2010 World Cup Final: Spain Are World Cup Winners, Not World Champions
To me, Spain will never go down as World Champions.
World Cup winners, yes...that is something that is written down as a fact. I'll start at the very beginning to explain.
Game 1 of the group stage, and Spain loses 1-0 to Switzerland. A poor start from the favourites, very poor. Some astute that defending by the Swiss frustrated the Spanish, and in the end it paid off as they scored the winning goal. A poor start meant that Spain had an uphill battle to qualify for the second round.
Game 2 of the group stage and Spain beat Honduras 2-0 in the only game of the tournament that Spain managed to score more than one goal, and there was still not all that much to celebrate. A side that was tipped to be an absolute walkover for the Spanish side managed to keep the deficit respectable against a still underperforming Spanish side. The game could have been summed up by David Villa's disgraceful slap on Emilio Izaguirre.
Game 3 of the group stage and Spain beat Chile 2-1. It was arguably Spain's hardest game of the group stage, yet it still shouldn't have caused them too much bother. Although, admittedly, there were moments of magic by Spain, the game was overall still less impressive than it should have been. Spain ended up scraping through, thanks to Andres Iniesta's neat finish.
In the second round, Spain beat Portugal 1-0. The two western European rivals matched off in the second round with both teams struggling to find top form, and they would both be disappointed once more following this game. Although Spain had the best of the game, the margin was not that great and once again, Spain scraped through on a 1-0 win.
In the quarterfinal games, Spain beat Paraguay 1-0. This game was particularly disappointing for Spain. Four games in, and they still hadn't found their best form. The quarterfinals rolled around and Spain was up against Paraguay, one of the easier draws of the round. Spain didn't make it look that way though, with a missed penalty and giving away another penalty to Paraguay that was luckily, for Spain, was missed.
They also made enough slipups where Paraguay could have comfortably taken the lead throughout the game. Spain though, once again, got lucky to score on one of their few chances that they had over Paraguay. The overall game, however, was largely equal. Paraguay should be disappointed to have left the competition at the stage they did.
In the semifinal games, Spain beat Germany 1-0. People will argue that this is where Spain showed that they are a quality side. I would argue the opposite. Spain has so much potential (seen during Euro 2008), yet again, they never really reached their stride against the Germans.
Germany went into the game looking to avenge their Euro 2008 Finals defeat, which may not have been the best mindset for them. Their counterattacking style of football caught Spain off guard time and time again, and Spain's style was a nervous look to the side that led to one misplaced pass each time. Spain did not put in the best performance either, even though it would appear so from their possession. They managed to grab a winning goal in the end, but once again, were lucky to go through, simply because it "wasn't Germany's day".
In the World Cup Final, Spain beat Holland 1-0. Holland approached the game with the hard working, pragmatic style that they approached most games with during the competition. Although the amount of yellow cards will tell a different story, the Dutch's defensive tactics paid off, and they began to frustrate Spain. They also had one or two good chances of their own in the process.
Spain, however, was once again the team to score a lucky winner. With Eljero Elia pushed off the ball, most referees would have called for a free kick, but lady luck was smiling on Spain again. They managed to break against the Dutch with Iniesta finishing off the move. Although Howard Webb had a good game, the Dutch most certainly have a right to be angry at him for that decision.
So while Spain scraped through round after round, with lower than expected performances, teams like Germany, Holland, Argentina, and Ghana were working hard for their wins, and largely pleasing fans in the process. Their styles made fans sit up and take notice, while Spain almost slipped under the radar without showing much more than the odd moment of skill.
The teams that Spain faced, curiously still showed fear and anxiousness against them, even though they had been under performing. I would argue that it was Spain's reputation that won them the World Cup, not their play.
There were far better and more worthy teams who could have won the trophy, but in the end it turned out to be one of football's mysteries as to how Spain managed to win the World Cup. I will never call Spain World Champions until they earn it, not just because they won the World Cup.
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