And So it Ends

With all due respect to our friends in Espana, the real winner of this World Cup is a German, and English expatriate:

Paul the Octopus.

Our cephalopod sensation completed his perfect World Cup run by predicting Spain’s win over Holland. Would that the Dutch could say the same – their run for perfection was ended by Spain in an ugly, disjointed affair marked by a record number of yellow cards (13) handed out by English referee Howard Webb. Webb also sent off Holland’s Hietinga in the second extra period, leaving the Dutch a man down and eventually leading to the decisive goal by Iniesta. It would be hard to argue many of the yellows were not deserved – Netherlands played a chippy game all night – but Webb’s reputation as a free hand with the cards proved true.

For Spain, the collective exhale as they finally won their first World Cup could be heard across the Iberian Peninsula. Clearly the better team, they nevertheless were frustrated by Holland’s solid defending at the back and physical play. As usual, Cesc Fabergas did not start and made the Spanish side much more dangerous when he came on as a central midfielder in the 87th minute. This followed another clever substitution as Jesus Navas entered as a winger, spreading the field and exposing the Dutch at the center. Villa and the rest of the Spaniards missed some chances, but as has been their wont they were patient and relentless, finally wearing down a Dutch side clearly tired of chasing.

For Holland, it represents another bitter disappointment. Arjen Robben will be kicking himself for missing two breakaway chances, though he surely feels he was fouled on the second. The Dutch also felt Elia was fouled at the edge of the Spanish penalty area just before Iniesta’s late winner. But in truth, they didn’t do enough to win.

And so, an intermittently exciting but rather mediocre World Cup ends with a mediocre final. The vuvuzuelas, the Jabbulani ball, the horrendous officiating gaffes… Evidence of FIFA’s corrupt and stupid stewardship was everywhere. But South Africa managed the pull the event itself off without many major glitches, and the best team probably won – ending a long drought for arguably the best soccer nation never to win the Cup (leaving Holland as undisputed title-holder now). And at least we had Paul the Octopus…

And the only undefeated team from the 2010 World Cup? I give you – New Zealand. Good on ya, Kiwis.

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