Home > Football (soccer) > Negative Netherlands, Diving Spaniards

Negative Netherlands, Diving Spaniards

Good for Spain. Here’s a country that has collapsed many times under the weight of expectations, never having even won a World Cup Quarterfinal in their storied history. (Of course they had 2 perfectly good goals called out in 2002 Korea/Japan when playing against the hosts, the game being refereed by Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour and his Ugandan and Trinidadian assistants. Um, we might need to make sure we have top class refs at the World Cups, eh FIFA?)

Of course I wanted Germany to win, but I do like Spain. It’s funny. On my first trip to Spain some time in the mid-90’s, I bought a Spain jersey. I love the country, speak the language (Castellano, at least), and I felt bad for their many collapses and unfulfilled expectations over the years. I never thought at the time that they would develop into a world powerhouse and become Germany’s Biggest Nemesis From Europe, having won the Euro 2008 Final over die mannschaft, as well as knocking them out of World Cup 2010. Ack!

But as for 2010, the best team won. It’s a sad commentary on the defensive nature of high-stakes soccer that we have to say things like “I’m so glad the best team won.” I mean, isn’t that what playing the game is for? When you watch an NFL championship, you figure that the team with the highest score at the end of the game was the best. But in soccer, with the difficulty of scoring goals against a team focused on fouling and defending to the hilt, you always have that possibility that the”best” team — the most creative team, the team with the most shots on goal, the team with most possession, the team that wants to play attacking soccer — doesn’t win. I believe it’s one of the biggest detractions against the game of soccer to the casual or non-soccer fan world wide: Why is it so difficult to score goals, and why does the “best” team some times (too often?!) not come out on top?

English Referee Howard Webb had a difficult job. Here’s a guy that’s accustomed to refereeing in mostly honest, hurly-burly England. But then he gets asked to referee the World Cup Final between the Negative Fouling Netherlands and the Amazing Diving Spaniards. Webb was out of his gourd. They needed someone that could tell the difference between a real foul and a dive, and just wave “play on.” When Referee Héctor Baldassi of Argentina did this in Spain’s game against Portugal, the Spaniards quickly realized that diving doesn’t pay, and immediately stopped the heinous practice. Webb, take a lesson from your colleagues, eh?

How is this not a Red Card Mr. Webb? (photo daniel ochoa de olza)

And it’s great that Holland was finally found out. Holland could have been beaten by Slovakia, except for some poor finishing by the Slovaks. The Brazil game was a good scalp for Holland, but they were gifted the equalizing goal by a Brazilian goalkeeping error. And Holland lucked out to play against an understrength Uruguay squad, which was without their captain and best defender Lugano as well as – up to that point – their best striker Suarez.

The Dutch can't handle the truth (photo frank augstein)

So really, I think the love affair with the Netherlands being so great was an illusion, which was uncovered in the Final. I mean sure — they made Spain work for it — but anyone can do that by putting 9 guys behind the ball parking the bus, tackle ferociously and often times unfairly, and hope to score a goal on a counter attack. Even Portugal showed us that. But Holland? That was light years from Total Football.

Whew! That was close.

Spain Celebrates World Cup 2010 (photo Laurence Griffiths)

FIFA, since apparently I know better than you do, here are some changes needed to the game of World Football. I’ve kept the list short. I think you already know why.

1. Goal line technology. You need to give the goals if they are scored, and in this day with the technology we have, it’s unforgivable. England were robbed, and we’ll never know what could have happened in that game. At least the universe is slightly more aligned if you balance 2010 with 1966. Get the goal line technology now. FIFA says that they don’t want to implement it because it wouldn’t be available to all levels of the game. That’s ridiculous. Little league baseball and high school football don’t have it — and it doesn’t matter. The NFL and MLB have replay to get the calls exactly right when the stakes are so high. FIFA needs to do the same for high-stakes soccer matches.

In the mean time, put “magic chalk” or something in the mouth of the goal behind the goal line. That way, like in tennis, it can be determined if a ball bounced there. Is there chalk on the ball? Where did it bounce? Yup. It’s a goal. Hey, at least it’s a start.

2. The yellow card accumulation process needs to be altered. Protect the players from atrocious fouls, and even from the rugby tackles in the penalty box on corner kicks. But a yellow card for what Thomas Mueller did? That was poor. And having it keep him out of a semi final game? Idiotic. Not having him in Germany’s semi final game robbed the Germans of their attacking spark and undoubtedly changed the game in favor of the Spaniards.

The same thing happened in the 2002 World Cup Final in Korea/Japan. Michael Ballack was kept out of the Final against Brazil due to a yellow card from the semi-final, and it ruined the game. We want to see the best against the best, and FIFA needs to perform some sort of review of the yellow card accumulation procedure. Did Mueller’s yellow endanger another player? Absolutely not. Then suspending him from a semi final game should be waived.

3. Post-game video analysis of simulating a foul can earn you a suspension. I am glad that Spain won over Negative Nancies Netherlands, but something needs to be done about people like Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, and Arjen Robben. Sergio Busquests got tackled in the opening 5 minutes of the game, and went to the ground like he had been shot. He needs to be suspended for crap like this. He did the same thing in the Champion’s League Semi Final between his team Barcelona and Internazionale. An Inter player hit Busquets on the back and he fell over grabbing his face, which resulted in a red card for the Inter player. Acts like that need to be punished with a 1-2 game suspension.

Andres Iniesta was fouled by yet-another-hard-tackle-by-Van-Bommel-hacking-the-player-and-missing-the-ball. Iniesta fell onto the ground, apparently writhing in pain. When the referee waved play on, Iniesta immediately jumped up, fit as a fiddle, and hacked Van Bommel to the ground. Iniesta needs to be suspended for 1-2 games based on video analysis of this type of behavior.

And Robben? Too many times to count!

One master diver admiring the work of another (photo frank augstein)

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  1. Jeff
    July 12, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Webb didn’t do that bad a job in my book. Did he give fouls where none were? A few times. But he did a pretty good job keeping his head; giving yellows early was a good option, as he gave as stern a warning as he could, and then those players weren’t likely to hammer someone quite so late, etc.

    Van Der Wiel’s red? Legitimate. Tarzan’s no-call? Look at it this way: Robben went through it cleanly enough to get two more clean touches on the ball. He didn’t shoot, toe-poke it, or anything else: he just blew it (just like when he went through cleanly against St. Ikor…). He can feel angry that he didn’t go down and ‘help’ the referee make the decision at the beginning, but he left Pujols for dead, and tried to clean up the ball against a great goalkeeper. Too bad. Were the Dutch as sorry that De Jong didn’t get a red card? Ha.

    I don’t love Spain, but they were better than Holland. And the Dutch players were late to tackles and kicking opponents all night. And Spain brought attackers (Navas) for mids (Alonso) when it looked like it would go extra. Good stuff in my book, and Navas made a good contribution.

    Congrats to Spain. The Dutch had a couple of chances to win it cleanly, and have no one but themselves to blame. They really got a bit lucky through-out anyway.

    • July 12, 2010 at 11:02 am

      Here’s a quote I just read from Cruyff on the final:

      “And regrettably, sadly, they played very dirty. So much so that they should have been down to nine immediately, then they made two [such] ugly and hard tackles that even I felt the damage.” — Johan Cruyff, the heart and soul of the Dutch football team in the 1970’s.

      I think they were lucky Webb didn’t punish.

    • July 12, 2010 at 8:36 pm

      you know, i just read this again and i see what you are saying. i agree that howard webb didn’t have a total nightmare of a game, but i think he missed a couple of big ones, like the foot to the chest. i think that should have been a straight red. and i agree on your tarzan no call.

  2. July 12, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Great post! I’m a football newbie, so it’s awesome to find posts that explain the game a little more without getting me lost in the technical jargon!

  3. davepenfold
    July 12, 2010 at 11:59 am

    FIFA definitely have a lot to think about after this World Cup. Goal line technology, I think we all would agree, is a must and FIFA must not be afraid to move forward.

    However despite the problems that were made apparent during the World Cup we must not forget to praise it for what it is, and remember, it’s more then just Football.

    The World Cup is a vital part of the global cultural exchange, a warm and passionate universal embrace of a sport we all adore and it’s our chance to share our love for the game together.

    And for that reason, I think the World Cup was a massive success. Viva Espana! (and im not even spanish)

    • July 12, 2010 at 8:38 pm

      yeah, big success in that it is wildly popular as ever, the global game. good stuff. and i think ruud gullit was right — the final wasn’t much of an advert for soccer world wide, but bigger picture the cup was.

  4. July 12, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I like your suggestions, especially the goal-line technology. Something needs to be done, and done now. Even baseball, a sport that clings notoriously to tradition, has adapted instant replay technology for game changing events like Home Runs. Football needs to move with the times and adopt this for goal line disputes.

    I’d also like to see the imaginary waving of cards stamped out… really, really annoys me!

    • July 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm

      exactly: you wave an imaginary card in my face — as a ref — and I give you one of your own!

  5. July 13, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I agree with Cruyff’s comments – before the final I liked the Dutch a I thought they would stick to the total football philosophy but he is correct that their display was anti-football. Maybe I am old-fashioned but whether you win or lose you should play with honour and in the spirit of the game – thank goodness the team that played football was the winner.

    Shanny

    • July 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm

      I agree with you shanny. Too much ugliness from them in the final. Thanks for the comment.

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