WORLD CUP FOOTBALL FINALS: SPAIN ATTAIN – Late justice as Iniesta foils Dutch kickers and cloggers – thanks, in part, to a British Bobby or to the Oracle of Paul Allen the Octopus ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY KEIR RADNEDGE
Justice left it very, very late but finally had the overdue and utterly deserved last word as Spain added the World Cup — remarkably, their first — to the European title.
Not until four minutes from the end of extra time and the fearful threat of a penalty shootout did Andres Iniesta strike down a Dutch team who, with their clumping, kicking and clogging, did not even deserve to be in the 2010 final.
Bert van Marwijk’s team turned football tradition on its head as the inheritors of the tradition of pure, free-flowing total football showed merely envious nastiness.
The Netherlands might claim their strategy was justified since they fashioned the two clearest, easiest chances of normal time in the all-European 2010 showdown.
They could have been painting Johannesburg orange through the night.
Instead, Arjen Robben, to Spain’s relief, was foiled on both occasions deep in the second half by keeper-captain Iker Casillas.
For those stops, Casillas deserves the world game’s thanks for averting a totally wrong-headed outcome from concluding the most controversial staging of the World Cup since Argentina — for totally different reasons — in 1978.
South Africa, supported by Fifa president Sepp Blatter, had campaigned initially to win host rights in 2006 but was outmanoeuvred politically by Germany.
Fifa, at Blatter’s behest, then introduced a system of rotation which designated 2010 for Africa and made it inevitable that South Africa would win at second attempt.
Nelson Mandela, against doctors’ advice, made the journey to Zurich to lay his hands on the World Cup ahead of its journey. He was back, having missed the opening match through family bereavement, to greet the Soccer City crowd during the closing ceremonials before kick-off.
The ceremony also featured Shakira projecting the official song which had thumped around South Africa for a month.
It will take far, far longer before any conclusion can safely be reached about the cultural, political and social benefits of this experience.
At least the spectre of negativity proclaimed abroad about South Africa’s hosting capacity has been exorcised and the 3-million-plus ticket sales have topped that in Germany in 2006 despite a slow initial local take-up.
Just a pity the two teams in the final could not rise to the challenge in similar fashion.
The early exits of France, Italy and England had prompted premature obituaries for European football.
Instead, the twists and turns of fate turned up not only the eighth all-European final but the certainty of a new (European) name on the World Cup itself.
But Spain made desperately hard work of it.
Dutch football, through its coaches and players — Johan Cruyff most notably, in both roles — had played a singular role in the evolution of the Spanish game.
Indeed, in a role reversal, Dutch coach Van Marwijk had long proclaimed an admiration for Barcelona and a wish that his team could mimic them.
This was his — and their — moment of truth and they betrayed their own heritage.
Spain played all of the football that there was and exerted much of the pressure. But they had only two clear chances in normal time, both through attacking fullback Sergio Ramos.
Early in the first half, he was denied by a fine save from Maarten Stekelenburg; midway through the second, he misdirected a “free” header horribly high over the bar.
The Netherlands, battling aggressively to break up Spain’s rhythm, had a sequential stream of players booked by English referee Howard Webb.
In the Premier League, he would have produced a red card before the 90 minutes were up.
If he had done so — particularly to Mark van Bommel for one awful tackle from behind — he might have done Spain, himself, the World Cup Final and football in general a favour.
Finally, as justice would have it again, it was the policeman’s unarguable expulsion of John Heitinga that came just in time to thin out the Dutch defence and save us all from shootout hell.
Thus justice was done — thanks, in part, to a British Bobby.
Nelson Mandela gives World Cup a dream finale with a wave and a smile – the man with the vision who made it all possible ?!!
From The Guardian
Former president caps nation-building tournament spirit with appearance at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium
Wrapped against the winter cold, Mandela beamed and waved with some assistance from his wife, Graca Machel, to nearly 100,000 spectators before the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain in Johannesburg. Fans at Soccer City stadium rose to their feet to give him a thunderous welcome with roars, applause and vuvuzela blasts.
It was the dream finale for the biggest sporting event Africa has ever seen, a momentous chapter in the history of country and continent.
Mandela, who turns 92 next week, had pulled out of the opening ceremony after the death of his great-granddaughter in a car accident hours before. There had also been uncertainty about his appearance, with his grandson accusing Fifa of putting “extreme pressure” on the anti-apartheid hero.
But the recriminations melted away at first glimpse of the man who has become a secular saint to millions. Mandela, in black coat and fur hat, made stately progress in a golf cart across a white carpet laid down on the pitch for the tournament’s closing ceremony. He grinned from ear to ear and waved his gloved hands, though his arms needed support from Machel, who also smiled enthusiastically.
Mandela had passed a late fitness test to make the final, said one joker on Twitter. Another said: “OMG #Madiba makes an appearance! Stadium is stunned and the tears flow. WOW that was so special!” One tweeter posted simply: “God bless Madiba!”
He was the undoubted star of a vibrant show that had also seen Colombian singer Shakira deliver her World Cup anthem, Waka Waka, after hundreds of performers formed a human vuvuzela.
Dancers wearing the colours of the 32 competing countries performed before a backdrop of pictures of stars and fans beamed on to the pitch. Fans were also treated to a light show and fireworks. The words, For Africa and, in multiple languages, Thank you were projected on to the pitch.
Guests at Soccer City included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Naomi Campbell, South African-born actor Charlize Theron and Morgan Freeman, who played Mandela in the film Invictus. Sixteen heads of state were reportedly present, including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
From Cape Town to Soweto, fans gathered in fan parks and city squares, in bars and shebeens, wearing a mix of Dutch orange, Spanish red and South African yellow. They had come to bid farewell to a World Cup which, a few hiccups apart, was a success that surpassed not only the expectations of the “Afro-pessimists”.
More than 3 million people had filled world-class stadiums with a rare generosity of spirit and joie de vivre. Crime was low, with just 111 convictions in special World Cup courts. Perceptions and prejudices about Africa were upended around the world.
Jacob Zuma, the South African president, said: “This has been a truly inspiring, moving and uplifting month. Well done South Africa.” A less predictable advocate was Henry Kissinger: “It has been the most exciting World Cup and I have never seen one better organised and with greater hospitality.”
Machel, promoting the 1Goal education for all campaign, captured the mood of many: “Well done South Africa. Did you realise how enthusiastic we can be? Did you realise how our security and safety improved this month? … We can make it. Yes, we can.”
The World Cup was six years in planning and came to define the national agenda, shaping budget priorities, infrastructure development and daily conversations from townships to vineyards. Over the past month it has put South Africa at the centre of global attention.
“I think there will be huge post-World Cup blues on Monday,” said Danny Jordaan, the tournament’s chief organiser, reaching the end of a personal odyssey that lasted 16 years. “I hope South Africans go to work, because there will be a great sense of loss. It’s like you’ve had a huge party and then there’s the morning after.”
The country faces a bill of about 38bn rand (£3.3bn), according to official figures. As it happens the economic payoff is also estimated at 38bn rand. But the government said it is not a zero-sum game, pointing to infrastructure and transport links that will benefit generations.
“Just 20 years ago we were a society that was entrenched on a racial basis by law,” Jordaan said. “Black and white could never sit together in stadiums, go to the same school, go to the same beach, go and sit in the same restaurant, play in the same football team. They could not share a cup of tea or walk in the same street.
Within 20 years we reached this position as if these people belonged together naturally. We saw white supporters having their faces painted in the Ghana colours supporting young Africans. That is something this World Cup has brought: nation building and social cohesion.”
But not everyone shared in the honeymoon. Some missed the games because they had neither TVs nor electricity. People still died from Aids, or in poverty, or at the hands of criminals. The voices of dissent, marginalised during the month-long jamboree, are returning to the fore: if we can spend billions on football grounds, why can we not build houses for the homeless or hospitals for the sick?
Dennis Davis, a leading judge, said: “I think it would be insane for South Africans not to feel proud, particularly because of so much Afro-pessimism and so much negativity, that we’ve been able to pull this off in extraordinary way. It has been an unbelievable month.
For me, what comes out of this, is how do we – without an event – capture the joy and spirit and community? How do we actually translate that into something beyond a month? Why should it not be possible to do it on a more permanent basis?”
Final In Pictures: How Spain Defeated The Netherlands To Conquer The World
Spain have been the perennial underachievers in world football but on Sunday night la Furia Roja eventually woke up. Okay, they had woken up two years back when they walked their way to the European Championships triumph in Austria and Switzerland, but winning the World Cup is the eventual peak of football.
On Sunday night at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, Vicente Del Bosque’s side conquered the world by defeating the Netherlands 1-0 in the final. It was the first time in their history that Spain were featuring in a World Cup final but they had Andres Iniesta to thank for as he scored a late extra-time goal to settle the affair.
Now, let’s look back at the 120 minutes of minutes that Netherlands and Spain played out not in words but in pictures.
(All Photos by Goal.coms Subhankar Mondal – looking back at Sunday’s Final for the next 4 years ?!!)