First off, that was a pretty ugly final between Holland and Spain. 14 yellow cards continually slowed the pace, and Andres Iniesta's brilliant passing and game winning goal were for me offset by his embellished dives, including one confrontation with Van Bommel late in the first half where Iniesta went down like he'd been shot, clutching his ankle, but popped up immediately when he realized there was no foul called and was himself whistled for retaliating against Van Bommel. Iniesta, like Holland's Arjen Robben, is one of those highly skilled players that I would really like if only he didn't go to ground so easily. Iniesta came up asking for a yellow card on more than one occasion after he embellished contact, including the foul by John Heitinga in extra time that earned him his second yellow card, equating to a red card.
Dutch players seemed furious with the referee, but they have nothing to complain about, as two of their players got away with the two most vicious fouls I witnessed during this World Cup. First, Van Bommel absolutely destroyed Iniesta - blatantly sweeping him from behind, not even close to getting the ball.
That foul could have been a straight red card and Van Bommel would have had no argument, but he was let off the hook with a yellow instead. Then DeJong kung fu'd Xabi Alonso in the chest with, well, a flying kung fu kick.
It was insane. Somehow, he escaped with a yellow card as well.
Spain's 8 goals in 7 matches was the lowest total ever for a World Cup winner.
Questions: 1) Who does the referee talk to with his microphone and earpiece? This actually matters. Is he talking to the 4th official about time only? Is he getting voices in his ear that say "you really blew that call?" I doubt it - so who is he communicating with? Does he only talk to his linesmen with it?
2) When the referee talks to players, and the opposing players yell at each other, what language do they speak? Is the referee's goal just to get his point across with emphatic hand signals? Do the players just yell at each other in their own native languages, expecting the message to translate? Do they all speak English? or Spanish?
Now, on to my awards:
Best fast facts from the announcer during the World Cup Final:
Martin Tyler told us that Spain's Carles Puyol wears his hair so long because he is self conscious about the size of his ears. Runner up: Tyler noting that the Dutch had checked into a new hotel the prior day since they hadn't booked their original hotel through the final, and their rooms had expired.
Best half of soccer skill exhibition:
Second half of Germany-Spain in the semi-finals. Clean, brilliance from Spain, and tight defending from Germany.
Most Important Goal:
Landon Donovan's game winner vs. Algeria for the USA as time was running out was massive for USA soccer. I don't think soccer in the US is going to take off and become another major league sport, but Donovan's goal was essential for the country, and avoided the scenario where tens of millions of fans gave up on the game due to poor officiating and feeling wronged by judgment calls. Runner up: Siphiwe Tschabalala's opening goal for the host country, South Africa - a brilliant bullet which, I'm guessing, sent the entire nation into a frenzy.
Best player name:
Danny Shittu, defender, Nigeria. Runner up: Brown Ideye, forward, Nigeria
The Jabolani ball. According to CrunchGear.com, "Adidas has managed to increase the ball’s striking surface by as much as 70 percent by reducing the number of 3D panels from 14 (from the 2006 World Cup) to eight. Less panels reduces the number of seams on the ball, and, coupled with another adidas-developed technology called Grip’n'Groove, should also increase the power behind the ball."
Players had been complaining about the ball before the WC even started - and it was obvious that they had trouble controlling it. Note the near universal inaccuracy on the part of free kicks - very unusual.
runner up for biggest disappointment: France, followed closely by Italy and England.
All in all, I'd say that I didn't enjoy watching this World Cup as much as I'd hoped to. Perhaps I have false memories of the glorious play of the 1994 World Cup since it was the first one I really got into, or perhaps the level of play was just mediocre this year. I know that I'll be considering making the trip to Brazil in 2016.