Wrap-Up: World Cup 2010

Some quick thoughts from TSG as the 2010 tournament comes to a close:

Spain's victory was much prettier than Puyol....

The Final

• 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.

A lot more "stick" for the La Furia Roja today...

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.

The Dutch made sure Webb was more overworked than our waitress at the Phoenix. That's hard to do.

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.


Will Abramovich for Chelsea pony up the ducats or will a 31-year-old striker conjure up the name Schevchenko...

• 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.

23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Soccernst on 2010/07/11 at 9:25 PM

    TSG wins the Golden Shinguard! Thanks for all the analysis, play by play, humor, procrastination fodder and general stellar World Cup Coverage. You gents killed it. Thank you.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/07/11 at 9:40 PM

      Too kind of you — thank you — appreciate the compliments from all of us here.


  2. Posted by stevedubyapdx on 2010/07/11 at 10:48 PM

    It’s beyond ridiculous that the Dutch castigated that ref after that game, as de Jong should have got a straight red after his flying “kung fu” kick, which happened in the friggin’ TWENTY-EIGHTH minute. That would have made it an impossibly long night for the Netherlands.

    Really, the only thing the Dutch can blame is their own finishing.


  3. Posted by FulhamPete on 2010/07/11 at 11:48 PM

    I’d like to second the kudos to Matt and Co. on their successful and entertaining coverage of the cycle.

    I frequent one other VERY popular blog, but I’ll be visiting this one regularly, looking forward to the decorum and quality writing.

    Thank you, and congratulations.


  4. Posted by Anon on 2010/07/12 at 6:42 AM

    What was your guys’ thoughts about the refereeing in this match? It seemed that, coming into the game, Webb should have known that both sides had a penchant for diving and should have kept his whistle down more at the start of the game. By using the whistle early and often, Webb encouraged the ugliest part of the beautiful game. He basically told all the players (both Dutch and Spanish, but especially Spanish) that they could flop all over the place and get fouls called, which they did. It slowed the game dramatically and made it much less fun game to watch. This could have been a truly memorable final had the flow not been stopped so often and both sides, who’s style are both truly enjoyable to watch, been allowed to just play.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/07/12 at 6:46 AM


      I saw the game differently. I saw a Dutch team–rigtht or wrong–with a penchant for slowing down the game and *trying to win the ball on restarts–foul incessantly….almost like the Dutch were saying “We’re going to see how far we can push it until Webb calls us for it.”

      I thought Webb was in a tough position and I thought he did VERY well. To his credit, Webb allowed quick restarts. He also didn’t start by issuing yellows but fouls and then calling the players over to know what would be tolerated.

      I think the game stoppage was part of the Dutch strategy and Webb tried to control the game and not let play not “flow.”

      That’s the best you can do there.


      • completly agree, i think Webb did as good as he could with what was going on. It was clearly the plan of the netherlands to foul,foul,foul. im actually surprised it took as long as it did to hand out a red. I applaud Webb for trying his best to keep everyone in the game.

        to Spain’s credit they didnt let the game plan of the netherlands, change their mindset/own game plan.

        hats off to spain and to TSG a job well done, already looking towards brazil 2014:)


    • Posted by sfshwebb on 2010/07/12 at 8:14 AM

      Anon: I think the referee had to do bring out the yellow cards for those first calls. That way they wouldn’t be able to flop or just slow each other down by tackling as they would have been sent off. If this was a regular game De Jong and Van Bommel would have gotten straight reds, but that would have effected the game even more. As a ref he doesn’t want to make decisions that greatly change the game unless he has to. Its a World Cup final and its special to everyone involved.

      If he lets those go, then they do it again cause they know he has to be consistent, so they only get a card the second time.

      As Matt Mathai points out, the Dutch got their cards spread out between them. This meant that a different person took it upon themselves to disrupt the game until they got caught.

      Spain were to blame as well, so the cards were shown to tell the players that he was in charge. Normally this work,s but in this case the Dutch especially, blew him off and kept at it.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/07/12 at 9:28 AM

      I agree with Matt and Shaun. It was a very difficult game for Webb to referee, and much of this is due to how the Dutch players went about their game. Which was mainly to stop the Spainish from playing using dirty and somewhat illegal tactics. My only “criticism’ of Webb is that he only sent one Dutch player off – how Van Bommel and De Jong did not see red is a mystery to me.


  5. All you need to know about the Dutch strategy is that eight of them got nine yellow cards. There should have been a straight red for De Jong’s tackle. It was the perfect strategy of a less-talented Dutch team determined not to allow the more-talented Spanish to play their game knowing they couldn’t keep up.

    It was a very cynical display and it made for a fitful and mostly unenjoyable game. I’m happy that the clearly superior team won. The Dutch coach’s childish display in taking off his medal immediately was pretty pathetic. The Dutch have nobody to blame but themselves.


    • Posted by Anon on 2010/07/12 at 10:22 AM

      I don’t disagree that there were some very hard fouls in this game and that the Dutch clearly wanted to disrupt the Spanish play, but not all of those yellows were deserved. At least three, probably four, of them were dives (see both of Heitinga’s). I agree the Spanish were a stronger side, but the Dutch style doesn’t match up well against the Spanish side and they did their best to stop their opponents from completely controlling the game, which they did. Similar tactics were employed by Switzerland and Chile and Paraguay, but with less physicality.

      However, I wasn’t really talking about the cards so much as just the smaller fouls. There was rarely more than a few minutes of continuous play because it seemed that Webb blew his whistle on every challenge, especially early on. Not one person was booked for diving this whole match, which was disappointing.

      I’m not arguing that the Dutch were better of that they should have won, but that the game would have been much better if the ref had been wiser about his whistle early on.


  6. Wow, I feel like I watched a different game to everyone else. I really enjoyed the contrasts of style in what was a very even contest which either team could’ve won in regular time. The epic battle between the forces of good and evil quality didn’t hurt either.

    Spain certainly did not play their game. Have you ever seen Spain turn over possession in midfield so cheaply and consistently as they did from 20 minutes onwards? Bert’s tactics did not allow their possession advantage to translate into the usual territorial advantage. The dutch often left the centerbacks to deal wtih Villa and Robben alone up front to have 7 players in midfield matching Spain’s triangles instead of in banks of four! Tactically, it was brilliant.

    At what he does, Van Bommel is every bit as good as Xavi at what he does. How many forward passes was Xavi allowed to make? Sneijder made it difficult for him to get the ball – consistently forcing Spain wide.

    Where was Spain’s pressing game? They largely abandonned it since by being content to go backwards in order to go forwards and switch flanks quickly when they won possession. They invited Spain to press deep into the attacking third then looked to spring Robben – which they managed twice.

    The fact that the substitutions of Navas and Fabregas were what ultimately turned the game, I feel more like Spain found a way to win by going to a plan B since they weren’t allowed to play their game. I feel that’s greatly to del Bosque’s credit.

    More later.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/07/12 at 10:14 AM

      I was not necessarily criticising the Dutch for playing ugly. It was more aimed at their dirty challenges. There is a difference between ugly and dirty…

      I was surprised Fabragas wasn’t introduced earlier. He was a game changer for sure.


      • Posted by DanPA on 2010/07/12 at 11:55 AM

        Do you think David St. Hubbins was a footballer?
        “It’s such a fine line between dirty, and ugly”


    • Posted by Anon on 2010/07/12 at 10:28 AM

      Neither team really got to play their game, which was disappointing, since an offensive show by two sides that have wonderful flow and style would have been highly entertaining. The Dutch seemed almost too concerned with preventing the Spanish from playing their game, insomuch as that they didn’t play their game either.

      What the sides lacked in scoring, they more than made up for in the amount of heart they put into this game. It’s a shame someone had to lose.

      Sidenote: Props to Robben for not flopping on the second breakaway when Puyol swung his leg in from behind which would have earned him a second yellow. Maybe he should have though….


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/07/12 at 12:02 PM

        You have to question the Dutch strategy in that Spain worked the wings quite a bit, but Sneijder–who everyone erroneously says he had a bad game–had absolutely zero to pass to.

        Watching DeJong and Van Bommel attempting to navigate the ball outside of their end on a turnover was downright painful.

        It’s funny, in a league like the NBA, the common way to defend a superstar is to “make him work on the defensive end of the field”–but the Netherlands never did this. Iniesta, but more so Xavi, were free to expend nearly all their energy on the offensive side of the field.

        That why I don’t like some of these defend-and-counterattack strategies.


  7. Posted by T-Muck on 2010/07/12 at 11:26 AM

    This had to be one of the most difficult games to ref in the history of the World Cup. The Dutch were committing a lot of hard fouls, on top of that Spain was diving all over the place too. Which made minor challenges seem like even more hard fouls, and the referee was left to figure it all out. He probably could have carded almost everyone on that field at least twice over, whether for fouls or dives.


  8. Posted by Rick on 2010/07/12 at 6:01 PM

    *Absolutely* agree here. I thought Webb did an amazing job of officiating, consider how difficult it must have been. While both teams do have a little bit of a penchant for diving, I don’t think either was egregiously guilty in this game. The big problem was Holland’s aggressiveness. He had to walk a fine line to avoid crossing over into the territory of heavy-handedness. Webb’s decision NOT to eject Nigel De Jong for his outrageous studs-to-the-chest kick on Xabi Alonso was the right thing to do, because ejecting De Jong so early in the game would probably have been an even worse decision.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2010/07/13 at 11:55 AM

      I agree with Tuesdays comment: on rewatch: Spain really plays an amazing brand of football. 70+% possession is not anywhere near as easy as they make it look. Very happy that the footballing side won.
      I also agree that Webb did an amazing job in an incredibly difficult game. Dutch tactics reminded me of Rileys Knicks in 90’s. If you foul on every play then the ref has to begin accepting most fouls and only calling the hard ones. Ugly ugly football.
      Although I appreciated the red card not being pulled for the sake of game quality, no one could have argued with DeJongg going. No intent for the ball at all and studs up. How many of those types of intent to injure tackles does he get before someone steps in. You wonder if he had been disciplined for that Holden tackle if that might have slowed him down somewhat. Props to Alonso for manning up, getting up and not showing the Dutchies that he was hurting. But you know he had to be hurting.

      I have despised Van Bommel for years for just this reason. It’s one thing to foul it’s another to continually try to hurt opponents andt then execute a “Van Persie” every time you’re touched. Really unlikeable for me as a player. Talented but the BS in his game is just too much.

      This WC highlighted a bunch of rules and traditions in the game that FIFA need to look at if they want it to flourish in this market:
      -Diving (post game review with yellows issued to offenders-sorry Cristiano)
      -Time keeping (injury time is ridiculously subjective and just doesn’t make sense. Change- like in every timed sport, the ref stops the clock when the play stops and restarts it on his signal. )
      -Refereeing- add a ref. The game is just too fast for one guy.
      Also, current offsides rule is far too often wrong on the conservative side. Give the benefit of doubt to the attacker and goals will go up.
      -Goal judge or goal cam- works in hockey with a much smaller puck.

      Matt- this would make a good column IMHO.

      Enjoy and thanks for the excellence.


  9. Posted by Zardoz on 2010/07/12 at 8:24 PM

    Another thanks to TSG for the countless hours put in before and during the World Cup. A great blog for coverage of US Soccer, this site has been entertaining as well as informative, helping take my appreciation and enjoyment of the best tournament in sports one notch higher. Keep up the good work.


  10. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/07/14 at 1:11 PM

    After the World Cup Final at Soccer City, guess where Fabregas’ and Van Persie’s next game is? Underhill (annual friendly against Barnet)!!


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