Interest in the world game in Australia almost turned hysterical as the Socceroos much anticipated appearance in the World Cup came and went. And while I didn’t attend the FIFA Fanfest or any other venue for that matter, I’d doubt the hysteria from Aussie ‘soccer’ fans during their games matched that of those supporters from Spain or the Netherlands who live here during last nights World Cup Final.
The Netherlands made no friends with the way they approached the start of the game, but they earned your respect nonetheless. Not only because they made their way effectively to final with some of the best individual and team performances in the tournament, but also because some of them will never get another chance to grace that stage. And I get sentimental sometimes.
Spain didn’t win the tournament by scoring lots of goals, but just by scoring more goals than the other teams. Four 1-0 wins in the knockouts tells that story reasonably clearly.
If you want to get an view of how Spain play read Sid Lowe‘s excellent piece. If you want to understand better the reasons why the Netherlands did what they did, you need to think clearly of how Spain shut out every other team they played in the tournament and how in the games where they were challenged, they looked more likely to concede. That they didn’t must’ve made the Netherlands think to challenge harder. But at what cost?
I could easily criticise the Dutch, the Spanish and referee again as I did during that mostly dreadful first half. Anyone who has read this blog would agree that I’ve certainly shared plenty of that during this World Cup. Examples include the often abysmal refereeing, the half empty stadia in a football mad country and just last night the dreadful commentary and analysis team which the broadcasting station here in Australia foisted on us for the premier football match of the last four years.
But sod all that, it’s incidental, it was the World Cup and the football was mostly great. At a higher level with higher expectations than we will have about football for at least the next two years.
I’ll forget about the sponsors who ruined the game with their ‘perfectly round’ football – breaking 40 years or more of tradition – and their perfectly clad airline hosties who dominated the dais at the presentation of the ultimate trophy in World Football this morning. I’ll remember instead the beautiful dominance practised by the World Champions, the eagerness and enthusiasm shown by the lesser lights, including North Korea against Brazil. I’ll grin when I think of Germany’s destruction of not one, not two but three world class teams and the introduction of an amateur by New Zealand to rub salt even further into the Italian wounds.
It’s great when your country isn’t represented in a World Cup Finals – funnily – because you can be objective. No, scratch that. It’s terrible when your country doesn’t qualify, especially when one of the reasons was cheating by a player and a team who then decided not to turn up when they got to the tournament. But yet I celebrate that I could be more objective than normal. So objective I was that I was able to shake my head at the reactions to some of the decisions – Suarez’s handball on the line in Quarter Final, for example. Apparently that was cheating, but the diving of many Spanish players in the final attempting to con a compromised referee was not.
I let it go this time because it is the hotblooded passion I wrote about some months ago. Despite my criticism and ridicule during the recent games, I respect it. I love it because one way or the other I understand that often illogical passion, just join me at a game. I understand the despair felt when your best player gets sent off and one of theirs doesn’t. I understand when your best player is under the weather for the duration and the coulda, woulda, shoulda which often goes with it.
Remember the passion of Australian fans as they disputed the tough decisions which perhaps turned their world cup in their first two games – and then remember the two excellent goals they scored versus Serbia in a finally futile effort to qualify for the second round. While I spent quite a bit of time criticising Craig Foster’s opinions when commentating on the games, I loved that his passion shone like a star at the end of the aforementioned Serbia game. You’ll never see me criticise that.
We’ll never forget the passion of the South African fans and their vuvuzela, even muted as it appeared to be in the broadcast following the whingeing which peaked during the first week of the games. Prepare to see it at least in some countries in the coming months – they’ve sold thousands in countries as diverse as England and Denmark. Will they be banning them there just as New Zealand have extended the censoring from the muffling of the broadcast to games of Rugby involving a South African team.
But perhaps that’s a good thing. While the banning of a vuvuzela from an Australian football ground would be easy to criticise and typically heavy handed of sports ground ‘security’ in this country, they don’t belong here do they? The question is what does? Perhaps my mission of this season forthcoming is to find out.
A wonderfully taken goal – Arsenal style, one was enough – by Andrés Iniesta has won the World Cup for Spain. They’ve played tiki-taka to World Cup success, so now watch coaches half as good as del Bosque with players one tenth as good on their teams attempt to copy the Spanish style over the next few years. In some cases it will be successful, but mainly it will be rubbish. Will that make the football we watch better or worse? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, for me, only 17 days to go to the Europa League qualifiers (even though they started 11 days ago!). In Australia, only 24 days left to the A-League kick off. And more importantly, only another 3 years and 11 months to Brazil in 2014.
Football, it never stops. Thankfully.