Tuesday, 13 July 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010: Spanish sun keeps on rising

No amount of smoke and mirrors could disguise the 2010 World Cup Final from what it was – the clash of two footballing pioneers garrotted by a tactical battle shorn of blood and thunder. It was fetching that a tournament so concerned with unity and concord should bow out in such an rancorous manner, but ultimately, eloquence conquered pragmatism as the Spanish were deservedly crowned world champions. Victory against Brazil proved that the Dutch were capable of playing their native Total Football when it mattered, but against Spain the Netherlands sacrificed beauty for brutality in hope of subduing their illustrious and superior opponents. Van Marwijk deployed his destructive midfield duo of De Jong and Van Bommel, who set about the Spaniards with tenacious bone-juddering challenges, while Howard Webb worked overtime to keep temperatures below boiling point. The cynical Dutch tactics paid off as Spain operated hurriedly and wastefully, in fear of being chopped down by the orange scythes, only for Arjen Robben to squander two golden opportunities to put Holland in front. After the half-time interval, Spain re-emerged to play the mesmerising, captivating passing game that spectators across the globe know and love. This was the pivotal moment when the Dutch accepted their dream was dead. The famous Holland squads of 1974 and 1978 did not believe in their own ability to succeed; the team of 2010 believed in themselves too much. No one can condone that the Dutch were somewhat inferior to the craft and guile that oozes from every sector of the Spanish team. The two central defenders have been insurmountable throughout the tournament; Sergio Ramos bombs forward and tracks back with equal panache, while Pique safaris up-field and pings a multitude of flawless sixty yard passes towards the predatory David Villa who lingers on the left flank, before incising deep for the kill. The king of the team is undoubtedly the Catalan colossus, Carles Puyol. He is a defender’s defender, magnanimous to his colleagues and biblically unceremonious, often playing on a knife’s edge of what one would deem legal in the rulebook. It is Puyi whose thunderous header edged Spain past the stoical young Germans in the semi-final, most likely the last of his three international goals as he ponders retirement to concentrate on club duty.
However, Spain’s showpiece comes in the form of their midfield quartet, which also holds the key to their triumphs. As the raw Sergio Busquets continues his apprenticeship by efficaciously protecting his back four, Xabi Alonso becomes the heartbeat of the team. Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta interweave in the final third while Alonso supplies the imperative yet seemingly innocuous short passes to them from his deeper holding role; he is the conductor to the orchestra, the drummer of the rock band: less glamorous than those around him, but provides the cadenced spine of the team’s operations.

Total Football’s prodigal son, Johan Cruyff, castigated his countrymen for playing hermetic “anti-football”, stressing that Holland still lost despite their coarse tactics. The Dutch betrayed their heritage, and it gained them nothing. For the good of football, one hopes the victors stay loyal to their beautiful passing philosophy, because nothing can halt the ascendance of this Spanish sun.

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