Beautiful losers – ugly winners?
Beautiful losers – ugly winners?
So, with a sense of relief that our patriotic suffering faded faster than an England flag bleaching in the sun, its time to pack up our troubles in the old Villa shoe-bag (£5 from Villa Direct) and accept that the World Cup party is over, and we just have to slow-dance our way through the final moments, see the cake being cut, and leave the hosts to clean up the mess and pick up the tab.
But don’t worry – FIFA stands to make £2.3 billion from South Africa’s investment.
We have all enjoyed our history and geography lessons, and we got the message – South Africa is still a country of empty hands, full hearts and vast inequality – who might find salvation through football. And we can all look forward to a time when England are hosts again and some foreigners can send a bus on tour, to highlight the poverty and inequality of dear old broken Blighty. Fair’s fair.
Despite England being totally diabolical it has been a fairly decent tournament, even if no super-star emerged to be crowned king of the competition. This possibly stands as proof that the game is becoming more democratic in the way it hands out the rewards and punishments. David Villa, Forlan, the German Muller, all might
stake a claim but no colossus, like Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, or Zidane has bestrode the competition, this time round.
The minnows are just too well organised these days, to allow some putative world star the freedom of the park to produce a solo exhibition at their expense.
But as ever the World Cup quickly spoils the fans for the more prosaic qualities of domestic football. Once you have seen a ball knocked forty yards and instantly killed with an effortless deft movement of a boot, a dozen times, its impossible not to take it for granted. The less than perfect touch of the Premiership, will take some getting used to, after four weeks of watching thoroughbreds tame the ball, put it on a lead and take it for a walk. Messi al a mode.
The Germans were brilliant while avoiding being totally annoying by winning the thing, and the young Popeye Özil provided some of the most memorable moments of the competition; not least of which was the perfect cross for Germany’s fourth against Argentina. By Jove, it was nearly as good as James Milner’s fine cross, which made the difference between shame and total disgrace for the England boys. Jimmy saved the nation with that.
But gladly Germany didn’t quite have enough to beat the Spanish, and their discipline and tactics proved flawed when faced with a late run into the box by the salmon-like Puyol, which has left us old-fashioned English jingoists, no one to hate in the final.
Even if there seems rather a large dose of irony in Holland and Spain making the final, there is always a lot to be said for having a brand new name on the cup and the satisfaction of knowing England have not fallen even further behind the big-hitters, in the, number of stars on the left tit, department.
Instead of having to contemplate the idea of some of the multiple-winners having to extend their shirts to accommodate those extra stars, like some Ruritanian general and his medals, we add another member to the exclusive club of one-star holders (France and England) and feel less like a country stuck in the World Cup remedial class on our own, with a new boy who’s only just started at the school of World Cup misery.
The irony of course, is that despite Holland having stored up a massive amount of public sympathy, from their decades of football purity, when they didn’t win it, they now arrive in the final looking as ruthless and cynical as any team which ever carved their name on the trophy, and it seems that if you want to win like the Germans, you really have to play like the Germans (England players – please note).
From the very start of the tournament, Holland have demonstrated the knack of winning and a willingness to be niggling and brutal in achieving it, while being blessed with a series of referees, who have facilitated their game-plan.
So I find myself cheering a bunch of players, who if they were wearing any other shirt, I would probably boo – but I certainly recognise a winning mentality, when I see one.
The ironic thing about Spain reaching the final is that, although they have all the wondrous passing skills, any dream team should have, they actually don’t look as good as the team which won Euro 2008. They don’t look quite as secure at the back as when Marcos Senna was protecting the back-four and Torres looks so off-colour, he could easily be a Villa target.
They certainly can play though, even if they don’t create the number of chances, which all fantasy teams are supposed to. They did prove one thing however – that if you make the Germans chase the ball for an hour on a warm and humid night, and deprive Özil and Schweinsteiger of the space to play, Germany don’t stick four past you. Which was educational at least.
Even so, Germany came pretty close and possibly would have won a penalty if Özil hadn’t already picked up cards for simulation. They certainly missed the injured Muller. Germany were also not prepared to kick their way to the final, unlike the cynics of Holland.
The lesson for watching England analysts, is that their team might find it impossible to play like the Spanish but they certainly could play like the Germans and the Germans came pretty close.
So while Germany were beautiful losers, and Spain were beautiful winners – we must now wait until Sunday, to see if beauty or ugliness prevails.
Many will be hoping that beauty prevails but it very rarely does.
Meanwhile, just up the road from the Dog & Doublet pub, in the luxurious environs of the Villa training ground, Martin O’Neill’s squad have been rounded up and put through their pre-season paces.
By the look of the pictures, its mostly taking place indoors as O’Neill’s assesses his phalanx of warriors for the new seasons, and the players face the rigour of the shuttle-run and the dread of the scales and the fat-callipers, after their summer hols. Gladly, Villa’s man of steel and rock, Stiliyan Petrov still retains his six-pack – others may not have been so disciplined. Certainly not me.
Obviously, the fans would prefer to see them sweating up some sadistic hill, like in the Ron Saunders days, when summer indulgence was sweated out, until the boys puked. Sports science probably has all kinds of objections to Saunders’ sadism these days, but certainly in those days, Ron’s teams always started the season well, while the other clubs played catch-up.
But fear not, the fans have been in training too and having taken a look at something like 500 players over the last month, they have plenty of names on their little list of transfer targets. So while the media are trying to beguile us with tantalising tales of last year’s candidates, and in some cases, the last decade’s, the fans will be talking earnestly of Honda, Forlan, and Özil, with perhaps a few Africans and Koreans thrown into the mix, for good measure.
Oh yes, we’re back.
Keep the faith!