Some quick thoughts from TSG as the 2010 tournament comes to a close:
• Easy to see now that Spain were the best team in the tournament. A line-up change by Del Bosque, not only removing the ineffective Fernando Torres, but moving to a 4-2-3-1 set the team in motion to capture the trophy. That said, I’m much more impressed with Spain’s Finals win against the Dutch then their victories over Paraguay and Germany.
Against their quarterfinals and semifinals opponents–to me–Spain played soccer like Oscar De La Hoya boxes. Meaning, little “stick” and a whole lot of “move” content to keep possession without testing the defense.
That changed in the final as David Villa was played in multiple times against a weak central defense for the Oranje and Iniesta often got himself more forward than in the matches before.
• I typically don’t use this word, but it would be absolutely “shambolic’ if FIFA didn’t pay a little visit to Nigel De Jong before he leaves South Africa. Whether you believe he–and Mark Van Bommel–are intent on injuring in their tackles or not, both players fouls were beyond reckless and should be reined in going forward.
Referee Howard Webb was castigated after the game by the Oranje, but I thought all things considered he did a good job. Maybe Puyol deserves a yellow card on Robben’s last run, maybe not, but few glaringly bad calls from a man who was overworked on the whistle all day. Correct me if I’m wrong, but every one of the Dutch’s starting outfield players earned a yellow? (Update: 8 out of 10 in the starting 10 outfielders earned a citation. Wow.)
• Tactically, I think Spain pretty much played their game. For the Dutch, I did like their move floating Wesley Sneijder out wide to start the 2nd half. Where the lowlanders suffered was Sneijder having a single option–long–when in possession. Rafael Van Der Vaart perhaps should have been called in earlier–who knows?
I also think, with 3 to 4 men shadowing Arjen Robben every time he received the ball, that Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk might have considered flipping Robben to the vacated left flank side where Sergio Ramos kept going forward. However that is not a strategy that the Dutch had employed before.
• Speaking of Robben–amazing how muted his game was with little opportunity one-on-one and a perceivable change in his penchant for diving.
• Highly impressed with four-year Ajax starter–and 22-year-old–Gregory Van Der Wiel who maintained his composure all day long, got forward when he could and made few errors. Gio may be out, but Van Der Wiel is a worthy to carry the torch of excellent Dutch fullbacks.
Conversely, highly disappointing effort from Robin Van Persie who made few plays all Cup long.
• For Spain, a pretty much banner day for their famous midfield. Sergio Ramos controlled his flank and flashed some of his offensive skills. Iker Casillas, brilliant of course. Carlos Puyol, again a threat in the air, but also a threat to his team in defense today–just a tad shaky.
• Looking back our preview, I suggested the Dutch needed to….Control the midfield; they didn’t do that. The Dutch needed to play to the flanks; they didn’t do that as Sniejder was closed down, had no linking options and Spain got behind the play. Steckelenburg had to play as good as Casillas; this occured. And finally, the Oranje had to pressure the ball up the pitch; they did this quite impressively.
Two keys out of four kept the Oranje in the game.
• Diego Forlan–Golden Ball and well-served–some team, perhaps Manchester City or Chelsea will overpay for him.
• In watching Luis Suarez, his ball control, slanted runs, and ability to keep attackers on his hip–Suarez would make a good mentor for Jozy Altidore.
• If you missed my comments on why I believe it’s unlikely Bob Bradley will go to Fulham or another high-level Premiership club, I’ll republish them here:
First, the London club has had just a single manager (Jean Tigana) from outside Great Britain–hard to look American now in our opinion with the darling of England having just vacated the spot.
Second, Bob Bradley’s manager cache might resonate with executives abroad–I’m just not sure it does with players and Fulham will want to retain and attract some names this summer.
Third, is the risk of hiring an American–with the anti-American sentiment at Liverpool and Manchester United–and the possible impact on ticket sales, worth it?
• As TSG’s Shaun points out, New Zealand is the only club to go undefeated in South Africa. Probably could won some big money on that one.