Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Oranje v. La Furia Roja

While most people heading into the tournament were dreaming of a Brazil-Spain final, I think most neutrals would happily settle for the Dutch and Spanish - probably the two teams most stylish teams, the two most committed to playing attacking football (along with Argentina and Chile). 

Let it be known that I predicted this final before the tournament in my bracket, which I ultimately never paid the $20 for my friend's pool, so I get nothing from it other than the satisfaction.  Of course, also let it be known that I foresaw the very week part of the bracket that led to Uruguay's place in the final four, but mistakenly bought into the notion that the combined forces of Fabio Capello and Wayne Rooney would lead England to first in group C and therefore the easy path that quarter of the bracket contained.  Still upsetting to think that could have been the US.

I grew to enjoy watching the new version of the German team, one of the few teams going out to demoralize their opponents by getting multiple closing goals.  However, they were just no match for Spain, particularly with Ozil not influential enough and Mueller suspended.  Spain are rightly through and I'm very aroused by the final matchup (it's the smell of desire m'lady).

You have the feeling Spain have yet to really hit full tilt, though yesterday was probably their best match so far.  Iniesta seems to be becoming more and more influential, Xavi is still Xavi, and Pedro looked very dangerous before producing the worst 2-on-1 in history.  The big difference between this Spain team and the 2008 Euro champions is that Torres is out of sorts, so the attack isn't quit as dangerous because they are playing better with Pedro rather than Torres, and Pedro plays more from the midfield than as an out an out lead striker, leaving Villa more isolated.  Additionally, Marcos Senna was sensational in 2008, all due respects to Sergio Busquets, and that combined with the greater width and spacing in the midfield with da Silva playing on the wing rather than the deeper lying Xabi Alonso made the attack more adventurous.

Most people saw the great irony in Spain's semifinal winner coming from a thunderous corner kick header rather than the tiki-taka, death by a thousand paper cuts football.  But to me the real irony was that the most important goal in Spain's history was scored by Puyol, the embodiment and symbol and captain of Barcelona and Catalonia. For so long Raúl dominated the Spanish team; as the longtime captain of Real Madrid he was a symbol of the capital, Spanish Nationalism and Castille (not to mention Francoism). Spain may be captained by another Real Madrid star (Saint Iker), but the heart of the team lies in the cadre of Barcelona maestros. 

No matter who wins on Sunday, I'll be happy -- though not nearly as happy as an actual Spaniard or Dutchman; have you ever seen two countries so joyous at just reaching the final?  They deserve to be so elated and I can only hope to feel the same way at some point in my life.  Anyway, before the World Cup began I predicted Spain would win and I'm not going to change that pick now.

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