Spain win world cup!

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Spain win world cup!"There’s a great sense of happiness in the dressing room right now. It’s hard to put it all into words and the way the players feel goes way beyond words," Vicente del Bosque, Spain coach.

NOTTINGHAM — FIFA, soccer’s international federation, started by making mistakes in their sale of World Cup tickets which some called en enormous blunder — especially by selling them at first only via Internet and credit cards. Many Africans, in South Africa and other countries, could not get tickets for the first World Cup on their continent, because they did not have Internet access and, for example, who would accept a Nigerian credit card?

Then there was the ball. Makers Adidas said “with the modern, fast game it is essential that we give the players a ball that is as precise as they are.” Was that just sales talk? Because the ball was anything but precise as it flew all over the place. Players, on the whole, never got used to it and so many goal shots went over the crossbar because the ball always flew higher than intended. FIFA’s Jerome Valcke said halfway through the tournament “There could be something wrong with the ball.” Congratulations!

Goalkeepers complained about the swerving ball most and if it was meant to increase the number of goals, it also failed. The many tight first round group games produced only an average of 2.10 goals per game. It increased in the knock-out stage to a respectable 2,75, but the overall average was a low 2.26.

There were lots of 1-0 and 2-1 scores.

The biggest complaints were about referees, but one has to blame FIFA for not introducing more officials on the field and technology in good time for the World Cup, to help them in today’s faster game. The linesman who did not signal for a goal when England scored against Germany with the ball well over the goal line,called the mistake a “fatality” after the game, but that did not help. Yet the FIFA refereeing committee announced that 96 percent of decisions taken by referees during the World Cup were correct.

They must have been joking!

Now FIFA has postponed a meeting to decide on introducing more officials on the field and technology until October, although FIFA president Joseph Blatter says he would only favour technology for goal line decisions.

Another thing about referees, not exclusive to the World Cup, is that after they give a player a yellow card, they seem reluctant to give him a second and send him off, even if he continues his rough play. It is well known that TV does not like less than 22 players on the field, but what about reducing rough play about which referees have not done much?

And those noisy vuvuzelas trumpets which made a deafening noise during all matches were not banned by FIFA out of diplomatic grounds because they are a South African custom. Players complained because they could not hear each other and it caused at least one goal when an Argentine defender could not hear another defender telling him there was a rival forward behind him. But before the custom spreads to the rest of the world, the new Zealand Rugby Union has already banned them from stadiums in next year’s Rugby World Cup there.

As for the soccer, there were some good games from the quarterfinals onwards — not by Argentina. Take into account however that Spain had the basis of the excellent Barcelona club team and they won deservedly as in the final the Dutch could only try to stop them from playing. Germany, for example, had all their players playing in the local league which makes it easier for training. Also, many of their immigrants turned out to be good players and 11 of their 23 players came from immigrant families.

Yet the incident I enjoyed most in these games was when Uruguay’s Luis Suárez stopped Ghana’s last shot at goal with his hand to retain a draw. He got himself sent off, of course, but as Uruguay won the penalty shootout it put Uruguay into the semifinals. Blatter said Suárez’s “play” was unfair, but he did not go as far as to say that a handball stopped on the goal line, with nobody behind, should be counted as a goal.

This column often mentioned that there is nothing new under the sun in soccer, even if you change the initial starting positions and there certainly was nothing new in this year’s World Cup. The most used lineups were 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1. Argentina should have tried 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 with so many good forwards and, as repeatedly said, with Lionel Messi playing much nearer goal than he did. Spain never changed their 4-3-3, even after losing their first match to Switzerland and Germany and Netherlands never seemed to change their 5-4-1. Chile stuck to their 4-3-3 attacking game, even against Brazil which may have been suicide.
MARADONA AGAIN. So the Argentine FA (AFA) decided on Wednesday to give Diego Maradona another four years as national team coach while most polls of soccer fans showed overwhelmingly that they wanted him to leave. That is not unusual as every time a coach fails to win the World Cup he should leave, although there is no law stating that Argentina should win the trophy every time they go. This column has always defended coaches, because it is not fair that they should be judged merely on the team’s results and not on their skill. This time, however, it is different.

Maradona had some of the best players in the world, but for a start he did not pick a couple who would have strengthened his midfield (apart from unnecessary differences with Juan Román Riquelme which caused the player to leave) and then he played others out of their best positions, but let us not repeat and repeat. As for tactics, the less said the better. If Maradona is to stay for another four years, he will no doubt gain more experience, but the AFA will surely place certain conditions.

For a start, they will surely impose another training staff on Maradona instead of his friends who had even less experience as players and coaches than he did. Maradona will also be told to accept more advice from his training staff, something which he had always been reluctant to do. The training staff should also work more closely, for example, with the U20 team and avoid jealousy as was the case this time.

As for the AFA, it should organize better warm-up fixtures than before the current World Cup, so that the national team can face top opposition. This has been in the hands of a third party, but there is too much commercialism in all this and, as mentioned in the past, the AFA should take charge of it.

What Maradona has going for him is that he is a great motivator — perhaps too friendly with the players which is not always a good thing — and that he really loves the job, with money apparently being a minor consideration. Those are advantages, but in itself they are not enough.