Same old, same old: Europe wins the World Cup

2010-07-07 08:55

The World Cup champions will be European. Either Dutch, Spanish or German, to be precise.

Hang on a second, the old continent hogging the summit of world football, haven’t we seen that before?

Well, yes.

Four years ago, in fact.

Remember Italy winning and the head-butt that rocked the world by French captain Zinedine Zidane?

And the truth is, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Four weeks and 61 matches into the first World Cup in Africa – there’s just one semifinal, Sunday’s final and the third-place game still to play – have reaffirmed a cold, hard fact: The sport’s centre of gravity is still, and perhaps more than ever, in Europe.

Africa proved at this World Cup that it is more than capable of hosting the biggest single event in sport but that it also is nowhere close to winning it.

Ghana was the only country to make a real impression and even it got no further than the quarterfinals.

Thank you, Brazil, for letting someone else win for a change. The five-time champions were nowhere near their dancing, awesome best in South Africa.

The Brazilians are organising the next World Cup in 2014 and must regroup, perhaps unearth a new Pele if possible, if they want to win it and add a sixth gold star to their bright yellow jerseys.

Thanks, too, to Argentina for a bundle of goals and for lighting up the World Cup with the passion and quirkiness of Diego Maradona, Argentina’s greatest player who discovered that coaching wasn’t as easy as he used to make scoring seem.

His philosophy of swashbuckling attacking football was the necessary antidote to the dull defensive fare served by teams so unambitious that we’ve already forgotten they were also here.

Switzerland, Algeria, any others?

And thanks to Uruguay for giving the World Cup its pantomime villain, Luis Suarez.

At the very end of an absorbing quarterfinal, he illegally used his hands to block what would have been a match-winning goal for Ghana.

But that cheat also proved to be a Pyrrhic victory for Uruguay.

As punishment, football’s governing body Fifa made him sit out last night’s semifinal against the Netherlands at Cape Town’s ghostly white and brand new Green Point Stadium.

The Dutch captain, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, lit up the match with a moment of beauty.

His goal after 18 minutes of constricted and flat football – neither side wanted to make a mistake in a game of such importance – whooshed into the top corner of Uruguay’s net.

He thwacked the ball from 36m out at a top speed of 109km/h.

So often at this World Cup similar shots have zoomed frustratingly over the crossbar.

Players have blamed their lack of control on the Jabulani ball, said by some to be too fast and too light.

Of all the goals at this World Cup, only the very first of the tournament was better.

Siphiwe Tshabalala’s shot on the run for South Africa was both athletic and the perfect start.

The Netherlands will play either Spain or the most impressive side of the tournament, Germany, in Sunday’s final at the cooking pot-shaped Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.

Football art for art’s sake, the Dutch have been there, done that.

Total football, they called it.

Got them a place in the sport’s history books, but it left their trophy cabinet practically bare.

Now the Dutch are happy to just win, thank you.

They have reached the final playing not the prettiest football but perhaps the most pragmatic.

Defend well.

Score goals.

They have won all six of their matches in South Africa.

Like the Spanish, they have yet to win a World Cup.

And no European side has ever won the cup outside of Europe.

That will change on Sunday.

So it’s not all same old, same old, after all.

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