Football World Cup 2010

July 19, 2010 at 1:00 am | Posted in Sporting Event | Leave a comment
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I finally watched the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final – between Spain and the Netherlands – the other night. Of course, I knew the result; I had read much about the Dutch ‘kicking game’. So I was surprised by how intriguing and engrossing it was to watch; I had intended to fast-forward through much of it – instead I watched pretty much every miniute.

This was not a game of beautiful flowing soccer; this was finals soccer – marked by defence. There were few opportunities for individual brilliance, because both sides played a stiffling combination of – in basket ball terms – zone and man-on-man defence. Both team set out to deny time and space to the other team; and they did it brilliantly. It was not pretty, but effective. That said, both sides had opportunities – either not taken cleanly, or denied by brilliant goalkeeping.

The game was very physical, indeed the Dutch often crossed the line between a strong challenge and right out career ending. But what the Netherlands did was allowed within the rules. Let me explain: the Dutch tackled hard, and picked up yellow card after yellow card – nine (?) in all. But there was no sanction that made the negative payoff such that the Dutch stopped. Still, there was no cynical cutting people down – where the tackling leg is used as a scythe. Spain were not entirely blameless – they adjusted to the style of play allowed by the referee – and eventually gave as good as they got.

Given the physical nature of the game, I was impressed by how sporting a contest it was – there were few, if any, outbursts of temper between the teams: players picked each other up (with a gotcha smile at times), and the ‘kick the ball out and return it when someone is injured’ was respected – even to the point where Spain tapped a corner to the Dutch goal keeper.

One point in favour of a more robust physical approach – no one dived ! and there was no head butting !!

So Spain won. Their goal was the result of a series of quick accurate passes – the tired Dutch defenders were unable to establish their zones, and were momentarily outnumbered. It is the right result – football is about kicking the ball, not kicking people.

It all came down to where the referee had set the bar for over vigourous play. The Netherland might have finished the game with eight players, and Spain might have won by more goals, had the bar been set lower. But let us not forget that the Netherlands got ‘kicked out’ of the 1978 final in Argintina in similar circulstances – so the way the game is played (and refereed perhaps) is influenced by its history.

The only decision I would change would be the Dutch player who put his foot into a Spanish player’s chest – he should have gotten a red card. The tackle was not just career ending, but life ending.

Some suggestions to FIFA:

  • the X-Box/Playstation generation is comfortable with technology – introduce it
  • Introduce sin-binning – give referees a tool for cooling players off that does not remove them completely from the game – and thereby distort the game
  • In extra time removing players – 2 players from both sides after 10 minutes; then 2 more after another 10 minutes; …

Hopefully the FIFA 2014 final will be more see more football and less ‘kicking’.

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