Is very rare that any sporting event, be it the World Cup Final or a Sunday league kick around, can attract an even handed, impartial approach, even amongst those who would be classed as neutrals.
Try to avoid it but you will find yourself taking sides albeit for the most tenuous of reasons. For example with today may be your mother once knew someone in her keep fit club who was Spanish or you once had a very interesting “mind expanding” holiday in Amsterdam! Perhaps you need to find another approach? Today we English have the perfect hook to hang this hat on. Yes, here we go, Howard Webb is referring the final!
I’ve often wondered what possesses someone to take up referring. It’s a hard task with seeming very little appreciation. Would you, after a hard week at the office, want to spend your weekend being called a w*nker”, told you are blind or someone clothed in black who is born out of wedlock! Nonetheless, thanks to Howard, the English will be represented today so cue Clive Tyldesley mentioning it and mentioning it and, just for good measure, mentioning it again! However despite what some self regarding people with delusions of grandeur might have you think (yes, I’m still thinking of you Graham Poll), today is not about the “art” of refereeing. It’s about football.
Whatever your bias it has to be a good thing that, for once, two of the best and most attractive footballing sides have reached the 2010 World Cup final. Moreover it can only be good thing that the trophy will be engraved with the name of a new winner
Who do I want to win? I am genuinely torn. With Spain there is the obvious Liverpool connection which, despite the presence of Dirk and Ryan Babel, is much more pronounced than it is with Holland. Their style of football, which is essentially “pass and move”, is something which the Reds have always try to subscribe to albeit having “lapsed” with depressing regularity recently!
Even though they are the European Champions one still can’t help thinking that Spain would a whole lot better if they could combine this with some of the positive, “straight for the jugular” attacking thrust that we saw from the Germans. Unless they win today, they risk being burdened with a familiar mantle. To many they are still the international equivalent of Arsenal, the perennial Anna Kournikova’s of football, very pretty to look at but unlikely to do any real damage when the going gets tough? Surely a win today, meaning they will hold both major international trophies, will knock all that nonsense on the head for good?
Incidentally given the way football behaves at times, we all know it can have a warped. ironic streak, isn’t today’s game just the sort of situation where we will see Torres finally catch fire? This is of course assuming he starts. I reckon he will be on the pitch sometime so surely a bet for “anytime scorer” beckons?
The Dutch are a contradiction. Along with New Zealand (yes, check it out) they are the only undefeated side the tournament. However, unlike the Spanish, their form has been something of a “slow burner”. Nothing wrong with this, no side can be brilliant all the time and anyway it seems that the trick in the World Cup is to be able to play well for four games, ie the knock out stages, and have a bit of luck which is precisely what Italy had in Germany four years ago. This time the Dutch have done enough as and when circumstances require. I thought they’d go out against Brazil, especially after they were unceremoniously thumped in the first half. However they raised their game and, helped by some dodgy keeping and Brazil losing the plot, prevailed. As mentioned before it’s great to see Dirk playing in the game that everyone wants to play in (and it’s also great that he finally said he’s going to be with us next season, time for the others to come off the fence and commit?) Messi gone home, Kaka gone home, Ronaldo gone home, Rooney gone home, but Dirk is still partying, take that so called purists, the so called cream doesn’t always rise to the top and who wants it all the time anyway?
Although it’s difficult to call, I guess Spain are favourites. The pressure is not as great for the Dutch even though they have the weight of history on their shoulders with those two final defeats in the seventies. This brings me to why, if forced a gunpoint to make a decision, I would probably want them to win. I was young enough to remember the 1970 World Cup but only the sporadic highlights that the TV gave or my parents allowed me to watch. In 1974 I was diagnosed with shingles just as the World Cup started and was told to stay off school for a week or so which turned into three weeks as I also caught ‘flu. Result! Uninterrupted World Cup action! I’m not alone but the lasting memory of that tournament was the performances of the Dutch team. The quality of their football in Germany 1974 has been documented elsewhere yet they went and blew the final against the hosts. To a young kid it just wasn’t fair, it wasn’t mean to happen. I was soon to learn that football isn’t always fair.
Later down the years I learnt that the Dutch had some internal problems in 1974 which was to be repeated every so often throughout their participation in major tournaments although in South Africa this appears not to be the case. However, I remember the feeling, the pleasure and enjoyment, despite my shingles, watching that side gave me. Only the Liverpool side of the 1987-88 came close to that! Today we will see a less “sexy”, less dynamic, more pragmatic, more physical but just as successful Dutch side. However, like us, the past is never far away and often dictates. The reputation and image remains and on this groundless basis (yes i admit it) I would like to think that fate and history will smile kindly on the Dutch. It’s been thirty two years since their last final and the monkey should be coaxed off their back. It’s always narked me that they’ve never won the World Cup, it’s one of football obvious wrongs. They deserve to win it for what they‘ve bought to football over the years. Sorry Fernando, sorry Jose, I will be pleased if you win but I’m an old romantic at heart and the Dutch have suffered enough?
Enjoy the game.