I missed the first 15 minutes of yesterday's World Cup final because it was inordinately difficult to find a tv showing the game at BWI airport. There are tvs all over the place, but they're all locked into playing a pre-recorded loop of CNN programs, without even a news ticker that could give score updates. I did eventually find a spot at the bar in a Mexican restaurant, and managed to watch the middle portion of the game. I missed the last 15 minutes of regular time and all over the extra time because I was on a plane back to Albany.
I was planning to write up a recap of what I did see, but I see that Brian Phillips at Slate did it for me:
While Spain's 1-0 win over the Netherlands capped a tournament that was frequently marvelous, the immiseratingly dull final could only have been pleasing to Sepp Blatter, FIFA's twinkle-eyed president, who grinned along from the sidelines with visions of TV shares dancing in his head. Like Super Bowls, World Cup finals seldom make great games, but this one transcended mere nongreatness. It was a kind of perfect storm of undesirable match traits--a lurching, diving example of the elements that can conspire to make a soccer game boring.
His description matches my impression while watching pretty much exactly: there was a lot of pushing and grabbing, much of it un-called, but what was called was generally a yellow card. After a while, the Spanish in particular started flopping extravagantly, figuring that if they could get the referee to call anything at all, he was eventually going to send off a Dutch player, and open things up for them. It was ugly and frustrating to watch.
The tournament as a whole ended up with (if I've counted correctly) 16 ties and 145 goals, making Tom Spencer the winner of the Uncertain Principles World Cup Contest. Congratulations, Tom, and the rest of you, come back in four years to try again.
The irony is that Netherlands would have won if Robben had taken a twisting dive in the box rather than fight through a blatant hold by the Spanish defense. He played it straight, and they lost.
The worst thing about the officiating was that the referee started out by not calling things that were not fouls, but didn't realize he needed to card one of the Spanish players for repeatedly complaining about those good calls. Instead, he became inconsistent and, IMO, unfair.
Perhaps it was because, as an Englishman, he still held a grudge because Huygens was right about the wavelike nature of light. Or the German octopus was in on a fix.
Perhaps it was because, as an Englishman, he still held a grudge because Huygens was right about the wavelike nature of light.
I would like to point out that it was an Englishman, Thomas Young, who proved Huygens right!
To be fair to Webb, it was a horrible game to call. There were both a lot of fouls and a lot of diving and arguing for calls. As physical as the Dutch were playing, I'm not sure that a card would have calmed down the Spanish complaints. I was ready to blame him, but I think he did the best he could with such a dog's breakfast.
And please, let's not continue this line of thinking that Robben should have fallen down. He certainly doesn't need any more encouragement. :) Puyol's leg sweep was pretty ugly but as it happens he barely touched Robben. It's not like Robben had to fight to stay upright.
Overall it was a grim game. I think the Dutch did what they wanted to do: disrupt the Spanish passing game, by force if necessary. It was certainly a better game plan than what the Germans did. But Holland couldn't come up with any kind of coherent attacking play, beyond trying to spring a winger off long balls from the defense. Spain though had a tough time playing through the maulings, and didn't have a Plan B available. Villa in particular didn't have a moment of brilliance that the game needed. The end result was fair enough, but it was a horrible time getting there.
Overall though it was a pretty exciting World Cup, and most of the games in the knockout stages were worthy. Now I need the soccer methadone of MLS to see me through until the EPL starts up in a month or so...
Maybe it was before you started watching, a dutch player came in late with his studs and karate kicked a spanish player in the chest - should have gotten a red card but only got a yellow. The dutch knew they couldn't match the skill of spain and came out with the intent to disrupt the flow including fouling as much as they could get away with. Spain should have had a man advantage for most of the game but in the end the best team won.
Robben did have to fight to stay upright and did have his movement significantly impeded, but (like when a big man in basketball pushes a smaller player off the block) he was so much bigger that it didn't look like it was as significant as it was. Another ref could have given a red in that same situation (direct path to the goal) if he had seen it as clearly as on HD TV, just as someone who hadn't lost track of makeup calls would have given a red for that kick to the chest.
But I knew the final was going to be truly awful after watching the 3rd place game on Saturday.
Then in 1905, Einstein showed Newton was right about light being made up of particles that had a space-like and time-like periodicity.
I must concur with those who feel the officiating was crappy, and very likely ruined the game. Webb should have started tougher, but towards the second half his calls went from bad to worse. Puyol got away with a blatant bookable offense on Robben (second yellow=red!), for which no excuses can be made: he had neither the possibility nor any intention to play the ball. Robben got carded for essentially being a man and not falling -- an example the Spaniards had no intention of following. The second yellow and subsequent eviction of Heitinga was a result of a clear dive by Inesta -- I was actually certain the yellow card was produced for diving, until the ref followed it with the red card. I am not a big fan of the way the Dutch played in the final, but I feel that after letting the Dutch get away with too much crap in the first half, in the second half the referee was blatantly favouring the Spaniards.
My verdict: a tough, not too spectacular game ruined by atrocious officiating. I just hope Webb will never be allowed near any games that actually matter.