We could debate for hours, days, months, years , perhaps until the next World Cup in Brazil, but there can never be a definite answer to our perambulations, our speculations on what could have been. England fans will berate Sepp Blatter and other FIFA officials for not bowing to demands for the introduction of Hawk-eye technology: Frank Lampard’s goal would have been allowed and a recharged, rejuvenated England side would surely have thumped Germany into submission. Or so they would have us believe.
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What if Luis Suarez had not succumbed to his heart-felt instincts to prevent the Ghanaian goal, throwing his hands at the ball, to stop it from crossing the goal-line. I wonder if Suarez is a betting man. If so, he surely knew that the odds of saving a penalty kick were much better than expecting a magical tailwind to swerve the Jabulani ball away from the goal line and towards safety. Did that thought cross his mind?
His words describing the incident were something on the lines of Maradona’s Hand Of God. Funny how Maradona gets quoted by all the cheats. Perhaps, they hope that his cheeky greatness will gloss over the heinousness of their folly.
But this article is not going to dwell on the Uruguayan fortune in entering the semis on the back of a piece of impudence by a suave Suarez , a hero to his countrymen , who has been termed – tongue-in-cheek – the best goalkeeper of the tournament. His save on the line was ,arguably, the most significant save of the tournament.
Our hearts and minds went out to that man from Ghana- Gyan – who had till then not missed a single penalty. And in that instant of despair, his stricken face told the story. In that moment , all our hearts cried for Africa, for Ghana, for Gyan. We were one in solidarity with the Ghanaian team. But those are the rules of the game: a handball deserves a penalty and a red card. And that is how it is. To twist a cliché: Abide By The Rules, Die By The Rules.
But then perhaps , it is fitting that the two protagonists of handball incidents in the quarter-finals, Suarez and Mueller, found themselves sitting out the semifinals. Uruguay succumbed to a superior Dutch team on the day. The score-line flatters to deceive ; it was 3-2 to the Dutch. The Dutch were ascendant for most of the match, their superiority never in doubt.
Germany fell to a determined Spain who stifled their attacking style of play. The Germans were much too overawed of their worthy opponents. But a Spanish team that lifted the World Cup with the least amount of goals scored by any winner , is not much of a story to write about , much as we try to attribute to their players Brazil-like qualities calling each of their players Messi-like. If so, we should have seen many more goals on the scorecard.
Spain were called a Barca clone with seven players from Barcelona. A triumph for Barca as well. Maybe there’s poetry in Spain’s passing ,movement and ball-control. Perhaps, that makes for entertaining football endearing them to the discerning viewer. But I prefer to see my soccer played with a lot more goals. A slow waltz was what Spain brought to this World Cup. Results count though and despite this relative ineptitude at the goal-mouth Spain still run home victors. For the important thing is , that they scored and won when it mattered.
The Dutch may count themselves unlucky that they lost their only match of the tournament to Spain in the final. Can Spain count themselves equally lucky that they did not have to play the South American powerhouses, Argentina and Brazil?
History ,however, will leave us no wiser after a while; it rarely does. All we see looking into the past are numbers and dates and they don’t tell a tale.Numbers rarely do.
The Heart Of Diego
It was the other Diego, Diego Maradona ,who stole all the headlines, even from his hugely enthralling Argentinean team and that artist Messi. But it was Forlan , who was the heart, the brains, the schemer for the talented Uruguayan team; Forlan, who made the African stage his own. Uruguay, who won the inaugural edition of the soccer World Cup, came to this World Cup with a mission – to claim their rightful place in the constellation of South American stars. The Gods were kind to them else it would have been a no-show for South American teams at the World Cup semifinals.The stout-hearted Forlan is no longer forlorn; this Manchester United reject was the cornerstone on which the edifice of the self-doubt conquering Uruguayan team was built. Forlan, with his five goals in the tournament, led from the front. He was the general marshaling his resources astutely to greater glory. He shone the light and the team followed. The Golden Ball is deservedly his.
But what more should be said or written of this Uruguayan team who bettered their more talented, richer, better-equipped South American counterparts? A team that reached the final four and though beaten in their matches against Holland and Germany respectively, were never disgraced. It was not as though they looked as though they did not belong. Against Holland they were on parity at half-time. And against Germany, they led briefly 2-1. They were there to entertain, and they did! They won hearts, uncolored and unprejudiced by their only aberration , a moment of sane madness by a devilishly inspired Suarez. Uruguay have won the World Cup twice before. Once in 1930, the inaugural edition , and again in 1950. But none expected them to earn similar laurels this time around. But they belied expectations to finish fourth. This is their 3rd fourth place finish. They were fourth at the 1954 and 1970 editions of the tournament. Overall, not a bad effort from a team ranked sixteenth in the world and third in South America.
Tainted? Yes. Beaten? Yes. Disgraced? No.