When Spain and Netherlands stepped on to the Calabash for the final of World Cup in July early this year, there was an expectation that we would see something new. Not the dance of the Brazilians, not the mechanics of the Germans (though to be fair their team in 2010 WC was as un-German as it could get), not the catenaccio of the Italians. Possibly we were expecting the flair of the Spanish clashing with the total football of the Dutch. Instead, what we got was, in the words of this column in NYT:

The game, which ended in a deserved 1-0 win for Spain over a cynical Netherlands side thanks to Andres Iniesta’s winner four minutes before the end of extra time, was a spiteful affair of 13 yellow cards and a sending-off for Dutchman Johnny Heitinga.

I switched off the telly after the first half.

The exit of the French, the Italians and the English were, if anything, expected. A largely over rated squad of over paid football soloists who have been patched up to play could hardly have been expected to do much. The real surprise of the world cup were the Germans – Loew’s young squad made up of a motley crew of Turks, Ghanaians, Poles, Tunisians, Slavs and Germans displayed a brand of football more associated with Latin America. Schweinsteiger, Khedira and Oezil’s runs setting up Klose, Podolski and Gomes were truly worth watching and some of the few gems we would remember.

The player of the tournament of course was Diego Forlan.

Samuel E’too has been named African footballer of the year. His rivals were Didier Drogba and Asamoah Gyan. However, for me, the real star from Africa in this year’s World Cup was the Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama who kept Messi out of the score sheet.

We also have two new hosts – Russia and Qatar.

And India, who qualified for the 2011 Asian Nations Cup to be held in Doha sometime in Jan-Feb, have been losing all their friendlies recently putting to question 4 years of training regimen prescribed by Bob Houghton. And Bhaichung is not fully fit.

And finally a tribute to a coach who for a brief period made Italy an attractive team to watch – Enzo Bearzot.

“The miracle in Spain in 1982 took place, despite fierce criticism by journalists (who led him to introduce the novelty of the press blackout),” according to the Italian magazine, Oggi, which added in a blog post: “he managed to lead the national team to the top of the world thanks to moral preparation, based on the strength of group, as well as technical.”

What so angered the Italian press at the time was Bearzot’s insistence that the Italy team play an entirely different style from the defensive, conservative version of soccer practiced by most of the country’s professional teams.

“Enzo Bearzot transformed Italian football from a deadly labyrinth of ultra-defensive tedium into a modern compendium of lightning skills and progressive strategy which restored World Cup-winning glory to his country,” writes Jeff Powell, sports columnist for the Daily Mail in London, who covered Bearzot during the ‘82 World Cup.

“For me, football should be played with two wingers, a centerforward and a playmaker. That’s the way I see the game. I select my players and then I let them play the game, without trying to impose tactical plans on them. You can’t tell Maradona, ‘Play the way I tell you.’ You have to leave him free to express himself. The rest will take care of itself,” Bearzot had said.


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