Paul the Prophet: How World Cup Octopus Spoke and the World ListenedJuly 11, 2010
Lest you think I'm a believer, I'm not. But, at least those who believe can point to seven of seven "predictions" by Paul the Octopus as proof of his authenticity.
It may not be the last we hear from him.
But now that he has had his 15 minutes of fame, it might be best to let him bask in his "successes" and not constrain him into making future predictions. There is a good chance the future might expose him to be a lucky charlatan instead of a prophet.
Back to the final match of the World Cup. What could the Netherlands have done that they did not do?
I do not think there's anything else they could have done aside from playing less aggressively, not committing as many fouls, and getting a player sent off at a point where the team needed to have all of their reserves of mental and physical strength in place.
It was always going to be Spain who dominated possession. The Dutch couldn't change that. They came into this tournament playing a style they called pragmatic: less possession, more defensive, and more frontal in attack when they gained possession.
I had my doubts, and the Dutch cannot argue that it was pragmatism, as opposed to Total Football, that took them far in this tournament. They've always enjoyed relative success playing beautifully.
At the very least, fans did not have to endure the psychological torture from constant attacks from their opponents, since the Dutch are usually dominant in possession and attack.
Ironically, it was the victors, Spain, who played a version of the Dutch's Total Football. So you see, playing beautiful and attacking football can win after all.
The Dutch should not kick themselves too much, however.
They certainly gave it their all. The only detracting factor from their effort was the ugly, aggressive way they played, although I thought the referee was too quick in some instances to award free kicks to Spain, and perhaps not as willing to humor the Dutch.
The Dutch used pressure marking as I thought they should. They defended high as was appropriate, and they got two good opportunities to put the game away, but they didn't.
In the end, that proved the difference. Spain got a good opportunity and put it away.
I expect Spain to dominate football for another two years. They should still be a force to reckon with in the next European Championship.
But as with all good things, the waning phase of their football will come. It happens to everyone. But they should at least be grateful that they won the greatest of prizes during what may come to be referred to as the golden age of Spanish football.
As for the Dutch, I expect them to go back to their Total Football minus the bickering, which they managed to put away this time.
It seems evident and makes sense that the more control you have of the game, the more likely you are to win. And that's what Total Football does. Spain won.
Spain and Barcelona appear to have invented a new brand of attacking football. It is left to see where it will lead.
For now we should congratulate Spain and celebrate with them.