Viva Espana – una victoria para el futbol!
July 12, 2010

Viva Espana!

Spain, already European Champions, justly won the biggest prize of all at the Soccer City Stadium in Jo’burg last night; an historic win for Spain but an even bigger victory for football.

There can be no argument that the tap pass  footballers of Spain deserved  their victory against the Dutch cloggers, and nobody more so than their diminutive goal scorer, Andres Iniesta, who so exemplifies the Spanish style of play.

Last night the memory of total football which Holland revealed to the world in consecutive 1970s finals, creating a legacy which subsequent Oranje teams have always striven to live up to, was tainted by the cynical pragmatists of 2010.     

There will be many in the Netherlands who will be devastated, not that they lost, but by the manner of their defeat. In a pre match interview we got a hint of what might be expected from the Dutch Master himself, Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff, an architect of the 1974 side, as well as a former player and coach with Barcelona, suggested he was less than impressed with the current Holland team’s style, commenting, “I am Dutch but I will always defend the football Spain play.”   

From the first whistle, Spain were the only team attempting to play football and assertions by Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, in his post match interview, that, “ it’s not our style to play ‘ugly’ or commit horrible fouls” and, “ I don’t think the referee controlled the match well,” do him little or no credit.

English referee, Howard Webb, must have wondered what he had let himself in for. It was not his fault that he had to assume such a high-profile role in proceedings. The players from both sides, but particularly the Dutch, did not make it at all easy for him.

The previous highest total of yellow cards in a World Cup Final had been six. Webb reached into his top pocket for 13 yellows and finally, in extra time, a red for Holland’s John Heitinga.   

Holland could hardly complain. Arguably, they should have been down to nine men by half time. The chest high kick on Xabi Alonso by Nigel De Jong would almost certainly have been a sending off in any other game but a final!

Mark Van Bommel, who has been cruising for a bruising throughout the tournament, was also lucky to remain after he scythed down Iniesta.   

The Dutch tactics were uncompromising but unambitious. Press up on the Spanish, get in their faces, prevent them from settling into their usual metronomic passing game, pinch the ball and catch them on the counter attack through speedster Ayen Robben.

They needn’t have bothered though, the final result had been pre-ordained by the mystic mollusc. Was it Puyol or Paul the octopus who wrapped a restraining tentacle around Robben as he bore down on goal?

The tentacled tipster maintained his 100% record, correctly predicting 8/8 – a perfect octet of results for the octopus, who can now take early retirement squids in!   

En la familia Aldridge casa, the vuvuzela sounded its final celebratory blast of the tournament as captain Iker Casillas lifted the golden globe and the Spanish squad celebrated.

It was a victory for football purists everywhere and for a much relieved daughter who texted during extra time, “my nerves can’t take this any longer”. She should try watching Nottingham Forest some time!  

Enjoy your sweepstake winnings Gem – the San Migs are on you next time we meet!

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Mystic Mollusc on the ball!
July 7, 2010

Paul, the English-born octopus now resident in Germany, has successfully forecast the winner in every one of the national team’s games at World Cup 2010. The mystic mollusc has predicted the winner of each match by choosing a mussel from his favoured jar. 

Paul successfully forecast that Germany would lose to Serbia in their  group stage match, which they did, and victories in each of their other games, including those against England and Argentina – and all of this live on German TV.

Viewers were stunned when they switched on to watch Paul picking Spain to win tonight’s semi-final. Surely he had got his tentacles in a twist!  The German team was on a roll, the highest scorers in the competition, having already put 4 goals past both England and Argentina. Surely the time was right once more for the 3 time World Champions.

But no! Paul was again on the ball with his selection and Spain’s 1-0 win, courtesy of a headed goal from Barcelona centre back Puyol, has put them into Sunday’s final against the Oranje of Holland.      

Neither of the finalists have ever won the World Cup and Spain, the perennial chokers have never previously gone beyond the quarter finals. Amazingly, for two top footballing nations, they have never played each other in the final stages of a major competition.

It should be an intriguing climax to a tournament that has been low on spectacle but high on unpredictability. If both teams are at their best it should be easy on the eye and one to remember.

Amazingly Chris (not a huge football fan!) watched the game through to the final whistle, admitting afterwards that she had enjoyed it and that, quote: “Even I could appreciate Spain’s style of play”ole!

Anyway we’ll both be rooting for Spain in the final because Gem has drawn them in the office sweepstake and stands to win a couple of hundred quid!  Her bank manager will also be cheering for La Furia Roja. Viva Espana!  

Meanwhile one can only speculate that Paul will be granted an immediate  free transfer and soon be on his way to a comfy new tank  in a  Spanish aquarium, where he will be renamed Paulo and hopefully keep his tentacles crossed for a Spanish victory on Sunday.