Synyster Graves

Vuvuzelas Out, Sniper Rifles In

by on Jul.13, 2010, under International Football

I would just like to provide an unbiased series of remarks about the World Cup final which took place last night. Spain defeated a plucky Dutch team 1-0 and while every man and his dog seem to audibly proclaim that the best team won, I’m slightly inclined to disagree. Why you say? Because I hate diving…with a passion. I’m sorry, did somebody replace all the vuvuzelas with sniper rifles?

It’s playacting, it’s pathetic and ultimately, it’s cheating. I do concur that Holland’s vicious attempts to disrupt the game weren’t exactly what I describe as “attractive” football but nevertheless it was tangible game plan which kinda was executed rather over-zealously. I do not condone Nigel de Jong’s tackle flying kick on Xabi Alonso because that’s just sheer violence in the HD slow replays. Seriously that’s not on.

In real time speed however it happened so fast that if it was as intentional that everyone makes out, he’d have to have had some kind of Max Payne style bullet time in place to accurately take him out. So yes it was vicious, but I debate the intent slightly. No one has that speed of reaction, except maybe Bruce Lee when he was alive. As a Liverpool fan, I really do feel for Xabi Alonso and I’m very impressed at how quickly he got up after an assault like that. Kinda what you’d expect from a Manchester City player!

Van Bommel was also lucky not to be sent off as he slid in from behind and took the man out en route to getting the ball. Going in at half time Holland had about five men on yellow cards Spain’s game plan had changed from the passing game they usually played (which was stifled by the hard tackling) to attempt to get Holland players sent off.

This was blatantly obvious as in the second half as the world class pairing of Xavi and Iniesta had gone from the cool midfielders on the ball, to a pair of playacting divers all over the pitch. Completely unmentioned by every single pundit I saw on television, Spain gave as good as they got. Iniesta was falling over as soon as anyone got within 3 feet of him and writing about as if he was shot by a PSG-1 in the top stand. Xavi was just as bad, especially one chance where he kicked the dutch player’s leg in the box and went down arms outstretched like Chris Benoit diving headbutt.

It was clear that by the second half Howard Webb had completely lost control of the match and all these pundits saying how well he did is merely defending him for being an English referee. He was inconsistent all night and while I do feel he exercised a bit of clemency by not sending off de Jong, he completely failed to spot blantant fouls coming from the Spanish. Arjen Robben having missed an earlier chance when through on goal found himself breaking through again only for Carles Puyol to pretty much rugby tackle him when through on goal. Surely that’s a red card offence? Granted it’s not as bad as Nigel de Jong’s Liu Kang impression but according to the rules of the game that’s a professional foul? Yet when the red card did come out, it was for Johnny Heitinga for putting a hand on Iniesta’s back when he was through on goal. If we watch the replays you see that Iniesta was already going down before Heitinga “fouled” him which would imply that he was diving. And yes it was a huge dive. But no Heitinga was sent off and to be honest, I thought it was total bullshit and it impacted on the rest of the game. Puyol was just as dirty as every other dutch player but again, not a single pundit cared to mention it.

With all the aspersions being cast on Mark van Bommel, Iniesta actually struck out at him off the ball because van Bommel rather forcibly took possession off him. Again surely hitting out or taking justice into your own hands is a red card offence, OK it wasn’t too vicious but surely a yellow card?

Every single pundit debating the final has condemned Holland for being dirty when from my perspective Spain certainly gave as good as they got. Don’t get me wrong on the balance of play after the red card, Spain peppered the dutch goal and got the winner from a very undeserving man of the match in Andres Iniesta. I can’t see how you can award a MOM to someone who dived to get someone sent off, lashed out at another player and spent half the time making card gestures to a weak referee. Not a single pundit or replay has shown the foul that took place right before Spain scored as Eljero Elia was shut off by Fabregas and Ramos like the foam towers in fun house, and neither took the ball. Considering that moments before a Sneijder free kick had hit the wall and Casillas tipped it out only for Webb to award a goal kick. At this point, I knew that Webb wanted Spain to win.

While Alan Hansen was speaking completely out of his arse and was generally very biased in his opinion even before the match, I can’t seriously consider any of his post match comments to contain any merit. Everyone keeps going on about how well Spain passed it about, but that was in all the other games leading up to the final, because the same Spain were not in the final compared to the team of the 2008 Euros. Howard Webb had stitched Spain up in their first game of the tournament against Switzerland and clearly felt guilty as he perpetually allowed Spain to feign injury (except Torres, he really was injured), get in sly trips and constantly gesture to book the other team. Clearly my definition of dissent is different from the real one as the dutch players shouting at the ref is different from the Spanish players telling Howard Webb how to do his job. Because both offences are bookable.

I do like Spain as a footballing team but only labelling the dutch as dirty or cheats is unfair when in truth the entire final was a WWE match from both sides. It’s just a shame that every single sports journalist is far too cowardly to admit it. Spain were worthy winners as throughout the tournament they played the best football, with fluidity and flair, just not in the final, not that morons like Alan Hansen will ever admit. I personally love to watch good football and in all honesty I have really lost a lot of respect for Iniesta and Xavi despite me loving to watch Barcelona. The major crux of my argument is that everyone has forgotten that football is in fact a contact sport. If you don’t want to watch contact, fuck off and watch netball. I played football with a bit of aggression since I was a child, otherwise the entire tournament is an expensive celebration of dodgeball. One massive plus point for Spain though, they did beat the Germans!! Congratulations to Spain and congratulations to South Africa for hosting a world cup.

And finally congratulations to Andres Iniesta who joins the list of Dario Silva, Jurgen Klinsmann, Francis Jeffers and Florent Malouda as some of my all time divers.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Bear

    Ultimately, both Spain and Holland deserved censure for the way they played but there is a crucial difference:

    Holland tried to do to Spain what teams like Bolton used to do to Arsenal: Play an aggressive, physical and unsettlign game. Never allowing their opponents time on the ball and trying to make them make mistakes. Of course, in Van Bommel’s case he was too enthusiastic in the tackle (dirty) and in De Jong’s case he looked like he’s auditioning for the Part of M Bison in a new Street Fighter movie with his psycho crusher challenge on Xabi Alonso.

    So, for Holland, they played to their strengths, tried to stop Spain playing to their strengths but got it wrong.

    Spain: When plan A (pass the ball around until the Dutch get dizzy) failed their resorted to cheating. Because that’s all diving is. It’s no better than pumping yourself full of steroids. You are pretending to have been fouled, end of story. Don’t get me wrong, there is a difference between ‘looking for the foul’ and ‘making one up when there isn’t one’. Using your acceleration to sucker a defender into fouling you in a good area or when he is already on a yellow is smart gamesmanship. Going down like you have been stabbed with a knife dipped in swine flu when you’ve scarcely been touched is cheating.

    So in summing up, Spain cheated.

    Please do not mistake me for some bitter Dutchman. I went into the final quite neutral, as both players had Liverpool players in the squad, neither had one a World Cup before, both played good football and one had twice denied the Germans in recent years whilst the other are just hated by the Germans in general.

    I admit that with a gun to my head, I would have prefered Holland simply because they haven’t won anything for 22 years (despite deserving it on a couple of occasions) and being the first team to lose three finals without winning even one would be horrible. However, I said that I would be delighted with a victory for either side.

    However, as the match wore on, I became more and more pro-Holland. Watching Spain demolish top opponents in Euro 2008 was a pleasure. Watching them dive their way to glory was not. What makes it more infuriating was that they didn’t need to dive. They are a better team than Hollland (let’s face it, they’re the best team in the World). Eventually, Holland’s high energy game and tough tackling would have left them exhuasted (except for Dirk ‘Duracell Bunny’ Kuyt) and all on yellow cards with a danger of being sent off.

    Still, the best team in the World and now World Champions, unlike four years ago when a mediocre Italian side fluked their way to victory. Congratulations Spain, and thanks for knocking out the overrated, spawny, undeserving, loud-mouthed Germans.

    Tough luck Holland and remember: You did better than Germany!

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