Just a bit of housekeeping to kick things off. As the World Cup has now drawn to a close, this will be my last article until the new Arsenal season begins. Andy will take up the reigns again shortly, probably once he’s recovered from all his travels and so forth. I’d like to thank Andy for the opportunity to write for AFCB during the World Cup, and especially thank the readers. It’s been a real blast not only watching all the football, but keeping connected to the larger Arsenal family over the last month. You guys have been great. 🙂
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The pomp. The Ceremony. The vuvuzelas. The hot Dutch babes in orange getting arrested. The uber-sanctimonious celebrities lecturing us all about our carbon footprints, yet chartering so man private jets for the Spain v Germany semifinal that all other flights were delayed into the airport. And lets not forget all of Andy’s splendid updates over on Football Nomad! Yep. The World Cup has had quite a run. Oh…there was also some football played as well.
Spain did it. By Paul the Octopus’ Lucky Tentacles, Spain pulled it off. And in keeping with the tradition of the previous 29 days of matches, the Final didn’t start seeing some action until the whistle blew on regulation time. Indeed, the first 90 was rather unremarkable. I can understand that nerves are a part of the early going as no one wants to make the opening mistake. But with Spain and the Netherlands, one would expect the match to open up a least a bit as things went on. It wasn’t to be, I’m afraid, as we were subjected to 90 full minutes of lackluster attack and few moments of creativity. I’ve touched on the refereeing situation during the World Cup several times over this last month, but I’d like to point out a stat from yesterday’s match: Of the 53 total yellow cards handed out during the 2010 World Cup, 14 of them (roughly 25%) were handed out during the Finals. It beggars belief.
Anyway, onto the match itself. As I mentioned above, it was not the greatest display of football I’ve ever seen with the Netherlands going all Blackburn-y and Spain content just to hold possession and make the odd break. While I hate to applaud any dirty football, I did get a kick (pun intended) of out Nigel de Jong’s boot to Xavi Alonso’s chest. I hate to admit it (but if you can’t admit things like this to your friends, who can you admit them to?) but it made me giggle just a bit. de Jong was worthy of dismissal though. He wasn’t anywhere near the ball and his foot was at chest level. How that isn’t a red card is beyond me. Spain got an after-the-play free kick and did absolutely FA with it, which pretty much sums up the entire first 90 minutes of the match: Netherlands committed some fouls & Spain ran around with the ball at their feet but did nothing with the possession. It wasn’t until the introduction of Captain Fabtastic on 87 minutes that things finally started perking up.
The start of added extra time went positively for Spain. There seemed to be more spark and fresher legs from the Iberian side and the Dutch seemed to be running out of gas. It’s immensely hard work to play against a side that keeps as much of the ball as Spain do, and the Dutch had about run their course. Spain’s first real chance in extra time came when Iniesta hit Fabregas for a break into the Dutch box, but net minder Maarten Stekelenburg came out of his area to shut the door on Fab’s effort. The end for the Oranje came earlier than the World Cup winning goal. On 109 minutes John Heitinga was sent off for the Dutch, and down a man against Spain after 109+ minutes is just too big a mountain to climb for any team. The final blow came from a rather nothing run of play. Cesc assisted in cleaning up on defense, Spain took possession and worked the ball forward with Cesc trailing along behind. The ball was worked wide left, then centrally where it caromed off a Dutch player right to Cesc. Man on the spot, he. Quick one touch pass into the right side of the box to Iniesta for the 2010 World Cup winning goal. Simples. I have to say, originally it did appear that Iniesta was off side and I was begging that the Final would not be decided on a questionable play (after so many in this tournament). But replay clearly shows Iniesta onside when the pass was made from Cesc, and the goal was cleanly taken. Hearts ripped out, the mighty Dutch were unable to notch a tying goal and went down fairly tamely in the last minutes.
Congratulations to Spain, and to Arsenal Captain Cesc Fabregas on winning the 2010 World Cup!
van Persie Quality Man Among Dutch Negatives
Quality. Yup, Robin van Persie has it in spades. Among the Dutch rough boys, or Negatives (their new nick name), in yesterday’s Final, Robin van Persie showed quality. Of course, he didn’t have too many opportunities to show it, mind, but it was there anyway. And that’s been the rub this entire tournament, hasn’t it? Yes, I’ve gone on and on (and on…) about the lack of opportunities. So much so that many of you might think I’ve missed his quality. But I haven’t. It’s been there match after match. The passing, the link up or holding play to allow other attackers to play off him, the vision on the pitch. It’s all been there and it’s a good sign for The Arsenal that RVP seems back to hist best (we know the goals will come as well). We all know that the Arsenal attack is designed with him central to mind, and the play will definitely be running at or through him this coming season. It’s a heartbreaking loss for the Netherlands and van Persie, but I’ve a feeling Robin’s man enough to put this under his belt and use it for motivation upon his return to the N5. Despite the loss, there’s valuable experience gained just getting to the World Cup Finals, and Robin will definitely be sharing that with his Arsenal teammates.
Fabregas Passes Spain To World Cup
It had to go this way, didn’t it? Barely used, just 93 total minutes going into yesterday’s Final, and gathering way too many splinters riding the bench. Cesc Fabregas publicly asked to be played, just for the chance to have an impact, for the opportunity to let his skill come to the fore in support of the Spanish squad. On 87 minutes his wish was granted as the match stood drawn at 0-0. The impact was immediate. The passing was suddenly more crisp. Spain’s attack, all too frequently one-off prior to the Arsenal Captain’s arrival, invigorated and sustained. Spain looked a little bit more like…well…like Spain again.
On 95 minutes Cesc broke cleanly behind a weary-legged Dutch defense, collecting a beautiful pass from Andres Iniesta. The Arsenal man was clear into the box for a 1 v 1 with Maarten Stekenlenburg, but the Dutch keeper was up to the task and blocked the shot well. Cesc again took things into his own hands just before the end of the first extra period. He took possession on the Dutch side of the midfield circle, made what can only be described as an Eboue-esque slashing run through the Dutch defense, finally getting off a shot from just inside the box. The shot went wide, but still an excellent possession and threat from Fabregas. There was little doubt on the quality Cesc brought to the match when, on 116 minutes, he calmly collected a rebounding ball at the top of the Dutch box, settled it and one touched it over to Iniesta who put home the winning goal. It was pure Cesc…calmness on the ball, vision to see the open man and skill to make the right pass. Well done, son. Take a bow.
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