Monday, 12 July 2010

Spain vs Holland - Match Ratings

By Shane Thomas



It's been a mixed bag from the Spain captain in this World Cup but he was at his best here. Made two key saves to deny Arjen Robben, the first one being an absolutely belting stop. A good case can be made for Casillas being man of the match.


Made a buccaneering start to the game and was Spain's most potent threat early on. Added to this his height makes him a threat from set-pieces and he almost scored twice with headers, the second an absolute sitter. His defensive work was also solid, showing that he's come a long way from the liability at the back that he was a year ago.


It was his goal that got Spain to the final, but he can be vulnerable when on the turn and Robin Van Persie took every opportunity to stretch the Catalan's legs and make him uncomfortable. Could easily have been sent-off if Arjen Robben had followed his normal propensity to go to ground at any opportunity.


Has been below par in South Africa but was more solid in the final, and with Puyol struggling with Van Persie, he needed to be. His ability to play as an auxiliary midfielder was invaluable as Holland tried to choke the life out of Spain.


Came off second best in his battle with Robben, and he could have been wearing a Holland shirt with the overzealous nature of his tackling. Was better than normal when attacking but he remains the weakest link in the Spanish chain.


A combination of big-match nerves and being targeted in the early stages almost cost the Iberians dear. But he managed to regain his rhythm as the game progressed. Busquets is still very young and can be expected to be a mainstay of the Spanish midfield for years to come.


Has been one of the unsung stars of this World Cup, but was unable to dictate the midfield play as he would have wished, specifically his ability to influence things in the final third. It was this failing that necessitated his substitution for Fabregas.

XAVI (7)

I was in two minds about how to rate the little maestro. He was superlative in the first fifteen minutes as he oiled the wheels of Spain's passing carousel. But his impact was hit and miss in the thick of the orange assault. But even a below par Xavi is an asset and his passing became more threatening in extra time.


Was understandably selected ahead of Fernando Torres and brings an enthusiasm that gladdens the heart. But Pedrito's youthful exuberance led him to often choose the wrong option at the top end of the pitch. As I've said before, his time will come.


As William Shakespeare said, "all the world's a stage". And there's none bigger in football than the World Cup final. Iniesta was Hamlet, Macbeth & Lear all at the same time in Soccer City. I had an inkling that this could be his time and after a slow start he caught fire from the second-half onwards. He's been called 'the glowworm' by some and he lit up an occasion that was almost plunged into darkness by Holland's attempts at savagery. He will now go down in football history for time immemorial. Man of the Match.


Sad to see one of the stars of the World Cup misfire in its biggest game. Surprisingly he looked to be hampered by the enormity of the occasion. He had two good chances and should have scored with at least one of them. But Villa has a huge heart and played the unfamiliar role of target man with selfless aplomb.


I'm a big fan of Navas and think he would be a star in the Premier League. His appearance opened up the match, with him replicating his role he plays so well for Sevilla. His old-school style of wing play was a constant menace and if he can add a goal threat to his game he could be a certain starter for the new world champions in future.


It befuddles some how Fabregas fails to feature more often for his country. And while his fellow midfielders should be a clear answer to that question, Fabregas is making a habit of causing it to be asked periodically. His introduction for Alonso was pivotal to Spain's victory. For personal reasons I hope he doesn't depart for Barcelona, but any football fan would surely salivate of the thought of him developing his game further at the Camp Nou.



One of the few Dutchmen to do himself credit in the match. I've always viewed him as an accident waiting to happen, an opinion given further credence by his woeful display in the semi-final. But Stekelenburg commanded his box well and made some crucial saves to prolong the tension before Iniesta's decisive intervention.


Spain's forward threat meant that he never got a chance to show his attacking skills, but defended reasonably well. Was booked for a bad tackle on Iniesta in extra-time, but was not the worst offender in an orange shirt.


He's dished out quite a bit of humble pie over the past month to people like me who think that Heitinga is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none at his best and completely overrated at his worst. Well he obviously forgot to turn the oven on this time. He was one of a host of culprits who tried to turn the game into a nightclub brawl and he could have been red carded earlier than he eventually was.


Amongst the attempted brutality that was displayed in Johannesburg, Mathijsen was a model of restraint. He defended stoutly, but fully within the moral and actual laws of the game. Will have painful regrets however, for missing a clear chance at the other end.


Finished his career in defeat, but was impressive until the appearance of Navas. The Spaniard led the Holland skipper a merry dance but he deserves credit for not resorting to mistaking the Spain players for the ball. It's a pity he couldn't get his teammates to follow suit. His excellent covering tackle to deny Iniesta only ended up delaying their defeat.


The two sides of Van Bommel: Thug, hate-figure, nightclub bouncer posing as an athlete, a man who belongs in a cage. Or a crucial screen in front of the defence, deep-lying playmaker, pivotal to the balance of the side. While I lean towards the former, he showed both sides of himself. But his on-pitch behaviour was still disgusting. The bottom line is that not only did Van Bommel underperform, but he is an odious man and the biggest injustice of the past month is that he didn't get sent-off once.


It seems the influence of Van Bommel has spread to De Jong, as his attack (can you think of a better verb) on Xabi Alonso was one of the most sickening things I've seen in South Africa - and this was a nation that openly practised bigotry for decades. If karma truly exists than he should be in for a severe kicking when he returns to action for Manchester City.


Quiet early on, but as the game progressed, so his threat increased. A good performance from the Bayern Munich man, but the bottom line is he missed two great chances that would have given the Netherlands the World Cup. When his chance came to seize the occasion he choked.


He gave Robben an delicious through ball that the winger should have scored from. But otherwise he had a wretched evening. His passing was awful and he resorted to kicking anyone in a black shirt. Another member of the Dutch side who should hang his head in shame.


His effort can never be faulted, but that's insufficient for the the Premier League, let alone the World Cup final. Kuyt was poor in the final third and should probably have been substituted earlier. It says a lot that I can give him props for not joining Holland in giving it their best shot to turn a football match into a rugby contest.


Has been physically undercooked all tournament, but Van Persie battled like a lion and made life difficult at times for the Spanish defence. He was one of the few on the pitch who deserved better. A man let down by his team-mates.

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