I quite enjoyed today’s match between Germany and Uruguay. It was entertaining and exciting enough to be a pretty good final, and had all the ingredients—flashy play, lots of goals, persistent and dogged offense, defense that is best characterized as “relaxed,” a bare minimum of unnecessary fouls, and, natch, an unnecessary free kick as time expired. Of course, if Diego Forlan had made the shot (it bounced off the crossbar), we would have had another 30 minutes of entertaining football, so I have a teeny bit of ambivalence about it. But Germany deserved to win, even if only for third place. And Uruguay showed they could play football too—a far cry from that embarrassing opener with France. Not at all bad for a country of 3.5 million people, who were the most fouled against of the tournament, and who had a number of key players sitting out today (and Forlan played injured). And Uruguay is now ranked as a better football team than Brazil or Argentina, which will undoubtedly make the rest of the continent feel better.
Just as an aside on the German team, it’s great to see a team from Germany with players named Ozil, Cacau, Khedeira, Podolski, Boateng and Aogo. In fact, 11 of the 23 team members have migrant backgrounds. Not everyone is happy with this, as it turns out. No one could have possibly predicted etc. All the more reason for the rest of us, especially those of us of German descent, to feel pretty good about it.
But, of course, I called Germany for the final, didn’t I? What happened? Well, all I can say is that the real Spain team finally showed up, as opposed to that other team that lost to Switzerland, was pretty sloppy against Honduras, and looked not all that sharp against either Portugal or Paraguay. They clearly took it up a notch against Germany, which I said they needed to do, and I was right about that, mainly through the sort of patient ball control that was not evident in earlier matches. But I didn’t really expect them to do it. If they play that well again tomorrow, which seems to be the consensus view, the Dutch will have some difficulties. But why is it the consensus view that Spain will be able to play as well against Netherlands as they did against Germany? They weren’t able to against a whole raft of lesser teams.
And the Dutch may have some views about that. Both teams are disciples of the footlball approach of the legendary Dutch footballer Johann Cruyff, who led the Dutch team in their 1970s heyday (but who fell to Germany and Argentina in the 1974 and 1978 finals), respectively, and who later coached Barcelona, which maintains a number of Cruyff traditions (and has five or six starters on the Spanish team). For one thing, the Dutch expect to attack more—if Germany failed against Spain, it was in part from their lack of any attacking, which they had been so proficient at earlier matches. This is a Dutch team that has won ten straight World Cup matches (including qualifiers), and has not lost in its last 25 international matches. Still, Cruyff, who lives in Barcelona these days, seems to want Spain to win. As do a lot of other people.
I’m ambivalent. I was very happy when Spain won the European championship in 2008—they played brilliantly, and deserved it. That Spanish team that played Honduras, on the other hand, was close to a bunch of thugs—it’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many cheap shots in one game. So it depends on which team shows up. Sort of the same with the Netherlands. They can play beautifully at times, and other times look like a bunch of pikers taking dives. So here it depends on which one shows up as well. Neither of these countries has ever won the World Cup, so history will be made, one way or another. I just want a game of the same quality that German and Uruguay gave us today. Netherland 3-2. There, I said it. Go Orange!
The above stamp is another from the series issued by South Africa earlier this year in honor of hosting the World Cup. As far as I can tell, they did a pretty good job on both the stamps and the hosting. This is one cool stamp