Finals Preview: Paul the Octopus Predicts Spain Will Beat Holland… Is He Right?
After a month-long soccer adventure, we are only a couple days away from the World Cup Final. South Africa has put on a great show, definitely better than most of us felt they’d be able to pull off after hearing about crime, construction, and general third-world issues. The soccer itself has been somewhat subpar. Whether it be the complications around the Jabulani ball or the defensive mindset that seems to be overcoming the sport (Brazil’s coach, Dunga, thought it would lead his team to a championship and instead it led him to constant criticism and a search for a new job), the tournament didn’t necessarily put on the best show of the beautiful game. There were too many free kicks that sailed over the bar, not enough spectacular goals, and way too many questionable calls by referees. Still, it’s hard to think we have to wait another four years for this to come around again, although fans at least have the Euros and Copa America to stay invested in international soccer. Before we look forward to Brazil in four years, let’s hand out some awards and a Finals prediction.
Goal of the Tournament
Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Holland) vs. Uruguay
This goal just leaves you in awe. You wonder how he saw the angle, how he was able to put so much power on the ball, and how he was able to hit the corner of the net with such accuracy. Just an unbelievable shot.
Player of the Tournament
Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
While others may still be playing for the championship, it was Forlan who singlehandedly pushed Uruguay back into the international spotlight. Uruguay hasn’t been relevant since winning the World Cup in 1950, but Forlan’s goal scoring (four total) and leadership brought them to the forefront again.
Goat of the Tournament
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
I don’t know what the odds were, but I seriously wonder what you could’ve gotten before the tournament on Messi not scoring one goal in the entire World Cup. He was guaranteed to play three games and a fourth was predicted as Argentina was the favorite in the group. You expect much better from the so-called “best player in the world.”
Game of the Tournament
Uruguay vs. Ghana
The hopes of a whole continent were on the line as every African nation had united to back Ghana at this point in the Cup. Asamoah Gyan had a chance to do the unthinkable, bring an African nation to the semifinal, but he succ*mbed to the pressure of a game-winning penalty kick at the end of extra time. Uruguay went on to win in the penalty kick shootout with one of the cheekiest finishes from Abreu.
Spain vs. Holland
I don’t want to completely put down the tournament as rather boring (something English commentator Andy Gray has already gone on record with), but hopefully this final can leave everyone with good feelings about the sport for the next four years. It not only matches two teams who have never hoisted the trophy, but it also matches two of the most exciting teams in the world right now. Spain entered as the favorite to win the tournament and Holland has won 14 straight games to reach this stage. The quality on offer couldn’t be much higher.
The best way to add excitement to the game will be for the Dutch to score first. Spain’s possession offense can really slow the game to a sleepy pace, but the tempo might increase should they start to panic after falling down a goal. Holland has the ability to make this happen because they have some of the most creative players in the world. They showed their offensive prowess by scoring three against Uruguay and there are possibilities for goals against Spain. Spain has shown cracks in its defense against Portugal and Paraguay, but neither team was skilled enough to finish. The Germans just didn’t look themselves against Spain, so Holland hopes that that won’t happen to them, too.
All of this is easier said than done. Things look to be going Spain’s way. No European team has ever won the World Cup when not playing on their home continent, but we know that’s going to happen this year. No team has ever won the World Cup after losing its first game, but maybe that’s happening this year as well with Spain as the favorites. They haven’t looked magical winning their games, but they always seem to somehow find a way. Their confidence is high after beating the Germans and it’s the Dutch team whose defense faced more pressure entering the tournament and has yet to be tested.
La Furia Roja seem on the cusp of holding both the European Championship and the World Cup. They’ve been the best team in the world over the last four years. There’s no reason to think any differently now…
Prediction: Spain 2, Holland 1
Spain (-0.5) EVEN
Over 9.5 Corners -138