Monday, July 12, 2010

Spain World Champion

Spain had until yesterday always been cursed by being the best nation to participate in a World Cup that had never won it. In fact, all they had was a meager semifinal in 1950 to talk about. After their triumph in the Euro 2008 Spain entered the World Cup as favourites and with enormous pressure to bring the long-awaited glory to Spain. It did not look well after opening with a loss to Switzerland (Spain is the first nation since 1978 to become world champion while losing a match on the way to the title), but that defeat may in fact have been Spain's luck: since that match the team seemed more aware of the task ahead, and looked at one match at a time.
Seen as a whole Spain were the best team of the tournament, and a deserved world champion in a final were the Dutch in particular did not win any friends, and where a terrible referee came close to losing the match for everyone by allowing the Dutch to play like animals.
That said, Spain have not been very efficient: eight goals in seven matches to take the title is not overly impressive, and although Spain has not been a defensive team there is no doutbt that the championship was won by their defence around Puyol and Piquet, and with the superb qualities of Xavi and Iniesta. There were seven Barcelona players in the starting lineup of Spain, and the influence of the Catalonian giants is clear in the Spanish style.

The Netherlands had been undefeated until this match (and with this result, only one team leaves the tournament as undefeated, namely New Zealand!), and losing the final for the third time is making it all seem like a curse. Spain on the other hand, now finally joins the ranks of European powers alongside Italy, Germany, France and England. All in all, it was a final with some historical remarks:
  • First time Spain wins the World Cup
  • First time a European side wins outside Europe.
  • With Spain, a total of nine European countries have been in World Cup finals of the 12 nations that have ever had the honour.
  • Second time a World Cup final ends with the score 1-0 (first one in 1990)
  • First time since West Germany in 1974, that a defending European champion takes the world title.
  • The first World Cup final ever that did not involve one of the following: Italy, Brazil, Germany or Argentina.
On a personal note, I have been very critical of Spain this year, but I am happy they won, mostly because of all my Spanish friends and family, who are surely still celebrating!
Viva España indeed!

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