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Spain 1, Netherlands 0: A Look Back

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It wasn't quite Good triumphing over Evil, but in some ways it felt that way.

Spain joined the list of teams to win the World Cup and proved every bit the deserving champion after winning an ugly, physical and extremely tough match against a strong Netherlands side. As much as the Dutch tried to make it a physical battle and wear down their opponent, Spain just kept on coming and eventually found the goal it deserved.

Yes, referee Howard Webb lost control to some degree, but he didn't determine the winner. Spain's approach and the Netherlands' approach determined the outcome, and if anything, Webb kept it from being a more lop-sided win for Spain after failing to send off Nigel de Jong for his Karate Kick to the chest of Xabi Alonso.

Here is my take on Sunday's World Cup Final for Fox Sports, which praises Spain for being deserved champions. Can anybody really argue against Spain being a fitting champion?

Here are some more thoughts on Sunday's Final:

Cesc Fabregas made a tremendous impact as a substitute and you can't help but wonder how Spain would have looked with a fully healthy Fabregas and Fernando Torres.

Arjen Robben will have nightmares about his World Cup final performance. He had a handful of quality chances but couldn't convert any of them.

After seeing Germany's win against Uruguay, I can't help but think Germany was the second-best team at this World Cup.

Sunday was a forgettable night for the Netherlands, but goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenberg enjoyed another strong showing and removed any doubt about being the Dutch team's goalkeeper of the present and future.

I thought Howard Webb did a decent job, with the red card miss on de Jong's chest stomp the biggest miscue. The second yellow on Johnny Heitinga was deserved, and while you can argue that Carles Puyol could have been sent off for his late challenge on a Robben breakaway, the fact is Robben still had every opportunity to finish the play and didn't.

Anybody else excited for Euro 212? Can't wait to see Germany get even better, and I'm anxious to see if Spain can repeat.

I will offer my final take on the World Cup on SBI on Tuesday before making my return to the United States, so keep an eye out for that.

For now, what did you think of the World Cup Final? Have you had a chance to watch it again? Who impressed you the most? Still sad to see the World Cup end?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Exactly why everyone is relieved the Spanish won. But it easily could have been otherwise. This Dutch team, as opposed to their illustrious teams of the past, could have won the cup by hacking and kicking and a lucky goal against the run of play. But the Dutch fans truly appreciate this game and even they would not have wanted that. In the end good football prevailed and we should all be glad for that.

  2. And of course you have spotless high level credentials as a former pro player and coach and have authored several authroitative works on the game correct?

    How about a resume?

  3. “DC Josh said… They dominate play like no other country. …Could their “tip-tap” passing be the future of football superpowers? I say yes. ”

    Spain dominated time of possession in their games. This is not exactly the same thing as dominating a game. Their last four games could easily have gone either way (they were incredibly lucky to beat Paraguay) and were all won 1-0. This is an excellent team but not a team that “dominate play like no other”. If teams nowhere near as talented and accomplished as Spain ( which is most teams) emulate their tip tap passing style, you will see a lot of boring 0-0 games. It’s not any easy style to play; don’t forget that this group has been playing it for quite a few years now both with Spain and, to a lesser extent, with Barca. So besides the talent level, Spain’s guys have the advantage of an extreme level of familiarity with each other unusual for most national teams.

    “I believe this World Cup has brought in a shift in the tides. Brazil has some serious work to get ready for 2014, especially since they’ll miss out on qualifying. Team play has taken precedent over individual talent.”

    Very little is new in this game. Only the players change. Spain’s 4-2-3-1 formation is not new, in fact that is exactly the same formation that Holland has played for a few years now and prior to the World Cup final, went undefeated with for about 25 games.

    As for Brazil, don’t worry about them. They are at home and are already the prohibitive favorite. All they have to do is sort out what “style” they think will be the best, and then bring Big Phil back around 2012. They are the last team to worry about.

  4. A “tough and physical brand of soccer” — where exactly is the dividing line between “tough and physical” and crude and thuggish? By your criteria, it would appear that the Dutch could do anything and still avoid being accused of negative and cynical play just as long as they were penalized. Your other comment is an even more telling indictment of your real attitude toward sport — “It was a game to be won by any means necessary within the rules of the game.” In your world where do things like sportsmanship. fair play and the spirit of the game fit in?? BTW — I have supported both the Spanish and Dutch teams for years. It was 15 minutes into the contest when I realized that only one team was there to play soccer.

  5. The facts remain:
    Advantage calls are still cardable, and since Puyol got off scot-free, there’s no way in hell that Heitinga should’ve been sent off.

    Your blind ignorance of the facts and unique dislike of rape also fails to excuse Ives’s poor reasoning as it pertains to Robben.

  6. I realize everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but I’ve got to wonder about the credibility of someone who says that Spain was the most deserved champion. The Spanish flop-fest was a disgrace to the game, and their short passing possession style, while pretty to watch, is, quite frankly at the same time, very boring. It was effective enough to win the title, but I thought there were far more entertaining teams to watch. Spain didn’t play the game the way it was meant to be played, in my opinion. You can keep possession and still take risks, something the Spanish avoided at all costs.

    No matter if you’re a die-hard or a casual fan, the most entertaining, most exciting moments of the tournament when you had both teams racing back and forth, with end-to-end runs and spectacular saves. The closing minutes of USA/Algeria, Netherlands/Uruguay, THOSE are the times that make people fall in love with the game. The flopping (I’ll never forget Iniesta acting like he was shot on the near sideline, rolling around for four seconds, realizing he wasn’t getting the call, then getting up and delivering a cheap shot seconds later) is disgraceful, and, in my opinion, a far greater cause for alarm than any refereeing gaffe.

  7. I have to believe that your post is a cry for attention. If not then you have to be the poorest analyst of soccer in the universe!!
    You say that the US can play this game because “we have lots of guys who can pass sideways with the best of them”. IN YOUR DREAMS and theirs!! Have you actually watched Xavi, Iniest, et al!!! Their control is so good that you can’t tell where the trap stops and the pass begins. Even their ability to shield the ball is a work of art. Please don’t allow your genes to be replicated for the good of the game!!

  8. Adriano — great comment on the reason for “embellishment”. I get really tired of listening to all the frustrated NFL fans who whine about diving. How about a little concern for the strikers who are continuously hacked and kicked with no fouls being assessed. That doesn’t mean that I’m not frustrated with people like C.Ronaldo. I’m just tired of some people thinking that you have to be built like an NFL fullback to play as a striker.

  9. umm…De Jong and Van Bommel created the ugly final with their hacking.

    Spain may have made it “boring” in your eyes but that style did not create the ugliness- Holland’s midfield maulers were responsible for that.

    Read quotes from other players who play against those two (or along side as Donovan did w/ VB) and I think one might find that they both embody tackling ugliness.

    Other teams have managed to knock Spain (or Barcelona) off of their “tip-tap” rhythm- it just takes a careful balance which neither De Jong nor Van Bommel were able to do on Sunday.

    I agree though, that one can definitely appreciate soccer just favor a different style. I think that in this modern game the tip-tap might be the best way to win, even if it’s not as beautifully flowing as one (such as myself) would like to see.

    Carefully controlling possesion from side to side until a space is created makes a lot of sense to me. I think any player would rather have that possesion Spain does as opposed to chasing it & that pretty much sums it up for me.

  10. haha Ruud,

    I think you are right about MVB. You also have fair points. De Jong did deserve a red as he did against Holden.

  11. Thanks Ives. I agree that the Dutch final was negative and cynical.

    I am just trying to understand the philosophical / aesthetic definition of “negative and cynical” soccer, when it is not quite as easy as the Dutch final performance.

    So I take it that most people accept the Suarez handball as a good “professional foul” and not cynical?

    What about “catenaccio”? Is that a “negative” way to play soccer – lock down your own half and maybe win a 1-0 game on a counterattack? It’s not a pretty game to watch for sure.

  12. What I object to about De Jong is that he is not that smart.

    When he broke Holden’s leg, he was roundly criticised in Holland because it was felt that that sort of stupid foul (it was unnecessary in the context of that game) would get him red carded in the World

    Cup. His kung fu kick on Alonso was even stupider but it didn’t get him red carded, go figure. The Dutch have always had lots of nasty guys but they were usually a lot more discreet in how they went about their business. DeJong might as well just set himself on fire since he loves to draw attention so much.

    Pleae don’t insult Keane, Gattuso and Davids by mentioning DeJong in the same breath.

    In VBM’s case, I think he is such a psycho and has been for so long that everyone forgets what he does is a foul most of the time.

  13. Well it’s funny you say that because I’m not Dutch nor am I Spanish and I nearly fell asleep for long stretches of the game.

    “Just like you said, that tactic has only worked for two teams, that clearly show that it doesn’t work.”

    Of course it works. That fact that it worked for only two teams tells you it’s not easy to do, not that it doesn’t work.

    “Any realistic fan knows that although the US beat Spain that type of game only takes you to some point. If you want to go beyond you can’t just wait for your opponents. ”

    I disagree. It is entirely possible that the only reason Holland did not win is because Robben screws up a chance he scores on 90% of the time. So I ask you, if Holland are World Champs the game plan would have worked for a third team. How far “beyond” that do you want to go?

    As for Brazil, they are succesful because they have more good and great players than just about anyone. They can play just about any “style” they choose and win World Cups. And they have done so. They have won being physical and ugly ( 1994) and by playing the beautiful game (1970) and have done it with in between styles.

    Spain plays the way it does because that is what seems to suit their current crop of players best. It is also not a coincidence that the core of the Spanish team are basically Barcelona and that is an enormous advantage for a national team since they don’t have to think too much about styles, tactics and formations, etc., unlike many other nations.Why make it hard on yourself.

    For National teams, it always comes comes down to who is available to play and how are they to be organized to get the best out of them.

    If you want to be successful that is alwys the main consideration.

  14. I am so surprised to see all of this about the dutch being hacks and what not. Everyone has known since the begin of time that de jong and van bommel were hacks. Outside of that who was bad?

    I also think the dutch were the second best team in the world cup. I enjoyed watching germany more, but when you watch the two games where they played the same opponent the dutch did much better. The dutch had more possession and scoring opportunities against the spanish than probably all of their previous opponents. No team played the spanish as evenly as the dutch did.

  15. you are a lunatic. ask ricardo clark how easy it is to keep possession in the middle of the field.

    the ugly soccer was played by holland who packed it in and fouled like crazy. would you like to see spain pump balls into the ball for their 5 foot nothing players to try to get on the end of?

    do you realize that almost every team packs it in against spain because if they didn’t spain would exploit them for multiple goals? spain plays that way partly by choice, but also out of necessity and they are crazy good. to discredit their play is ridiculous

  16. I would think so, unless he just wants to show other teams he can cut it in the EPL. Who knows, Blackpool could start out hot like Burnley last year, but almost always those teams fade down the stretch.

  17. I just read that. I think Gladbach is a better place to play, and MB is too good for a newly-promoted relegation-bound team. It’d be crazy for him to go there, don’t you think?

  18. I can’t respond to who comes to this blog but a lot of the comments have become silly.

    I readily admit I thought Spain would go out in the Quarters and Brazil would win the World Cup, but there seems to be zero objectivity in the soccer media in this country.

    The Dutch played a hard nosed game and failed to score when they had their 1 real chance. Otherwise, Spain was frustrated and it wasn’t until Fabregas came in and the red card happened that they took control late.

    And yes, I think De Jong and Van Bommel are thuggish – but that’s their game. It’s an old school style that served players like Roy Keane, Edgar Davids and Gattuso very well over the years.

  19. Exactly! this blog has become and extension of the great FOX news net work. totally loosing any kind of objectiveness. Don’t blame the fans for expressing their feelings on this blog but I do blame the journalist for loosing the reality of the game in their love for Spain.

  20. Man, some of you really don’t know what you’re seeing. The US team could side pass and hold possession? LOL.
    The Spanish midfield is easily the best in the world, every team they play knows it, and refuses to try to outplay them. Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso, and Fabregas are amazing to watch. They are developed to the point that our basketball point guards are, and it will take generations for us to produce midfielders who can hold the ball like they can.

    Our midfielders can’t hold the ball as well as their defenders. That’s not because our midfielders aren’t pretty good. It’s because the Spain midfield is an all-time great midfield. Legendary. I feel sorry for those who can’t appreciate what they’re doing.

  21. So right now in “Evil” Holland half a million “Evil” fans came to Amsterdam to honor the “Evil” dutch national team. I’m sure Ives will call that show of support to “Evil” team a disgrace too.

  22. What I love about all the articles like this one that are about the same all over is that Spain was the better team so they deserved to win.

    NOBODY ever mentions that Holland came into the game knowing they were going to have to foul and break up plays. Their game plan worked to PERFECTION…

    …until Robben missed a 1v1 with the keeper. The Dutch would have won the World Cup if Robben had made that shot and everyone would be praising how dogged and determined the Dutch played.

  23. Anybody else seeing the Michael Bradley to Blackpool rumors? I was sure hoping that he’d be able to make the jump to a mid-table team. But who knows, not sure Blackpool could afford a full transfer, maybe MB just wants to get out of Germany

  24. What I love about all the articles like this one that are about the same all over is that Spain was the better team so they deserved to win.

    NOBODY ever mentions that Holland came into the game knowing they were going to have to foul and break up plays. Their game plan worked to PERFECTION…

    …until Robben missed a 1v1 with the keeper. The Dutch would have won the World Cup if Robben had made that shot and everyone would be praising how dogged and determined the Dutch played.

  25. Ives, Holland Evil really??
    You are calling Stekelenburg, Mathijsen, Van der Wiel, Hijtinga, van Bronkhorst, Robben, Kuyt, van Persie, van den Vaart, Elia, Huntelaar, Braafheid and Sneijder Evil because DeJong and van Bommel make two horrendous tackles over 117 minutes?? or were all the tackles by the dutch studs up or elbows to the face??

    Looks like you are being thought well over there at Fox. Throw in some crazy statement and ignore the truth. That my friend is very very sad. In your eyes Spain did not make any hard tackles did not do any diving or begging for cards?? In your eyes the front line of Spain was not totally ineffective against the Dutch defense that kept them at bay for 117 minutes? The only thing that matters to you is that Holland did not let your team play the way you want them to play? I bet you would have praised Uruguay for putting up a good fight if they were the ones playing against spain and let me tell you they would have played just as physical and “Evil” as the dutch.

  26. I don’t think they play acted. Spain reacted to the Dutch aggressively fouling. I think it would haven been different had Holland’s fouls ocurred while getting the ball. Instead it was clear they were not fighting for the ball- just fighting. And that’s why it got so ugly- regardless of the way Webb called it.

    Who knows if Puyol’s interference would have even existed had DeJong been properly ejected. But I agree Robben did fantastically to stay on his feet- I feel bad for the aptly-characterized diver. He seems to have chosen the absolute worse time to do the right thing and play through. Or was it that the interference was not egregious enough in the context of what was going on in the whole match?

    I agree…the scoreline could have gone either way. Though I doubt there would be many times where Ramos misses an uncontested header on goal and Villa shanks 2 point blank volleys (w/ Fabregas’ effort cancelling out Robben’s).

  27. At first glance, Spain’s style looks boring. But if they are able to dominate possession and keep the opposing team from scoring, then I cannot really argue; especially since it takes supremely technically proficient players to play that system well.

    Spain generates lots of chances, often being only one pass (or defensive lapse) away from generating a clear scoring chance. The fact they are able to maintain possession in/near the opposing team’s boxes just increases their chances of eventually breaking through just like they did in the 116th minute.

    I would’ve loved to see them try to dominate possession against Brazil.


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