Greatest final in the history of soccer? No way. Rarely do these matches live up to the hype. The first half was quite dull. Take away the yellow cards and De Jong’s ridiculous kick on Xabi Alonso, and there wasn’t much in it. The second half was pretty good, with Robben having 2 chances to win the Cup but not converting; Fabregas having a great 1 on 1 chance; and several Spainsh headers that went over. Robben has to be kicking himself. With the incredible strikes he hit to take Bayern to the Champions League Final, I felt sure that he would score either of those chances. On the second one, he showed what a diver he is the rest of the game, shrugging off Puyol (instead of falling over) before dribbling into Casillas instead of around him.
Extra time was sketchy. Not much in it, which was to be expected. I actually missed the only goal of the game because the DirecTV feed went out at the critical moment. I wasn’t really surprised. Given my history of big games on TV, (96 Spain/England, 98 Champions League Final, 05 Champions League Final, Euro 08 Holland/France to name a few), it was just another chapter. Missing Iniesta’s goal was disappointing on so many levels:
Teams geared up for them defensively. Switzerland did not hide the bus they parked. Spain were the only team to score on Portugal, who were tough in the tackle and looking spring Cristiano going forward. . Paraguay didn’t sit back and actually made Spain look mortal. Only fitness deprived them of extra time.
Torres never got going. 24 months ago, he scored the game winner against Germany and was banging in the goals for Liverpool. Several injuries later, he looks like the new Michael Owen. He did create space for Villa but when Torres got the ball, he never looked like scoring.
Overpassed the ball. Iniesta for all his talent never pulled the trigger inside or outside the penalty area. Xabi Alonso at least took shots. Had he figured out the ball, he would have been top scorer. To be fair, the Spanish backs and midfielders did serve in crosses of varying quality, but with only one forward, they were worthless.
Overall the tournament started slowly but I thought ended quite well. The knockout games were tense and exciting, even if the quality was inconsistent. Forlan showed how far he has come since taking 27 or so games to score his first goal for Manchester United. Germany revealed a young, energetic team that will try to take the mantle from Spain, both on the continent and in the world. England were shambolic and will need a complete retooling. The US survived to the knockout stage but were exposed for what they are: a decent side that makes mental mistakes.
What the tournament proved is that the gap between the haves and the have nots has shrunk to the point where it is almost negligible. Look at the confederations. The African teams did not perform as a whole but Ghana did well and Ivory Coast was in tough group. The Asian contingent did quite well and will continue to be a factor in future tournament. CONCACAF is toast. They (the US and Mexico) are in the 12-24 range worldwide, so that if they get lucky they could make the quarters, but mostly get knocked out in the round of 16. Also look at individual teams, Slovakia, New Zealand for crying out loud, Chile. The more exposure players get in Europe, the more this tournament will follow the March Madness model of excitement and upsets.