World Cup 2010: Anti-Football's Defeat Brings Hope To Beautiful Game

illya mclellan@illya mclellan @illbehaviorNZSenior Analyst IJuly 15, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  The Spain team celebrate winning the World Cup as captain Iker Casillas (C) waves to fans during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

It is interesting to note that in the days leading up to the World Cup Final there were questions being asked by the Dutch concerning the possibility of them emulating the stifling of Barcelona that was inflicted by Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in the Champions League Final.

Could they do this to Spain? Arguably this type of deconstructionist sentiment is a part of football and has been since the game's beginnings. After all, many other World Cups have seen brutality such as was witnessed in the recent final.

There are many examples throughout World Cup history of games that have descended into brutality, but few finals have seen one side resort to the barbarism that the Netherlands did in 2010.

Apart from stifling the Spanish passing game as they apparently set out to do, they also seemed intent on injuring as many of the Spanish starting line up as possible. This led the Dutch master Johan Cruijff to decry the teams mentality as damaging to the legacy of Dutch football. In a disgusted tirade he went onto say:

"This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style, yes it served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing. They were playing anti-football."

As Cruijff pointed out, they may have disrupted the Spanish but they lost the match anyway. The good thing here for those who love the beautiful game is that beautiful football won the day in the sporting codes biggest final.

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Far too often now we see coaches instructing teams to engage in negative football to get results—the idea that it is better to win ugly than lose beautifully. The crying shame of the final in South Africa is that the world was denied the chance of seeing the Netherlands team play the football that many thought them capable of. Instead they were defeated before the game, when their coach instructed them to spoil the game rather than play football to win it.

The price of a defeatist mentality invariably is defeat, and as the great Sun Tzu once said: "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."

The Dutch betrayed the legacy of the amazing teams that formulated the legend of their footballing prowess with the display that they put up in South Africa. Being an ardent admirer of total football and frequently reminding people that in the Netherlands you are not allowed to play organized ball until you can kick adequately with both feet, it was probably one of the most disappointing things I have witnessed as a fan of the game.

I had hoped for something like what was witnessed when Brazil met the Netherlands in USA 1994, which remains one of the best games that this writer has ever seen. Instead, we were subjected to probably one of the worst finals ever, besides perhaps the dire fare that was served up in Italy in 1990.

In the aftermath though, it can at least be celebrated that the calculated technical passing style of the Spanish, which ironically has been transplanted so successfully to Spain by Cruijff's involvement with Barcelona, was the formula that provided the "eureka" moment the Spanish so craved.

No longer can they be labelled chokers, as they have slogged their way through the massed defences of several of the worlds best teams, probing for openings over 90 minutes with a tenacity, that on occasion, in the past, has deserted even the greatest teams in football history.

They are a beacon of hope for those who wish to see the game played the way it should be, and with an example like this for the younger viewers across the globe, they can clearly see that technical mastery is not only a more attractive way to succeed, but also that it clearly works.

The Spanish defeated anti-football with their victory in the final and deserve our praise for doing so. It remains to be seen whether this translates in a more visible manner to the leagues and ideaologies of the world game, this writer, for one, hopes that it does.

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