I was cheering for Holland in the World Cup final, but they sure didn’t make it easy for me.
The match was not a great example of ‘the beautiful game’. In fact, it was pretty savage. The Dutch players were fouling the shit out of the Spaniards (lucky to receive only nine yellow cards). The Spaniards were relatively foul-happy themselves. Getting five yellows themselves.
At first I thought it was just nerves, then I realized it was the Dutch gameplan to hack and chip and slide and foul in order to disrupt the Spanish ‘tika-taka’ passing game. As Dutch footballing legend/hero/icon Johan Cruyff said “Sadly, they played very dirty.”
And none more so than Nigel ‘The Heartkicker‘ de Jong. The Dutch defensive midfield pairing of Heartkicker and Mark ‘Leadfeet’ van Bommel spent the whole tournament disrupting build-up play with hard tackles. Fine. It’s ugly. But it worked.
But only insofar as it was the sturdy foundation for the dangerous Dutch attacks. However, when the whole team adopted that style of play Holland, undervalued their potential and robbed themselves of one of their key attributes.
It’s odd that the Oranje have been complaining about the refereeing. Admittedly it wasn’t great – and Webb erroneously awarding the goal kick that led to the Spanish gamewinner is a fine example of a legitimate beef – but if the ref had been calling everything correctly the Dutch would’ve been down to nine men before halftime.
It’s unfair to hang it all on the ref, because it wasn’t just a few calls that were missed – that whole game was missed opportunities.
Holland, a talented team with one of the most creative midfields in the tournament, missed the chance to find out how they would’ve fared going head-to-head against Spain. Instead they chose to foul their way through football’s biggest showcase.
Even worse, in losing in such an ugly fashion, they also forfeited the chance to hold their heads up high afterwards, knowing that they came and played their best.
Instead, they played their worst. And that’s why they lost. With all due respect to Alonso, that’s the real kick to the heart.
Spain played a slightly less ugly brand of football, and thus deserved to win, so congratulations to them.
Let me finish with a request to football worldwide and future World Cup participants: can we please resolve to play better finals, with less headbutting and heartkicking?