I usually wrap up each World Cup with a tongue-in-cheek “Best and Worst of…” post, but this time I think a little more dignity is called for. Not only is it a historic first-time win for Spain, it was achieved in spite of an opponent bent on physical destruction. I honestly don’t know how Spain got out of that without any serious injuries. “Total thuggery” was how one BBC commentator put it. If nothing else it shows that the Netherlands knew Spain was the superior team, and the best team won in the end.
Spain was unquestionably the class of the tournament, playing a controlled passing style that was beautiful to watch. They didn’t score as many goals as some of the other teams, but when they did it was with breathtaking skill. Their touch on the ball was gorgeous, they have the best midfield in the world, and they’ve also shown that they can take a beating! They’ve been called the perfect team, and it is hard to argue with that. They’re skilled, they’re classy, and they’re warriors. La Furia Roja fully deserve to be the world champions.
The second best team of the tournament was definitely Germany. They play a very positive attacking style with skill and speed, and being a very young team their best is yet to come. I hope that Germany and Spain are the wave of the future and other European teams will emulate them and put an end to the ugly and unnecessary physical play we saw from the Netherlands today. These teams have proven that brute force will only get you so far; skill and tactics reign supreme.
Though the top three teams were from Europe, this World Cup was notable for disappointing performances by favourite European teams, especially France, Italy, and England. In contrast, South American teams did extremely well, with four out of the five teams making it to the quarterfinals. Except for Brazil, which has unaccountably opted for a more European style, these teams played with a beautiful skilled, flowing style, great teamwork, and fierce pride in their countries. I was especially impressed by the spirit of the Chileans, whose fans belted out their national anthem and kept singing additional verses even after the music stopped! However the best fans of the tournament were, without question, from Mexico. They were the only fans who could drown out the vuvuzelas, which they did often with cheering, singing, and yelling ¡Olé! every time their team made a pass. And then there were the costumes…
Kudos should also go to the Asian teams for playing beautiful football. Japan has said they want to be the Brazil of Asia, but I think they played much better than the Brazilians did, fast, skilled, and clean. The “underdogs” gave us some of the best football of the tournament, and that is what I will remember, along with the masterful play of Germany and Spain.
Lest you think we will have to wait four years to see another World Cup, I would like to remind everyone that the Women’s World Cup will be played next year in Germany. Not surprisingly that tournament doesn’t get the respect it deserves, but make no mistake, although it is a smaller event (16 teams), the skill level and athleticism is in no way inferior to the men’s tournament. In fact I enjoy it more (despite the lack of eye candy!) because there is much less fouling and diving. It’s a purer football, and definitely worth watching. So join me here next June 26th for another chapter in the story of the beautiful game.
Postscript: The octopus was right!