Alas, the Cup is over, and Spain won despite my predictions that they’d choke, and despite the coin flip I did a few days ago. It was very appropriate that the winning goal came from a midfielder, Andrés Iniesta, because that midfield was by far the best in the tournament, with Spain averaging over 58% possession. True, striker David Villa scored five goals, but a team total of eight goals over seven games is unimpressive. Of course, you can get away with it when the defense gives up just two goals, none in the knockout round.
Both keepers played well today and made many great saves, which was impressive, but kept the score from being much higher, which sucked. Which reminds me: I hate Arjen Robben. I’m not sure why, but there’s just something about that guy that makes me want to run a power sander over his face. I’m glad he choked twice on breakaways. That said, he won a little respect from me on the second breakaway. He didn’t score, but with Carles Puyol and another Spanish defender trying desperately to take him down, Robben didn’t flop or dive. Where others would have splayed themselves out on the grass, clutching an ankle, hands over the face, feigning agony, Robben stayed on his feet and kept trying to put the ball in the net. It was… admirable.
(Of course, he earned a yellow card a few seconds later by screaming at the ref for not calling a foul, and should have been shown a second yellow and a red in extra time.)
The best thing in my mind about Spain winning is that they probably deserved it more than any other team in the tournament. That doesn’t always happen–remember di Stéfano’s warning about goals. But Spain had the best midfield in the tournament. They gave up the fewest goals. And though they scored the fewest goals ever by any World Cup champion, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Spain kept attacking and they kept trying to win games outright. Most of the other teams didn’t.
Goal of the tournament: I would have gone with Luís Fabiano’s second goal against the Ivory Coast, until I saw the replay and Fabiano’s double handball. I liked Carlos Tevez’s second goal against Mexico, a blast from well outside the box into the far upper 90. But my favorite was one that went mostly unheralded. It was scored by Enrique Vera of Paraguay against Slovakia (the colors in the video are goofy, probably to avoid copyright issues):
Ball is played to the top of the 18. Vera runs in from left-of-center towards the ball. Two defenders are collapsing on him, and the keeper’s at the top of the 6 to close down the angle. Vera arrives at the ball, he reaches across his body and against his own momentum with his right foot, and on the first touch gets juuuust under the ball with the outside of his foot–all while getting knocked down. The ball floats and spins past the diving keeper into the net. That’s a tough goal.
The Cup is over. Four agonizing years until the next one. Now I can crawl out of my cave, cancel cable, and rejoin civilization. What’s been going on in the world?