

Spain were a little frustrating at times, reminding me a bit of Arsenal. It was all pass pass but with no end product. I had a feeling that Germany would make them pay for not making the most out of all their pressure and possession.

I'm glad Spain won and thought they were the better side. Even though Germany have been the team of the tournament so far, I just feel this is Spain's moment! For years they've always flattered to deceive and now it's all finally coming together.

How can a country with two of the world's greatest football clubs in Real Madrid and Barcelona continually fail to deliver on the international stage? This was their first ever appearance in a World Cup semi final.

I understand quite a bit of Spanish and regularly read the Spanish sports paper MARCA. I've been reading it online almost everyday over the last few weeks as it's interesting to see how another country reports on the World Cup and in particular on its own chances of success.

Reading some of the editorials, I got the feeling that the Spanish knew this was their time. They've never produced a squad of players of this quality before in their history and they couldn't afford to not take this opportunity.

Holland v Spain in the World Cup final. A 'nice' final as Clarence Seedorf said tonight on the BBC. A very Dutch way of seeing things, but it should be good. I'm looking forward to it.

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