Monday, July 12, 2010

What a game!

I watched the World Cup Final yesterday, not that my avatar would know. ("What do you mean 'not that my avatar would know'? Is that all the explanation we're going to get?" Yes. Go see the birthday sequence if you want to know where this came from. And before you point it out, yes, I know there's no #99 in Football/Soccer.)

I really, really, really wanted to write about it in the "heat" of the match, but someone said "Ha, ha! Nobody in Spain is going to go to work tomorrow after this!"
"ZOMG! Tomorrow is a Monday?!?"

It was such a great game, the ball going everywhere without a chance to blink, I totally forgot about everything else. And I mean everything else. I forgot not only what day it was, but that it was the final, that I hadn't been rooting for these teams, I even forgot the half-eaten Frito in my hand!

Spain definitely deserved to win. But then again, so did Netherlands.

The Netherlands could've won, and deserved to win, but they made several of the mistakes that I saw over and over in this world cup. Spain made them too, but they realized it in time to correct their strategy before the extra-time ran out.

It's the team that counts

Way to many times in the attempts to score, would you see a player that ran up to the goal all on his own. "All on his own" is inaccurate, as there were usually at least three other teammates around him, but the player kept going with the ball, as he should, as long as he had a clear path ahead. But here's where it all failed: each player was going for their own glory. They wanted to be the ones to score. So when the other team sent 6+ defense players at them, what did they do? They shot at the goal, and of course, failed.

Had they passed it to anyone else, there would've been a clear shot on the goal, even if it was obfuscated, that player could in turn pass it to someone else. Spain realized this at the end, and scored the winning goal by doing exclusively this.

Stay on the Referee's good side

People love to bark at the referee, but the referee is, after all, human. I'm not trying to say this excuses "referee blindness"; quite on contrary, if the referee doesn't see something, he's not doing his job. What I mean is that the referee has feelings too. Yes, I know, it sounds obvious when I say it like that, but if you look at yesterday's match, the players "appealed" (to use official terminology) to the referee so much, that when it really mattered –when The Netherlands was asking for a penalty– the referee's answer was, and I quote, "I've had it with you!" What a change from the semifinal's mild "I call 'em like I see 'em"! the referee is basically acknowledging there is a foul, but he doesn't feel like awarding it properly! And what happened next? First chance the referee gets, he expels a dutch player. A player who, although he had played rough, had barely scraped the other Spanish player. A dutch player whose first yellow card was issued under circumstances where, again to quote the referee, "I didn't see it, but I'm warning you anyway."

Mind you, given the match he was asked to referee, I think Howard Webb did brilliantly. And before you ask, no I don't get a special sound signal to my TV. I just happen to be rather good at reading lips.

Keep a formation

Too often in the attempts to score, there was a player that was missing. When the players did adhere to the "it's the team that counts" deal that I said above, when they passed to someone they expected to be there, they weren't! What's worse, this is what happened to the Netherlands' final two attempts to score (after Spain's goal): The corner is kicked in, the players pass it amongst themselves, and when it's going back to the dutchman who swung-in the corner, he was still at the corner! The ball goes off the field, and with it, Netherland's chance to tie.

Don't despair

In every single match of this cup that was still tied halfway through the second half, you would see the same mistake over and over again. The players would grow desperate, and start committing fouls left, right, and center. These fouls usually occurred close enough to the goal to give the opposing team a good chance to score. When they adhered to my previous suggestions, they would score, turning the tables on the team that had grown desperate in the first place. Part of the reason why this final stayed active was that they didn't adhere to them, and the chance to score was always wasted. The tie, thus persisted.

The end result? We were six minutes away from an "everybody loses" scenario (as happened to Uruguay and Ghana in quarter-finals: Ghana was eliminated, and Uruguay had one of its best players suspended).

In the end it was a great cup. Lots of surprises and definitely worth watching overall. I can't believe it's over.

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