And, In the End . . .

The World Cup final (and the Dutch) are both taking well-deserved beatings in the blogosphere – it was not a very beautiful game to watch, thanks largely to the unrelentingly nasty play of the Dutch. Jonathan Wilson over on SI.com summarized it nicely:

At least after an ugly, unpleasant game, the World Cup had the right winner, the only side in the tournament that was consistently proactive in its play.

A fourth 1-0 win in a row doesn’t tell the full story; Spain had none of the control it had possessed in the previous three rounds, as the Netherlands effectively kicked it out of its rhythm. An open extra time gave the game some credit, but this was a match ruined by Dutch brutality. Referee Howard Webb was booed by the crowd and will no doubt be harangued by pundits, but the greatest share of the blame belongs to the Netherlands and its negativity. The goodwill built up by years of attractive football was severely depleted by 120 sorry minutes. A more defensive approach is one thing; borderline anti-football is something else.

[Other interesting comments in a similar vein over on Slate and Sam’s Posts]

Like a lot of US soccer fans, I watch “big games” like this with a dual perspective: just to watch the game, of course, but also to see if this one will be the one that will grab even those who are unenthusiastic and give them at least a glimpse of why this is the greatest sport on earth. Alas, that didn’t happen — there were a number of such games during this World Cup (USA-Algeria, Spain-Germany, Argentina-Korea), but the final definitely was not among them. [And it did illustrate, though not happily, Post’s Fourth (or is it Fifth) Law of Soccer: The referee is a participant in the game. Howard Webb, the English ref, had a bad game – too many whistles interrupting play when he could have just played the advantage and let play go on, too many missed red card fouls, and way, way too many pauses to lecture the players about their nasty tackling . . . He didn’t cause it to be a lousy game, but he sure didn’t help]. But I certainly agree with what most people are saying: the right team won. The Spanish certainly deserved the crown, and perhaps gave a boost to the more positive and beautiful aspects of the game.