July 13, 2010
Time to reward exceptional behaviours. Let me hand out the 2010 World Cup Alternative Prizes:
1) The Lloyd / Harry watching the South Bell Commercial Award to the most stunning emotional break down goes to myself, and not because those tears at the airport when I was coming back for the Final. I took my flight, arrived in Joburg, hit the bars with my friends on Saturday night and woke up Sunday morning not even knowing where I was. We had lunch while repeating constantly one to another: ‘ We’re going to watch the World Cup Final… and Spain are playing!!!!’ We sounded like teenagers, sheer happiness and joy all day long.
I owe you a quick explanation before my last couple of posts. It has to do with the predictions I wrote at the end of the Spain – Holland preview.
My five (not so) random predictions were:
1) Xabi Alonso will score off a long-range shot.
2) Casillas will have at least three awkward moments with the Jabulani.
3) Del Bosque will not replace more than one player during the first 85 minutes of the match.
4) Howard Webb won’t show more than two yellow cards and won’t award a penalty kick to either team, regardless of what happens inside both areas.
5) Remember those US$ 200 that I saved? I’ll have spent them in food and drinks within 18 hours of my arrival in Joburg.
July 12, 2010
I just got back to my hotel from a huge night in Joburg, celebrating Spain's World Cup victory. As you can imagine, it's been a pretty intense day, from the preparations in the morning, the trip to the stadium, the nerve-wrecking 120 minutes, and of course, the post-match celebration. I'll write something more detailed tomorrow, but here's a few thoughts before I go to bed:
July 10, 2010
After getting rid of most of my emotional baggage in the previous post, and having managed to arrive safely and timely in Joburg early this morning, here I am, back in top form. Nice to be in what amounts to my ninth South African hotel in just over 15 days…
With no further ado and for the last time during this tournament, let’s go through what Spain need to do to beat their final opponent, in this case the Dutch. A sizeable part of this ‘insight’ – that was the modest me writing – comes from having watched every single match the Dutch have played during this World Cup, with specially significant data taken from their win against Brazil. I can’t deny that some other part of the article comes, with no small quantity of pain, from being a Real Madrid supporter, and therefore very familiar with the likes of Robben, Sneijder and, of course, Van der Vaart's girlfriend.
It’s been a very bizarre week.
After spending most of the World Cup in Joburg, the fact that I had to fly back home and watch the semi-final in front of the TV, rather than at the stadium, felt weird and frustrating, even though that was exactly what I did two years ago in Austria, and ended up working quite well.
Then Spain played a match as close to perfection as I have seen them play in a while, defeating a worthy and traditional opponent and reaching their first World Cup final in history. I have to confess that I didn’t know what to do to celebrate. A couple of years ago, all this was well beyond my wildest dreams. Actually, some of my wildest dreams, such as dating Beyoncita or driving an Aston Martin, seemed much more feasible than seeing Spain reach that Final.
July 7, 2010
You can easily imagine that words can hardly describe what I feel right now. After a sensational display, Spain defeated Germany 1-0 and made it to the final of a World Cup for the first time in the country’s history. This utterly dominating performance against a German side that had demolished England and Argentina leaves no doubts: this Spanish squad raise their game when it is required, and fully deserve to be in the final.
From a Spaniard’s point of view, and given our country’s consistently awful performances in previous World Cups, there is nothing better than taking a look at the semi-final view of the Fixtures & Results icon and see Spain’s name there. Since the match after Paraguay ended, I have been refreshing the page every five minutes to check that my team are still there, and when I see the red and yellow flag I can’t help a huge grin of satisfaction. It’s good to be (almost) the king.
July 4, 2010
Casillas: our match hero, indeed. Let the record show that Cardozo’s penalty kick was Iker’s second full block of the Jabulani in the whole tournament. At the very end of the match he had another key double save, although I should mention that he only needed to reject Santa Cruz’s attempt because he hadn’t grabbed the ball when Cardozo first shot… and he should have. But when all is said and done, we'll remember his penalty kick save, another epic moment to be added to the legend of the Real Madrid keeper, who once again came up big when it was most needed.
July 3, 2010
Quick impressions after a match that will undoubtedly cost me at least five years of my life…
1) Had someone told me that this Spanish team would reach the first semi-final round of their history by scrapping 1-0 wins, struggling mightily to create chances, suffering terribly to finish teams off, and owing goddess Luck a good deal of their survivorship in this tournament, I would have never believed it. This is clearly not the team that won Euro08.
I am finishing this late, late, late preview of the Spain – Paraguay match sitting on the floor of the extremely crowded Media Centre at the Ellis Park stadium, just two hours before kick off. Technical difficulties prevented me from posting this early in the morning, as I intended. Apologies, let’s get started.
July 1, 2010
I guess I’ve already said that these off days between Spain’s matches are way too long. And if those days don’t even have any football at all, they feel like 48 hours long. The whole media centre becomes a large discussion forum in which journalists, like fans posting comments, argue endlessly about Torres vs. Llorente, one vs. two defensive midfielders, or Iker vs. any of the other two goalies. And the fact is that Del Bosque has already made up his mind on every single one of those issues, so we’re pretty much wasting time and energy discussing all this.