10. This was a great World Cup
Martin Kelner, writing in the Guardian, called this World Cup right. “It has probably been the worst World Cup in modern times,” he said. There were no great teams and few great players.
Most of the famous stars had a poor tournament. Drogba and Ronaldo each scored once. Kaka, Messi, Ribery, Rooney and Torres didn’t score at all. There were few exciting games which swung to and fro; comparable, say, to the 1970 England-Germany quarter-final or the 1970 Germany-Italy semi-final. In the 16 knockout matches, only three had five goals or more.
9. Spain were a great team
The pundits loved Spain, and apart from Germany and Argentina they were the best of a poor bunch. They were a clean and sporting team with only 8 yellow cards and no red cards (compared with Holland’s 22 yellow cards). Although everyone went into raptures about their passing and the star-studded midfield, they won the World Cup thanks to their defence and to Villa. They only conceded two goals in the entire tournament. On the other hand, they won all four of their knock-out games 1-0 and only scored eight goals in the entire World Cup, fewer than any of the other quarter-finalists apart from Ghana and Paraguay. Who will remember any of Spain’s games by 2014?
8. The Orange myth
Most of the pundits predicted an exciting final for two reasons. First, the Dutch had two of the great players of the tournament, Snejder and Robben. Second, everyone loves the Dutch teams of the 1970s. This was the worst Dutch team to have played in the World Cup in recent decades. But nothing that went before prepared us for the thuggery of the Final. Thirty years of affection was spoilt in one nasty match.
Until the final the Dutch played only one really good side, Brazil, who were all over them until they conceded an extraordinary own goal and got one of their key midfielders sent off. There is only one rational explanation for what happened to Brazil in that match and that is libellous. Brazil tend to either win or go out in bizarre circumstances—think of the 1998 final against France.