World Cup: Awards Banquet

Spain 0, Holland 0 (Spain wins 1-0 aet)

Spain’s Andres Iniesta smacked the World Cup winner home after 116 minutes against 10-man Holland in an ill-tempered final that saw 14 yellow cards over 120 minutes of play. It was yet another boring final in a string that stretches back at least as far as 1994.

There were only a couple of half-chances in a cranky first half that saw English referee Howard Webb book five players in the first half hour. Nigel de Jong should have been sent off on 28 minutes for a flying boot into the chest of Xabi Alonso, but it was clear to everyone that Webb wanted to let the players decide the match. As such, the brutal foul earned only a yellow. The Spaniards did not retaliate with a hard foul of their own before the break.

The second half saw a few more cards and a few chances amidst a lot more dreary play. Arjen Robben couldn’t convert on either of two semi-breakaways. Substitute Cesc Fabregas came up similarly empty on his chance for Spain, and Sergio Ramos put a free header over the bar from about four yards out.

Extra time was a cagey affair as well until Johnny Heitinga got sent off for a second yellow on 110 minutes. Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque bizarrely subbed off David Villa to start the second half of extra time in favour of World Cup bust Fernando Torres. Villa takes penalties for his club, so it was a brutal choice, but it wouldn’t matter: Iniesta controlled and scored from 10 yards out in open play to clinch the trophy. The Dutch went bananas that Iniesta was offside—he wasn’t. The first time the ball was played at him he was, but it came back off a Dutch defender and when it was played in the second time, Iniesta was legal.

It was a boring final, and the fans’ whistles of disapproval could often be heard above the vuvuzelas. If this was your first exposure to soccer, don’t let the largely poor play at this World Cup put you off: club soccer starts up in a month or so in major European leagues, and that’s much better than this made-for-worldwide-TV fluff.

My all-World Cup team (4-1-3-2):

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)
Defenders: Maicon (Brazil), Per Metesacker and Arne Friedrich (both Germany), Juan Capdevila (Spain)
Holding Midfielder: Mark v. Bommel (Holland)
Attacking Midfielders: Mezut Oezil and Thomas Muller (both Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Holland),
Strikers: Diego Forlan (Uruguay), David Villa (Spain)

Second Team (4-3-3):

Goalkeeper: Eduardo (Portugal)
Defenders: Lucio (Brazil), Martin Skrtel (Slovakia), Claudio Morel (Paraguay), Jorge Fucile (Uruguay)
Midfielders: Landon Donovan (USA), Arjen Robben (Holland), Xavi (Spain)
Forwards: Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Luis Suarez (Uruguay)

And the rest…

Golden Ball: Diego Forlan
Silver Ball: Wesley Sneijder
Bronze Ball: David Villa

Best Under-23: Thomas Muller (wins tiebreaker over Mesut Oezil: Muller is 11 months younger)

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Biggest flop (player): Fernando Torres (Spain)

Biggest flop (team): Italy (we’d already written France off before a ball was kicked; I’m sure no one but the England apologists on this board expected more from that team)

Player who deserved more time on the pitch: Fabio Coentrao (Portugal)

Al Davis "Just win, Baby!" Award: Luis Suarez

Al Davis Fossilized Manager Award: Marcello "Party like it’s 2006" Lippi

Manager of the Tournament: Bert v. Marwijk (Holland)

Worst Manager: Raymond Domenech (France)