The blogging, the catching-up on taped matches at 2 a.m. to the detriment of sleep, general health and personal hygiene, it all comes to this.
At the end of the final, there will be a new country added to the list of World Cup winners. And with all the blogging about Algeria, the USA, and most recently Germany who impressed like no other collection of players in this tournament, it was no longer a matter of watching matches with a critical eye.
Holland was in the final and I was able to watch the Dutch without the need to commentate in an official capacity. No longer a "head" game, this would be a "heart" game. The other cool thing about this match is that, because neither Holland nor Spain had won the trophy before, there would be no "The Cup's Coming Home!" rhetoric. Take the small wins where you can, folks.
The teams lined up and I knew we would not be in for as much excitement as Germany and Uruguay provided twenty-four hours previously. This would be a grind-out of two opposing styles that would come in fits. And the fits kept flying. Add to this another great kick into the gut of game excitement, Howard Webb was also officiating the final.
The game begins and already it becomes clear that Holland are out to bruise their opposition off the ball. Total Football is out the window. Total Thuggery appears to be in. That said, no one is solely to blame for the match having more cards than late-night TV poker. The Dutch tackled hard and were lucky not to be sent off several times. To fuel this, the Spanish side played in a manner that made me ask myself if the Spanish Diving Team ever broke into a football match as they left the platform and headed for the water.
And all of this under the watchful eye of Webb who did as Webb does: Chokes his inconsistent calls under the guise of fear to take a stand. Call after call went missed or not reacted to by the man who should have taken control way earlier on in this contest. When DeJong attempted to use Alonso's chest as a step-ladder, that should have sealed his fate and hopefully restore order to an already petulant match. By not making that and other proper calls, it felt like he lost the game at the coin toss.
It then became funny. With Webb running away from an off-the-ball incident, Webb returned to the scene of the infraction to see the damage done for the first time. At that point, he brings forth a yellow card, a familiar sight in this match. We thus learn that either Webb does in fact have eyes in the back of his head, or he is working on content for his new autobiography, "Booking Based on Hearsay". Arrogant, entitled, inconsistent; it appears that England is to refereeing as England is to football in 2010.
The game bores on and it and no one involved is coming off looking good in this. Spain are antagonistic, Holland respond, and all the while I get the feeling that FIFA honestly confused Webb with Pierluigi Collina. Spain bring on more players into the match for the extra time attempting to brake the nil-nil full-time score line, and the Netherlands do the same, bringing on Celtic's Braffheid who has his first look at the field in this entire tournament, and can barely get a start in the Scottish Premier League. It's now sinking in that probably Holland are not going to get away with this.
In the death of extra time, it happens. Spain slot home what ends up being the winner and the now poisoned chalice is theirs. Webb blows. THE WHISTLE...sorry about that. His pursuit by angry Dutch players do nothing to make them or him look better. It's an embarrassment on all sides. Add to this, Paul the Octopus was right. I hate it when cephalopods happen to get it right.
Yes, I wanted Holland to win. But they didn't deserve it based on the play. Neither did Spain for that matter. If ever I wanted Sepp Blatter to stand up and go, "You know what? You're both just awful. Germany, here you go." But for this I do blame Webb. He set the tone immediately making calamity after calamity happen escalating the vitriol between the sides and to show for it, we have a smash-and-grab result in a final that has double the number of cards ever given out in a World Cup final. Quite the legacy and a far cry from Webb's Saturday comments of referees not being thought of after the match.
Some miscellany to close up the game. As Webb and the other referees collected their medals, I tweeted, "Wow. Webb gets a medal. While we're at it, next up to get one, the fat guy from 'Seinfeld'." Yeah, I was bitter, what of it? More disappointed to be honest. With the way this tournament being as unpredictable as it was, psychic octopus aside, and seeing some genuinely exciting matches as we reached the end, it was a profound tournament to watch, to document, and enjoy. In many cases it shouldn't have ended this way, but it did. We can now all return to our homes, get on with our lives and wait another four years to reunite again.
But I was able to garner one chuckle as all the dust settled from the Andy-Capp-style battle cloud of a match. The CBC commentator stated that with Spain being the current holders of the European Championships and the World Cup, they're the first team to do so since West Germany in 1972. Um, watch France much?
Some of the mistakes in this final were not only found on the field.