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World Cup Post-mortem part 1 July 6, 2010

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Dutch soccer, European soccer, German soccer, Spanish soccer, The World Cup.
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What’s that you say? “The World Cup isn’t even over yet! How can you think of doing a post-mortem?”

To that I say that the only sides that matter to me at the World Cup are the ones from outside Europe. Without teams from the other continents, it’s simply not the World Cup, because the World Cup is an experience richer because it allows new players and new ideas to take center stage in the footballing world. The final, whomever wins between Germany and Spain, will be 4-2-3-1 vs. 4-2-3-1, chic European technocrat vs. chic European technocrat, winger with defensive responsibilities vs. fullback with attacking responsibilities, and Champions League winning captain vs. captain who has at least reached the final of the champions league.

All this from a tournament that, at one stage, promised a reinvigoration of footballing ideas: South American demigods, careworn East Asian ghosts, Argentine revolutionaries, and Iron Curtain throwbacks in chintzy suits and chintzier ties were among the managerial stars. We suddenly discovered three-man defenses working in harmony with three-man attacks, lopsided systems that actually worked, goalscorers and speed-demon wingers repurposing themselves to remarkable effect as trequartisti.

And then nothing. It’s over. Who cares which European giant triumphs in the end? It’ll just confirm that Europe’s trendiest system is the one true God; that a slick, generously subsidized national youth development project in a large country with a sizable immigrant population can yield extremely effective footballers and very successful national teams when welded to a competent bureaucratic structure. That, readers, is not rocket science.

But when we look back on this World Cup, if we look back on it, unless we’re celebrating in roja or oranje on Sunday night, it’s unlikely we’ll remember anything about the Spanish or Dutch (except for what a resolutely negative presence Mark van Bommel is in our lives, and perhaps Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s thunderbolt). And if we remember the Germans, it will likely be in the context of the greater things the likes of Ozil, Muller and Khedira go on to achieve, and how funny it was when they were alloyed with Miroslav Klose, Arne Friedrich and Lukas Podolski.

On the other hand, it will be difficult to forget Diego Maradona’s touchline charisma, the absurd injustice of Ghana’s defeat, Marcelo Bielsa’s thrilling quixoticism, North Korea’s bizarre appearance, Slovakia’s thrilling victory over the World Champions, and at least four brilliant Uruguayan goals.

The final and the champion are of lesser importance. In the greater scheme of things, competent bureaucracy, devotion to youth, 4-2-3-1 win out, but it’s no surprise when things that are well funded and organized come out on top. We don’t watch the World Cup to see that. We watch to see what’s wild and new and free, or at least I do, and with the tournament now rid of all of that, I think we’ll call it a month, no?

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