Spain are the World Champions. A tense, highly dramatic final in Johannesburg went all the way to the wire, through 90 minutes and very nearly through extra-time, but an Andreas Iniesta goal in the 116th minute gave Spain a well deserved win. 46 fouls (compared to only 16 in the equally competitive semi-final) and 13 different players booked (including one twice – John Heitinga of Holland) was an indication of the flow of the match, and in truth, there might have been red cards sooner. And there was plenty of screaming at the referee as football’s ugly side came out for a last SA appearance.
But on the whole, an enthralling match, despite the lack of goals. Spain controlled possession, as might be expected, but both teams created excellent chances, one-on-one opportunities with the keeper, headers from close range and other great opportunities. An interesting stat is that before this game, Spain had actually created more shots on goal than Holland (82 v 67), but their accuracy of shooting and conversion was much lower (7 v 12), suggesting a lack of penetration, and probably also the approach adopted by their opposition. For a brilliant piece on this, check out this article by Sports Illustrated before the final.
However, back to the final, and the game seem destined for penalties until Iniesta, a stand-out player, sealed the win for Spain.
I defer to Zonal Marking for full analysis of the tactical battle, in due course.
Le Tour – a timely antidote to withdrawal
Next up, the Tour. Today was also a big day in the Tour. Lance Armstrong’s GC challenge ended with an 11:48 time-loss on the final two climbs, after a crash at the bottom of the penultimate Category 1. At the front, Andy Schleck won the stage, and managed to throw down an attack that Alberto Contador couldn’t match – a first for perhaps two years. A group of 11 was together at the end, suggesting that this was not the big day in the Tour, with the GC riders happy to ride strongly up the final climb without aggressive attacking. Until Schleck 1km from the finish, that is. It sets the Tour up as a great battle – Cadel Evans holds yellow, Schleck is 20 seconds back, Contador a further 41 down.
But it has a wide open feel to it. Rest day tomorrow and then we’re back in the monster Alps. Thankfully, after this football festival, I need something to help with withdrawal!
Well done Spain, deserved World Champions!