The world, it has been discovered, is round and revolves around a ball. Some are skeptical, but scientists are working out the details.
Spain are World Cup champions now, and rightly so. They played a more positive, attacking form of soccer throughout the month-long tournament and proved they are the most talented and deepest team in the world.
As for the World Cup final, much like Sigourney Weaver, it wasn’t pretty as much as it was compelling. Long gone are the days of unlimited dribbling and step-overs.
To compete at the highest level of international play in today’s game, teams must play defense like the Italians, work like the Germans and pass like the Dutch. This year’s Dutch team did everything reasonably well except play like the Dutch. Tactically, the strongest alternative is to play like Spain.
Spain dominated possession for the first 15 minutes or so, and played high up the field and deep in the Dutch half. The Dutch side kept up to nine players behind the ball in defense, inviting pressure and playing for the quick counter. Spain’s David Villa had three through balls that got behind the Dutch defense and looked threatening. Holland then moved higher up the pitch and worked to put pressure on Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso – the two who were distributing the ball to Villa and Spain’s front line.
This worked well, but Holland’s main striker – Arjen Robben – was running into traffic every time the left-footer tried to cut in. Spain’s Busquets, Alonso and Xavi worked well together to occupy the space Robben prefers to use.
It quickly became obvious that Holland was using muscle tactics and fouls to try and disrupt Spain’s game. In Spain’s La Liga, this strategy is occasionally employed by teams in the bottom of the league against Barcelona (who was represented by seven players on the Spanish national team in the final), the idea being to rotate fouls against opponents' creative players in order to break up the rhythm of the game.