Sunday, September 26, 2010

Finally, a pre-tournament favorite wins World Cup...

Generally, at the pre tournament media-writings, lot of predictions go in, and lot of people play a safe-bet by chosing a pre-tournament favorite. Most of the times, money go wasting. As hardly a pre-tournament favorites win a world cup. Football pundits say, Brazil is always favorite at world cup soccer. I choose to differ with that statement. NOT ALWAYS. The tournaments that I remember, in 1986, there was no clear cut favorite, brazil had and advantage. In 1990, Italy was favorite to win the cup at home-soil. In 1994, Germany was favorite to retain the cup. In 1998, again Brazil was favorite, with powerhouse attacking options. 2002, Argentina was over-whelming favorite to win the cup. In 2006, no clear favorites again, though Brazil and Argentina had pre-tournament backing of pundits. If you remember, in none of the above-mentioned years, the nations that I have mentioned , won the cup. This time around, in 2010, everyone was behind Spain. They won the euro 2008, they were ranked 1 by Fifa going into the world cup..They had won 48 of 53 matches going into the world cup. No one was in any doubt about who the pre-tournament favorite was.

But spanish players gave every bookie a scare when they lost 0-1 to swiss in opening match. Everybody thought, here we go again..!! Spain already have the "choker" tag at world cup, as numerous times previously they came to the biggest stage of world football with a promise to steal the show, and they failed wel short of target most of the times.

Not this time around though. Spain scored only 8 goals in the world cup, conceeded 2. Lowest scoring team to win a world cup. From round of 16 onwards to final, they have won all the matches 1-0. Villa scored against Portugal and paraguay, Puyol against Germany, and Iniesta in the final against Holland. Though they lacked the final punch, they were composed in the back, and sublime midfield consisting busquets-lonso-xavi-iniesta operated like a well oiled machine. Barcelona model of short passing and quick place exchange was adopted nicely. Villa did not have much support upfront, as Torres was totally off-color in the tournament. This may be the reason of Spain not getting enough goals. But they got goals that matered.

Germany progressed strongly till they met spain. They swept aside England 4-1 and Argentina 4-0. Germany played lot of passes in the midfield, and used the flank well with Oezil and Schwainsteiger changing places. Schwainsteiger shredded the argentinian defence apart with holding the ball, and pacy runs. Muller was at his best in these two matches, he came from just behind the striker position, and attacked the goal. He scored 3 goals in these two matches, and his absence in the semifinal due to card problem, cost germany dearly. Still Germany managed to win 3rd position by defeating Uruguay in an entertaining match, and left the world cup with lots of admirer.

Uruguay has been the surprise package of the world cup. No one gave them that much chance, not ahead of their illustrious latin american opponents. They got past south korea 2-1, was lucky to get past ghana, as suarez blatantly handled the ball in goal line at last minute of extra time, and Asamoah Gyan of Ghana, blasted the penalty in the post and missed the chance to take Ghana to semifinal. It would have been fitting incidence of Ghana qualifying to the semis of world cup as 1st ever african nation, on home-continent soil, where the world cup is taking place for first time. It did not happen, Uruguay won in penalties. In semis, they played an entertaining match with Holland. Holland previously defeated Brazil in one of the great display of coming -back- from -behind.

Brazil was up by 1-0 within 10 minutes, and Kaka and Robinho was runing riots in dutch defense. Stekelenburg produced few good saves to keep it 1-0 at halftime. But after half time, brazil changed tactics and started playing a more physical game, and due to that, they lost their rhythm. Holland grabbed the opportunity, sneijder was controlling the midfield, Robben was running fast down the flanks, van bommel was giving brazillians pieces of his mind. Melo scored an own goal b deflecting a Sneijder free kick to make it 1-1, and then he stamped on robben to recieve marching orders. Sneijder scored again from a corner, and Holland managed to hold on brazillian onslaught for last few minutes to win it 2-1. They beat Uruguay 3-2 in the semis, but in the final, they were totally off color. Though robben missed a easy 1-on-1 against Casillas, otherwise dutch were playing too physical game. They had 9 players booked, and one player sent off. They knew they could not match spain's ball possession and short passing game, so they employed kick-the-guy-instead-of the ball attitude. It almost worked, until Iniesta controlled a fabregas pass in the right side of the box and scored the only goal of the match in 116th minute.

Portugal was a drab affair. To see the picture, portugal scored 7 goals against south korea, and that is the only match they scored any goal. They failed to score any goals in rest of the matches. Their defence was tough though, as they conceeded only Villa's goal against spain that took them out of the cup.

All in all, this was a nice world cup, without loads of upsets, but some good entertaining football. Forlan deservedly won the golden ball, as he was clearly the best player. His runs, passes, shots, five goals, was really something that wud have inspired other 30+ forwards. Thomas Mueller won the golden boot, as he shared the 5 goals with sneijder, villa and forlan, but scored the goals with fewest shot on target among the other top scorers. South Afria was a great host, great hospitality, though the vuvuzela created some chaos. Iker casillas deservedly lifted the cup , finaly jogo bonito remains the winner at world cup, after euro 2008. It seems, justice is done sometimes after all.


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