First of all, a pox on those of little faith. See here also. South Africa certainly seems to, on balance, have done a fine job. Not perfect, but certainly not “a mess.”
While I think that we are getting into dead horse beating territory, I recorded the game on the DVR and I have watched de Jong’s foul some seven additional times. If some believe that Howard Webb fixed the game for Spain, they need to ask themselves why de Jong was not sent off. Xabi Alonso had a clean header going in the direction of Xavi and Iniesta. Nigel de Jong with no intention to play the ball planted a cleated boot in Alonso’s chest. He should have been sent off. In 2009-10 in 54 games started in all competitions including the World Cup, he has drawn 18 yellow cards while committing 64 fouls. He’s a thug and is bad for the sport. Mark Van Bommel may be worse: in 54 games started in all competitions for 2009-10 including the World Cup, he has 18 yellow cards with 128 fouls committed.
I used to love Dutch football. What they played throughout much of the cup was nasty. They committed 126 fouls while no other team committed as many as 100 (Uruguay was second with 99 with an equal number of matches). The other teams that played as many as 7 games finished with 75 for Germany and 81 for Spain. The Netherlands also received 22 yellow cards with Germany receiving 11, Uruguay 9 and Spain 8. Apparently the Dutch game is not fair play.
Glad to see Diego Forlan win the Golden Ball, Thomas Mueller win both Golden Boot and Best Young Player and Iker Casillas win the Golden Glove.
Casillas, by the way, had five clean sheets, surrendered two goals the entire tournament and never more than one in a game.
Here’s the explanation for what Iniesta had on his shirt.
Far be it for me to second guess Vicente del Bosque, but I would have subbed in a different Fernando instead of Torres.
La prensa en Barcelona chiste con “España Mecánica” para la selección española para jugar con la reputacion de Holanda.
What they played throughout much of the cup was nasty.
What I remember from my years of watching the Dutch is that they have always been capable of playing beautiful football, and always had players with substantial mean streaks. This is nothing new.
Nice wrap up — thanks for all the great posts.
I love the Dutch and usually cheer for them but I didn’t like this team. I don’t feel too bad that they lost.
I thought the ref was fine.
I didn’t realize how hurt Torres was. He looked like a 60 year old man out there.
Thanks Randinho for doing these threads.
I’ve been a long-time fan of the Netherlands, but that was so disappointing, not because they lost, but because of how they played.
I knew they would be physical, but that was just lame, they barely tried to play football. I thought they were capable of doing both.
Oh well, back to obsessing about who else Wenger will be bringing in, and whether one World Cup winner (with the game winning assist) will be staying with Arsenal.
Thanks Randinho, MattR, cmorenc, wengler, et al. for wonderful posts and comments. I’ve greatly enjoyed these threads.
And the most important part of all of this? Paul the octopus had a perfect world cup score. /ducks and runs.
they barely tried to play football
They played their intended game very well – stifling Spain’s midfield. It was probably their only option. But I doubt Cruyff would approve.
I’d also like to thank you, Randinho. I learned a lot from your posts and threads.
The right team won this time. My brother-in-law is in Santiago de Compostela right now, probably partying it up.
Thanks for all the great commentary, Randy! I’ve really enjoyed it.
See y’all down in my neck of the woods in 4 years time. Sejam bem-vindos!
@SLKRR: If not sooner! I wish I was there now.
Bruce (formerly Steve S.)
That’s a bit of a non sequitur, isn’t it? They were the dirtiest team and they got penalized the most. So that was fair. If they want to deter the type of play the Dutch engaged in they need to make the penalties more severe than what you’ll find in a typical fourth grade classroom. A stern talking to and being shown the dreaded yellow card, ooooh, scary stuff. If you really don’t want to see people kicked in the shins and sternum then hand out a penalty kick after X number of yellow cards, or something along those lines (hey, here’s a good one; after three yellow cards the other team can’t be offside). Myself, I congratulate the Dutch for getting as far as they did with the likes of Brazil and Spain in their way. Again, if the way they play is not popular then take away the incentive to play that way and stop whining.
On the other hand, Americans and Canadians supposedly like rough sports, so if FIFA want to appeal to North Americans…
Don’t know why FIFA thinks a Ref’s judgment during the game is so sancrosanct. Webb gave DeJong a yellow. Maybe from where he was standing he only saw part of the action and thought it was only worth a yellow. Fine. But the rest of us saw DeJong try to pop open Alonso’s sternum. Those of us without Tivo still saw the replays and saw the kick multiple times. Of course, FIFA doesn’t acknowledge the 20th century and its magical video technologies, much less the 21st century.
When FIFA lets a play like that pass without punishment it is ensuring that someone will be injured even worse in the not so distant future. Yeah, I was pulling for the Dutch right up till that moment.
Gah. I had to rewatch the second half of Germany – Uruguay as brain bleach. That was one ugly final.
@Lab Partner: Except that the guy that got kicked was the one running full tilt without looking where he was going. The guy with his foot in the air was relatively still. The guy actually moving would be the one who needs to pay attention to where they are doing, as a general rule.
@Bruce (formerly Steve S.): No one’s whining; I just presented some facts.
By the way, the only times a nation has won the World Cup and led in receiving yellow cards is Italy in 1982 and Argentina in 1986.
Thanks so much for your posts and having a space for us to enjoy soccer together.
what will Paul the Octopus be up to now?
Part of the problem for the Dutch is that they are almost invariably bigger, faster and stronger (but not necessarily as skilled) than their opponents. So what happens? The Dutch attempt to cash in on their size, speed and strength advantage and their opponents act like this is, in and of itself, some sort of criminal assault (which it only sometimes is). For all the mugging of the Spanish that we witnessed today (and, to be sure, there was a fair bit), there was no small amount of mugging (i.e. for the refs) by the Spanish. Iniesta looked like Manu Ginobli out there.
At some level, this is forgiveable. Failure to flop around means you run the risk being run, jumped, pushed and pressed out of the game. Opponents — even the best ones — are dependent on gaming the ref into over-punishing the physicality. Spain aren’t nearly the divers that, say, Italy are, but their performance today was really pretty, er … expansive.
The Dutch thuggery is real, but opposing teams really play it up — the Spaniards certainly did.
The U-20 women’s world championship starts Wednesday in Germany. It’s a dress rehearsal for next year’s Womens World Cup, using a lot of the same facilities, including a brand new stadium in Dresden where the US plays its first two matches. All of the US group-stage matches will be on ESPNU.
That’s a bit overstated, but it is true that big men are at a disadvantage, especially if they try to use their size to gain an advantage. The paradigm case is Onyewu, who is bigger than most NFL safeties. If he even looks at an opposing player crossways, the guy falls down and Gooch gets called for something if he’s in the same area code.
Bruce (formerly Steve S.)
FIFA, whom you linked to, is whining if they are pleading for “fair play” but have only weak provisions in the rules encouraging it. Again, if they don’t like the way the Dutch play then make the penalties stiffer.
So you can commit the most (and dirtiest) fouls and still win it all? That would hardly discourage the Dutch, would it? They never would have gotten out of the quarters if they’d played nice, would they? As it was they came within minutes of going to penalty kicks. Seems to me their strategy against more skilled teams was vindicated.
That's Master of Accountancy to You, Pal
I don’t disagree that de Jong should have been sent off. That said, there were a number of yellow cards that the Dutch got that weren’t deserved. Both of Heitinga’s were iffy. They got two cards for arguing with the ref after he had blatantly blown calls, one of which (on Robben’s breakaway) negated a good scoring chance and the other (the sequence from the awarding of the goal kick through the foul for the free kick at the other end) led to the only goal of the game.
Again, I think that both of the cards for dissent were deserved. At some point, you just have to accept that the ref blew the call, shut the fuck up, and play. In terms of assessing how dirty the Dutch were, it’s useful to keep the actual events in mind.
The Netherlands got away with a lot of dirty, physical play, but I thought the Spanish got away with a lot more that had an immediate effect on scoring chances. It was kind of like watching an NCAA hockey game between North Dakota and Clarkson. I don’t know the game well enough to know whether or not it helped one side more than another. The esteemed Randinho opined earlier that it probably didn’t help either on balance, and I’ll accept that.
I don’t think the Dutch got robbed. However, today was one more example that one man simply can not successfully ref a world class soccer game. There were a lot of such cases in this tournament, even setting aside some of the inexcusable errors in group play.
Well, when the Dutch said that they would “attack” Spain, I thought they meant Spain’s goal, not their chest, shins, achilles, etc. As I said, I thought they could be both physical and play football, they barely tried.
And Cruyff has already said he wouldn’t pay to watch this team, so no, he doesn’t approve.
@Bruce (formerly Steve S.): Actually they’re almost sui generis. This is the sixth consecutive WC in which the team that received the most cards did not win. Depends on how one looks at it I suppose.
World Cup 2018? Russia. Bank on it.
Gordon, The Big Express Engine
@Turgid Jacobian: Russia??? Not a chance. Will be England or Spain. And then to the USA in 2022.
@That’s Master of Accountancy to You, Pal
True enough. The Dutch certainly acted like thugs, but the Spanish were diving quite competently.
Ironically, Robben stays on his feet, fights through an obvious professional foul, and gets no call at all. He should have gone down.
What I want to know is why van Marwijk stuck with van Persie? He was crap the entire tournament. Yes, he doesn’t get along with Sneijder and was getting very iffy service, but you can’t pull Sneijder out the way he was playing.
Still, still with Llorente! My god, man, the phrase “dog with a bone” comes to mind, but on this blog its usage may well get me disemvoweled. Nevertheless, your persistence has persuaded me to keep an eye out when Atletico Bilbao matches are broadcast.
Your embrace of San Iker, belated though it may have been, warms my heart. :)
Re Diego Forlan: Words like magnificent, inspirational, brutally handsome may not be adequate descriptors. In the same year in which he led his club Atletico Madrid to championship victory in the Europa League, how profoundly fitting, richly deserved (and a wee bit sentimental) to award this exemplary footballer and human the 2010 World Cup Golden Ball. [shamelessly lifted from an earlier thread]
Randinho, hope you will enjoy a restful slumber tonight. Even after a rubbish match like today’s final, there is so much work you do.
Bruce (formerly Steve S.)
The way I look at it is that accumulating yellow cards is not a symptom of a failed strategy but rather an indicator of where you stand against your most formidable opponents. If this was like a video game and you simply perform in accordance with the values programmed into you then the Dutch wouldn’t have gotten by the quarters. Playing aggressively or “unfairly” gave them the only chance they had against Brazil or Spain, so it only made sense for them to play that way.
Not to put a horse’s head in your bed, but you have no idea what his “intention” was and the referee was clearly not trying to determine the outcome of the World Cup Final in the first quarter. The ball was there, two players went for it. Get over it.
@Bruce (formerly Steve S.): I agree, I thought the rough play was clearly the Dutch strategy, their entire back-6 was yellow-carded by the 56th minute. That was a risky strategy because Spain danced into the box several times after that because the Dutch defender couldn’t deliver a hard foul. And of course Heitinga’s sending off; ironically he was the least violent of the 6.
No doubt the Dutch halfbacks are thugs, but when you have them you use them. Its no different from any other sport.
If he was going for the ball, he was about two feet too low to even come in contact with the ball. And I have never seen a player try to kick the ball with his cleats.
It should have been a red card (and lost in the discussion is that Master of the Dark Arts van Bommel’s yellow card could have easily been red). If the ref didn’t want to decide the game in the first quarter, that is crap. A red card foul like that is a red card no matter when it happens.
Also, Puyol could have easily been booked, and the second-yellow on the Dutch player in OT was a horrible call.
The ref did pretty well considering the Netherlands decided to (which they openly admitted after the game) foul at will to disrupt the Spanish. Still, I couldn’t help but thinking that a lot of potential American fans would be turned off by such a sloppy game.
Oh well. Brazil in four years, and Germany will be overwhelming favorites.
Kicking your way to victory worked better back when substitutions weren’t allowed and there were no cards. The Dutch needed it to be 1954 again.
and i have a hard time believing that the one time Robben needed to go down, he tried to play through the contact. I’ve been watching him since he was 17 playing at Gronigen and I think that’s the first time I have seen him stay on his feet under contact
What’s Dutch for Hack-a-Shaq?
I want to say thank you for your coverage of the World Cup. Especially because you didn’t focus on it being held in South Africa and instead focussed on the games and the teams. Normalized it.
As a South African, I hope this WC proves to the world that South Africa is just another country, which, like any other has it’s own set of problems.
There was some poetic justice in the last two games of the tournament. First, the same woodwork that saved Uruguay in the last second against Ghana prevented them to equalize in the last second against Germany. And then the cynical approach of Holland to weasel its way to the Cup by trying to physically intimidate Spain and then finish them off in a penalty shoot-out (as admitted by their coach) did not work.
Yes, both teams played rough and deserved their yellow cards, but Spain was also in a tough game in the semi-final against Germany, yet that game didn’t see a single yellow card and way fewer fouls. In addition, the yellow cards for van Bommel, and especially the one for de Jong, could easily have been red.
I don’t think this was the best WC ever, and the eventual winner had a lot of hard fought 1:0 wins, but there’s little doubt that Spain is the best team at the moment. The team I rooted for, Germany, did far better than could have been expected before the tournament, given how young and inexperienced they were. They appear to have a great perspective going forward.
A shame that Ghana didn’t make the semi-finals and give African football an additional boost. Also, maybe FIFA should consider the number of starting spots awarded to the different continental associations. The fact that Europe ended up occupying the first three places is probably covering up this now, but there was an awful lot of blood letting for UEFA after the group stage. Maybe 13 spots is a bit overrepresented.
Lastly, there are some major football powers that have significant rebuilding operations in front of them (Italy, France, and England come to mind). First signs from England are not very good, because the FA there still seems to be in denial that a big part of their problem is structural.
Thanks again to Randinho for hosting the threads here and to John Cole for offering him that opportunity. It was fun to read these threads and to participate in the commenting.
Jim in Chicago
Two reforms I would like to see out of this Cup:
1. Assistant refs behind the goals to help determine things like when a goal is actually scored (should obviate the need for video replays).
2. Since WC is only 7 games, max, players should not miss matches for yellow card accumulation unless they are acquired in consecutive games. This would obviate the need for an “amnesty” before the final — why should that game be sacrosanct more than, say, the semifinal? (Germany-Spain would have been a different game with Mueller in the lineup, assuming his cards didn’t come in back-to-back games.)
Thanks for these posts Randinho!
This is my first post, but I’ve read every one of these. I just wanted to say thank you for the insights and all the great posts.
wasn’t the greatest goal ever scored, by a Dutchman no less, kicked with the cleats?
(not that DeJong didn’t richly deserve a red card for that play.)
In 2006 Holland vs Portugal was a cardfest too. But this portuguese player didn’t even get a yellow card, so I’m slightly more forgiving towards the yellow card for Nigel de Jong (though it could have been a red one).
I love this long, convoluted discussion about the Dutch number of yellow cards that never really takes into account the fact that probably half of them were called on behalf of teams that were lying and cheating, otherwise known as diving.
Iniesta alone should have been red-carded 10 minutes in for repeated diving, but FIFA has once again enabled the team of the most artful cheaters to prosper in the most spectacular way possible. If I had been reffing that game, at least 3 Spaniards and Robben would have been gone by halftime. Beautiful game, my ass.
In all my years of playing organized soccer, I a) never once even dreamed of trying crap like that, and 2) if we knew the other team was doing it, then we made them pay the price for it. deJong’s axe-stroke to the chest was my favorite moment of the game. At least he got his money’s worth for all the B.S. calls.
When they make a World Cup without Italy, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Argentina, the “diving 5”, then give me a call. Otherwise stop pretending it’s a beautiful game.
Spain won the Fair Play Award. Holland disgraced itself in the final. If you really think cleats in the chest are someone “getting their money’s worth” is a good thing, then your comment is indicative of everything wrong with this sport.
@Jim in Chicago: “1. Assistant refs behind the goals to help determine things like when a goal is actually scored (should obviate the need for video replays).”
You’d only need to add one official. Put the 4th official at one goal line and a 5th at the opposite corner. Encourage head officials to give them a lot of authority on set piece contact as well. This would’ve taken care of nearly every controversial call in the Cup.
I liked the final quite a bit; I thought the official was too aggressive handing out yellows in the first 20 minutes, but I suppose he had a better handle on the tone of the game than I did at that point. Would’ve been much more ugly if half the players on the field weren’t carrying cards going into extra time. Especially given the amount of contact throughout the game, no call or lack of call was particularly bad. Robben could’ve drawn a red card but played it forward instead. I don’t think the incident before the goal warranted a foul; if you get yourself caught standing still between two players, you lose the benefit of the doubt when you fall down.
For most of regular time and the first extra period, I felt the crucial play of the game was de Jong getting a yellow card for cleating Alonso in the chest. The referee giving de Jong a yellow because he didn’t want to “decide the game” signaled to the Dutch team that they could foul with impunity, because the referee would not want to decide the game, meaning he would not enforce any punishment that might send a player off (red or consecutive yellow). Which is exactly what happened. The Dutch fouled their hearts out, and the referee waited until 110 minutes had passed before he issued the kind of penalty that the Dutch actually feared.
The Spanish did some diving, but I think this was in reaction to the way the Dutch were playing, and the way the referee was calling the match, i.e. if a large number of Dutch players picked up yellow cards, they might actually stop fouling and play soccer. For example the Spanish generally played through contact against Germany, who played a much cleaner game.
My general impression of the first half, beyond the thuggishness of the Dutch, was that the Spanish were off with their passing. Sort of the way a basketball team will have nights or streaks where nothing goes in the net.
Thanks much to Randiinho for posting these analyses, John Cole for making this happen, and all the commentators for their great insight. This has really been one of the best sites to read about the World Cup.
Political Aside: I saw parallels between the referee’s conduct and complaints about modern journalism. The administration says waterboarding is not torture. The New York Times doesn’t want to “take sides,” so it dutifully copies this down, empowering those who want to claim that there is actually some debate about this issue. The referee doesn’t want to “decide the game,” so he allows the Dutch to foul like mad for 110 minutes. It seems to me that de Jong did pretty much the most dangerous thing possible on a football field, short of targeting the face, groin, or a joint. I don’t really see what expectation of mercy (yellow vs. red) he could have had.
hi, i luv luv luv this site, one of the most straightforward but smart places around.
but you are collectively revealing your lack of deep immersion in football (with exceptions), being americans and all.
spain were better than holland, but on chances created, it was probably only about 6-4. not overwhelming. and there’s a venerable tradition in football of the slightly weaker team soaking up pressure and hitting on the break if they have the quality. and there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that.
as for the fouls, okay, but there were probably only about five dangerous ones in the game, and a couple of those were by spain. and the only cast iron sending off was puyol on robben when he was through, when holland got punished by too much honesty in robben staying on his feet.
(the de jong karate thing was a could have been sent off, not a should have been. the latter thinking is profound ignorance of the game)
this is temperamental, but i much, much prefer the hard guys intimidating opponents in the full knowledge that they will be periodically punished (another venerable tradition), to the asshole cynics like iniesta who get guys sent off for nothing.
would holland have prevented the goal with more cover? maybe. but spain, the better team with better organisation and more world class players, just couldn’t help themselves. that’s who you’re celebrating.
i stay away from this as much as possible, but jesus kidkawartha’s right. the northern game has its share of cynicism, but it’s just bred in the bone in the south.
spain won the fair play award because diving isn’t punished to nearly the same extent as fouling, as anyone with a passing knowledge of the game would know
@ochon: would holland have prevented the goal with more cover? maybe. but spain, the better team with better organisation and more world class players, just couldn’t help themselves. that’s who you’re celebrating.
Actually, the reason why Mathijsen was so incensed was not because of whether it was off-sides or not, but because it was a clear corner kick on the foregoing play. That was also a yellow card that Mathijsen got.
As far as dissent goes, for anyone who has played the game at any kind of level, when you get crap referees, you tend to argue with them and take the yellow card like a man when you do it – being “dirty” is not necessarily equal to obtaining yellow cards.
I am certainly glad of all the attention soccer is getting in this country, but some of the discussions from the pundits and/or the radio talk show hosts on ESPN Radio and/or XM have been asinine and have been a clear indication of people who have actually never played the game. They are, in no particular order:
1) Refs make bad calls, sometimes they happen in important games. I realize that we are obsessed with “getting the call right” in this country but I believe that calls over the long term even each other out. The English usually tend to have a very healthy attitude about it. Pundits that say that there should be more than one ref, stoppage of the game for video replay, or other such adjustments, do not understand that these things have already been experimented with or will fundamentally change the game in the first place. The beauty of football is that it tries to eliminate too many complex rules. The other football that gets played with big guys with their hands gets tinkered with so many times (and, on top of that, has totally different “amateur” than professional rules) that the game itself does not resemble anything like the game that was played 10-15 years ago.
2) Luis Suarez did what a lot of other players would have done in the same instance. Furthermore, and this goes to the “intent” that a lot of people seem to discern, when the game is going 100 miles an hour and/or you are tired, like in that goal line situation with Uruguay you might stick your hand out there even though you don’t mean to. If Asimoah Gyan had simply slotted that ball away, just like he did in the ensuing PK shootout 5 minutes later, we would not be having this conversation.
3) There is a difference in playing to win or playing while trying not to lose and nicking a win. You can say what you want about Holland not playing the beautiful game (and people are forgetting that Neeskens, Suurbier, Rinus Israel or Arie Haan were certainly not afraid to dish it out when necessary either), but Holland plays to win, while, say, this edition of Brazil, Paraguay or Portugal played not to lose and they got burned for it. In the past Greece in Euro 2004 or Argentina in 1990, to name 2 OTOH, did get their rewards. Actually most of the teams that played to win were rewarded in this World Cup and that’s a positive development.
4) Defensive midfielders are part of the game; they don’t get talked about at all, but you need good ones to win. The great ones, such as, say, Roy Keane, are able to contribute to the offense as well. Argentina and England were done in by the fact that they did not have one. (In Argentina’s case, one that showed up in the Germany game, to be precise, and Maradona had no sub for him) Mark Van Bommel, love him or hate him had an outstanding tournament and noticeably backed off once he got that yellow in the final. The Spanish, between Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Busquets did a masterful job in shutting Snyder down. In the modern game, you need players that are willing to do the dirty work, work hard and win tackles so that the creative players can be creative. They rarely, if ever, get named to “teams of the tournament”, but they are just as important as, say, a good set up man in baseball to a winning team.
Finally, I have heard that that final game was bad, boring and/or unwatchable, but I have to say that I enjoyed it thoroughly as it was a game where the defenses were absolutely stellar, especially Van Bronkhorst, Mathysen and Heitinga (VandeWiel was just OK) on the Dutch side and Puyol, Capdevilla and Sergio Ramos on the Spanish side. There were a great number of fantastic clean tackles and or great interference on head balls – no absolute clear headers like in the Germany game (Sergio Ramos was slightly impeded as was Mathysen on their goal scoring opps). A defensive battle, admittedly, is something that a lay person would not appreciate, just like a casual baseball fan not appreciating a 1-0 game either.
Both teams could have knocked it around the back slowly, but they were all clearly trying to score or go forward whenever possible.
One final note: there were a lot of stories in the media, especially about 6 months prior to the WC about South Africa not being ready to host, etc., etc. Whatever happened with that?
The Dutch were like the Bad Boy Pistons or Riley era Knicks.
If that is all you got I guess that is what you have to do, but it makes for an ugly game.
@Gordon, The Big Express Engine: No, Russia and then I don’t know, probably US or Qatar. Reasonis that FIFA wants to ‘grow the game’ but the PEOPLE in charge of FIFA want to enhance their opportunities for graft. You need a country able to stage the tourney, that has a growing soccer market (not Esp or UK as both are fully penetrated), and has plenty of cheddar spreading. Russia and USA are good on all those counts. Plus FIFA doesn’t like USA.
Qatar would be a stand-in for a region just like SA was for a while
continent, and also has great piles of money for Sepp Blatter to drupe himself with.