It is the greatest and biggest game in the World, two teams that have never lifted the trophy met in Johannesburg in the magnificent Soccer City stadium to battle for the privilege of being the 8th country to win the most coveted prize in football. The Spanish and the Dutch fans filled the stadium and watched around the world, knowing it would end in heartbreak for one and ecstasy for the other.

 

NETHERLANDS

0

 

SPAIN

1

      Andres INIESTA (116′)  
         
1.Maarten STEKELENBERG     1.Iker CASILLAS  
2.Gregory VAN DER WIEL – Y     3.Gerard PIQUE  
3.John HEITINGA – Y/R     5.Carles PUYOL – Y  
4.Joris MATHIJSEN – Y     6.Andres INIESTA – Y  
5.Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST – Y OUT – 105   7.David VILLA OUT – 106
6.Mark VAN BOMMEL – Y     8.XAVI – Y  
7.Dirk KUYT OUT – 71   11.Joan CAPDEVILA – Y  
8.Nigel DE JONG – Y OUT – 99   14.Xavi ALONSO OUT – 87
9.Robin VAN PERSIE – Y     15.Sergio RAMOS – Y  
10.Wesley SNEIJDER     16.Sergio BUSQUETS  
11.Arjen ROBBEN – Y     18.PEDRO OUT – 60
         
Subs     Subs  
16.Michel VORM     2.Raul ALBOIL  
22.Sander BOSCHKER     4.Carlos MARCHENA  
12.Khalid BOULAHROUZ     9.Fernando TORRES IN – 106
13.Andre OOIJER     10.Cesc FABERGAS IN – 87
14.Demy DE ZEEUW     12.Victor VALDES  
15.Edson BRAAFHEID IN – 105   13.Juan MATA  
17.Eljero ELIA IN – 71   17.Alvaro ARBELOA  
18.Stijn SCHAARS     19.Fernando LLORENTE  
19.Ryan BABEL     20.Javi MARTINEZ  
20.Ibrahim AFELLAY     21.David SILVA  
21.Klass Jan HUNTELAAR     22.Jesus NAVAS IN – 60
23.Rafael VAN DER VAART     23.Pepe REINA  

Not the greatest game I have ever watched however not the worst final, 94 and 90 were worse in my opinion, most finals are always a very tight and cagey affair and I expected this game to be no different, it started off very promising though, Spain looked to attack, the Dutch pressed early and looked to break forward when they got the ball, using the pace of Robben down the right, It was Spain that took charge the “tiki taka” passing was in full flow and they should have taken the lead after 4 minutes Sergio Ramos met a cross with a thunderous header by Stekelenberg did very well to keep it out, shortly after on 3 occasions Pedro found David Villa with lovely through passes, twice he was offside, the third time he wasn’t but Stekelenberg was quickly out to collect the ball. Spain’s passing rhythm was then disrupted by the amount of fouls and yellow cards the referee gave out, in 28 minutes 5 yellow cards were awarded, Nigel de Jong was lucky to still be on the pitch after he planted his foot straight into Xabi Alonso’s chest, a shocking challenge and nowhere near going for the ball. For all the Spanish play the Dutch could have gone in at half time in the lead Arjen Robben his trademark move onto his left foot and his shot had to be beaten away by Casillas at his near post.

Spain started very brightly again in the second half, Joan Capdevila had a great chance the ball played to the back post by he couldn’t make contact with the ball, Holland nearly made them pay, de Jong played the ball forward and it split the Spanish defence and Robben was through on goal, with the ball on his favoured left foot but Casillas made a superb save lifting his right leg and getting a crucial touch on the ball to send it wide. The game was heating up and or the right reasons, Jesus Navas made a run down the right fired the ball across Heitinga made a mess of the clearance and the ball fell to David Villa 5 yards from goal however the Everton defender amazingly got a foot in the way and blocked the Spanish hit-man’s shot. From the subsequent corner Sergio Ramos had a clear cut chance, the corner swung in Ramos was unmarked but somehow managed to skew his header over the bar, and it looked harder to miss.

Back came the Dutch, van Persie’s flick on sent Robben through on goal, he beat Puyol for pace but seemed to do enough (maybe illegally) to slow the winger down and Pique and Casillas smothered the ball to safety, Robben was livid and chased down the referee screaming his injustice, all he got was a booking. The 90 minutes finished goalless both sides could have easily scored in winner in 90, but we would need another 30 minutes to decide the winner, and substitute Cesc Fabergas should have sealed it for Spain, Andres Iniesta played a lovely ball in behind the defence and Cesc ran onto the ball but could only find Stekelenberg’s legs with his left foot attempt, the Arsenal man should have done better, he had made a big impact though the Spanish looked more in control with Fabergas on the pitch. It was his midfield partners and possible teammates Xavi and Iniesta that strengthened Spain’s cause, Xavi playing a ball over the top to Iniesta he had got in front of Heitinga, he could only tug Iniesta’s shoulder, the Barca man went down, Heitinga was already on a yellow, he had to go, and go he did shown the red card and his team on the ropes and down to 10 men.

The extra man made the difference, Spain pilled forward and with 4 minutes to go to penalties it paid dividends, Iniesta broke forward and was unmarked, Torres tried to find him it was cleared, however Fabergas won the ball played it to Iniesta and he struck the ball beautifully past Stekelenberg into the Dutch goal and send the Spanish players and fans into dreamland, fantastic scenes of celebration, also a lovely moment from Iniesta as he lifted his shirt to reveal a message to Dani Jarque the former Espanyol captain who died a year ago of a heart attack while in pre-season training, he was booked for his sentiment I’m sure he wouldn’t care though, he had won the World Cup for his team and country and nothing was going to damped the moment. The Dutch has a brief flurry of action to try and level the game but it was in vain as Spain became the Champions of the World, the best team won on the day and that’s all you can ask for.

Over the past 4 years they have been the best and most consistent team, and although they haven’t set the world alight in this tournament actually scoring the least goals of any World Cup winner, but they played great at times, defended brilliantly and in my eyes deserved winners, Holland didn’t go out to win the World Cup they went out to stop Spain winning it, and to me that’s not the attitude I like for Champions.

MY THOUGHTS

Some great performances on both sides, Andres Iniesta has to be the man of the match, him and Xavi became more in control as long as the game went on, his surging runs and technique on the ball were a joy to watch, and it was very fitting he scored the winning goal, Substitutes Fabergas and Navas did very well when they came on, adding more attacking flair to the Spanish midfield, Puyol was a warrior in central midfield and no one deserves more to be a World Champion then the Barcelona centre half.

For the Dutch I thought Gregory van der Wiel had a superb game, I lost count of the amount of great tackles he put in, or just breaking up the Spanish play, impressive for the young Ajax player, his stock will have risen over the past 4 weeks and even more so tonight. Stekelenberg had a great game keeping his team in the match in more than 3 occasions, deserved to only lose one goal.

Robben was busy but spent most of the time complaining, van Bommel and de Jong did a good job disrupting the Spanish play be it illegally or not, Kuyt and van Persie were too quiet, Sneijder had a good game, chased back ran forward tried to make things happen maybe just didn’t have the options in front of him to make a difference.

 

The First Half was not the most exciting but more of a tactical battle, the Second Half was a better sceptical and actually turned into an exciting and tight affair, the best team won in the end and are deserved Champions. The odds are 6/1 for them to become the first ever back to back World Champions and who would bet against them 4 years on in Brazil.

StumbleUponRedditShare

In this world everyone has a different opinion of everything and that’s what makes it a great place to be, if we all agreed about all issues then it would be pretty boring which brings me to today’s game, a game I really enjoyed I thought it was a great portrait of passing football from Spain, impressive defending and counter attacking from the Germans, yeah it didn’t have bags of goals, but it was proper interesting football, I totally understand if some people found it boring or dull, and that’s the right everyone has I respect that, however I would easily watch that game again.

Spain started very bright, and went about attacking the German defence, Pedro in for Torres couldn’t have asked for a better start, a great first touch, and he looked very much in the mood, Villa started in the middle and struggled to find space around the area, in the first half Pedro moved from right to left and always looked to get on the ball, the first chance came when Pedro slipped in Villa, his outstretched foot met the ball but Manuel Neuer was out fast to close them down and make the save. The only other chance to mention was from Andrea Iniesta’s cross when Puyol rose and headed the ball over the ball, a danger sign for the Germans, Podolski and Ozil nearly combined for a breakaway chance but Podolski’s pass was slightly behind Ozil, Ozil also had a penalty shout denied when Ramos collided with him on the stroke of half time, not a penalty for me as Ramos doesn’t actually tackle him, I think Ozil just fell over. An interesting 45 minutes “a chess game” if you will Germany trying to suck the Spanish in and counter, and the Spanish happy to control the tempo of the game but without getting in behind very often, frustrating at times because of the class that Spain have, but still nice to watch.

The second half saw Spain pile on the pressure again but this time they got a bit more joy and cause more problems, Villa and Ramos came close to converting low crosses to the back post, Xabi Alonso came very close with two efforts from outside the box, the Germans were pushed further and further back and found it hard to break out because they were so deep, it was getting inevitable that a Spain goal would come. And come it did, 17 minutes to go Xavi whipped in a corner and Puyol unmarked rose and powered a wonderful header passed the helpless Neuer, his 3 international goal, and I don’t think he’ll score another more important, unless it’s on Sunday.

The Germans tried their best to get back into the game, but it just wasn’t there day, Podolski and Klose never got a sniff at goal and Ozil was kept tightly marked by Busquets and Alonso, they will be back stronger in 2 years and they are my favourites to win Euro 2012.

GERMANY

0

 

SPAIN

1

      Carles PUYOL (73′)  
         
1.Manuel NEUER     1.Iker CASILLAS  
3.Arne FRIEDRICH     3.Gerard PIQUE  
6.Sami KHEDIRA OUT – 81   5.Carles PUYOL  
7.Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER     6.Andres INIESTA  
8.Mesut ÖZIL     7.David VILLA OUT – 81
10.Lucas PODOLSKI     8.XAVI  
11.Miroslav KLOSE     11.Joan CAPDEVILA  
15.Piotr TROCHOWSKI OUT – 62   14.Xavi ALONSO OUT – 93
16.Philipp LAHM     15.Sergio RAMOS  
17.Per MERTESACKER     16.Sergio BUSQUETS  
20.Jerome BOATENG OUT – 52   18.PEDRO OUT – 86
         
Subs     Subs  
12.Tim WIESE     2.Raul ALBOIL  
22.Hans Jorg BUTT     4.Carlos MARCHENA IN – 93
2.Marcell JANSEN IN – 52   9.Fernando TORRES IN – 81
4.Dennis AOGO     10.Cesc FABERGAS  
5.Serdar TASCI     12.Victor VALDES  
9.Stefan KIEßLING     13.Juan MATA  
13.Thomas MULLER SUS   17.Alvaro ARBELOA  
14.Holger BADSTUBER     19.Fernando LLORENTE  
18.Toni KROOS IN – 62   20.Javi MARTINEZ  
19.CACAU     21.David SILVA IN – 86
21.Marko MARIN     22.Jesus NAVAS  
23.Mario GOMEZ IN – 81   23.Pepe REINA  

MY THOUGHTS

Pedro was the man of the match for me, always getting open, attacked the German defenders in a way Villa and Torres just don’t do getting them to turn and chase he was like a fly in the ear of the German defence, his passing was on point, had a couple of shots on goal and until the goal he looked like the only way Spain would get a goal, he should have set up a goal for Torres with the Germans pilling forward he was found wide open on the right a 2 on 1 with Torres and maybe youthful naivety got the best of him and he tried to go it alone when he should have squared it, I really hope he starts in the final, he deserves it, capping off a wonderful season for the young Spaniard.

Alonso, Xavi and Busquets were superb running out of words for these guys, Xavi hardly lost the ball all game kept the game flowing with the constant passing, Busquets also played very well closing down Ozil then not giving Schweinsteiger any time on the ball apart from the defensive side his passing was impressive too, usually underrated by most people he is an important part of the Spain side, not sure they always need Alonso and Busquets together.

A quiet night for Villa, he works so much better while operating on the left, but he sacrificed himself for the team, not sure where Del Bosque will play him in the final, he’ll need his star man to be at his best to win the biggest game of them all.

The Germans didn’t play anywhere near the way they did against England and Argentina, they missed Thomas Muller, as well as Trochowski played he just doesn’t have the power and physicality that the Bayern man brings and this slowed down the counter attacking prowess they had showed previously, Mertesacker and Friedrich played well for a duo that have been told they are not that good all tournament they didn’t show any of that and Spain found it hard to get past them.

Klose and Ozil were marked out the game, Podolski never once linked up with Klose which was disappointing. Schweinsteiger and Khedira played a good match, I really like Schweni in this central role, he needs to show a bit more of his attacking side at times however his passing and reading of the game has been second to none in this tournament.

I wanted the Germans to go all the way in this tournament as they had played the best football so far, however they got outplayed this evening by Spain, the best team went through in the end.

FINAL – NETHERLANDS v SPAIN

So we have the line-up of the final game, the “Total Football” of the Dutch and the “Tiki Taka” of the Spanish, I don’t want to jinx it, however it has the potential to be a fantastic final, both teams don’t like sitting back, they have creativity all over the pitch, it will either be end to end, or cancel each other out.

Either way after the game is done we will be looking at the 8th country to win the World Cup trophy and surely that is as special as it gets for the first African World Cup.

I am going to back Holland to win; this however could be their downfall.

StumbleUponRedditShare

So I haven’t actually gave any predictions for tonight and tomorrow, so here we go.

NETHERLANDS v URUGUAY

I’m going for 2-1 Netherlands probably after extra time.

GERMANY v SPAIN

I think the Germans the will roll on and win this match going for 3-1, they will score first Spain will attack and get caught out again, then pile on the pressure score to make it 2-1 but again the Germans will nick a third.

That would make it NETHERLANDS v GERMANY final

StumbleUponRedditShare

Thought I’d post my thoughts on the big name teams trying to win the World Cup.

SPAIN - Most people’s favourites no doubt influenced by winning Euro 2008, very strong team, Villa and Torres upfront, Silva, Xavi, Iniesta in the middle, surprised that Marcos Senna wasn’t picked; he gave that defensive solidity to the midfield. The problem Spain could face is if players get suspended or injured, but they are surely a lock on for the Semi-Finals.

 

PLAYER TO WATCH: Although he won’t start I feel if JESUS NAVAS gets a chance he could terrify defences in South Africa, really good player, great impact player.

 

BRAZIL - “too defensive” “weak squad” I’ve heard those quotes load in the last week, sometimes from myself, although I don’t agree with Dunga’s selections or tactics, he is getting the job done. Robinho has been a better player for Brazil than club, Solid midfield, problem seems to be if his 4-4-2 doesn’t work there’s no Plan B, and the substitute strikers don’t strike fear the way Ronaldo does. They will advance through the Group Stage but Quarter Finals may be the furthest they will go.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Not a natural defender but MICHEL BASTOS seems to be Dunga’s pick for Brazil’s left back, superb for Lille in France last season, then moved to Lyon, played well in the League and Champions League, amazing left foot, very powerful shot, good crosser, could be a surprise in store for some teams.

 

ARGENTINA - All the talent to win the world cup but the management casts doubts over their chances, with players of Messi, Tevez, Higuain, Milito and Aguero, Argentina boost probably the most talented forward that will be in South Africa, Maradona has struggled to bring the best out of probably the best player in the world just now in Leo Messi, maybe the big stage will magnify his greatness, how do keep 5 talented forwards happy.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Everyone will concentrate on the forwards but I will be interested to see how NICOLAS OTAMENDI will perform in SA, great for Estudiantes can play at Right Back but more comfortable in the centre, capable of providing the defensive cover to help Argentina attack freely.

FRANCE - Never a team to underestimate, I will be very interested to see how they line up in their first match, Will Ribery be fit, surely Henry can’t start, Gignac has underperformed, maybe Cisse, he is the striker on form. Rumours that for the first time Domenech won’t play with 2 Defensive mids, Interesting reading, I can’t make a call on them, my thoughts are they will be great or rubbish, Quarter-Finals at least, if Ribery can perform like he does for Bayern they could do some damage.

PLAYER TO WATCH: I am not sure how well know YOAN GOURCUFF is outside of people who follow French football, he has played in the Champions League so people will know the name, but this guy is a superb football, He has magic in those boots, passing, dribbling, and he can score, probably the closest France will have to a Zidane, Yoan has the ability to pick teams apart, quality player.

 

GERMANY - As everyone always says, “never count out the Germans” I however think they will struggle this time, the top strikers aren’t as good as they used to be, the form strikers are Cacau and Muller and they are untested, no Ballack and other midfield injuries weakens them, I don’t think they will get past the Quarter-Finals, watch them win it all now.

PLAYER TO WATCH: With Ballack out the squad the responsibility will be on SAMI KHEDIRA to boss the midfield for Germany, a player with great potential who has come through the ranks of Stuttgart and shown leadership qualities for his club, a name people won’t know but come the end of the 2010 World Cup I would hope more people will.

 

ITALY - There has been very little talk of the Holders retaining their title, I don’t think one person I have asked/spoke to/read about, has picked the Italians, Solid midfield and defence, my question is Who is going to step up and put the ball in the net, Di Natale not proven at this level although a fantastic record for Udinese, Pazzini could be a star, Goals will be the problem

PLAYER TO WATCH: Very underrated in the UK but loved in Italy DANIELE DE ROSSI is a midfield powerhouse, can do everything, works tirelessly for his club and country, and he could be the force that drives Italy to the Semi Finals

 

HOLLAND – Always good to watch and will of course entertain, such a great attacking side, how do you fit – Van Persie, Kuyt, Robben, Sneijder, and van der Vaart in the same team, solid midfield anchors in de Jong and van Bommel, the one thing for me that will be their downfall is the defence, not up to the same standard as the front line, van der Wiel is exciting but untested at this level, and van Bronckhorst isn’t getting any older.

PLAYER TO WATCH: One player I really am excited to see is GREGORY VAN DER WIEL very talented Ajax right back, started at CB but van Basten changed him to a full back, has suspect behaviour issues, but he is one of the brightest talents in Dutch football

 

ENGLAND – Always hard for me to give an unbiased view being Scottish, I will try though, if Capello can get the best players playing at their potential, England could go all the way, however there is issues e.g.: can Gerrard and Lampard play effectively together, Glen Johnson is weak defensively, how can anyone justify a starting spot for Emile Heskey apart from that Rooney likes him, personally 4-5-1 suits them better, with Gerrard off Rooney, on their day they can beat anyone, once past the group stages they need 4 of those days, minimum will be the Semi-Finals

PLAYER TO WATCH: Although the left side has always been a problem for England the right-side has not, AARON LENNON is one of the most talented wingers in the EPL, superb pace, final ball is improving and with Rooney’s new found ability to head the ball, and this could cause endless problems to England’s opponents.

There we go 8 teams that will make up the majority of everyone’s favourites, I would be shocked if the winner was not one of those team, there will be a few shocks here and there as there always is, but surely one of the minnows can’t go all the way…..can they!

StumbleUponRedditShare