July 12, 2010 - 06162398 date 11 07 2010 Copyright imago Sven Simon Spain Goalkeeper and Mannschaftskapitaen Iker Casillas ESP the from his Players surrounded is holds jubilant the World Cup vertical centre right front FIFA President Sepp Blatter SUI whiter Shawl and Jacob Zuma RSA r next to it Award Ceremony Winner happiness cheering Victory Ceremony Final Netherlands NED Spain ESP 0 1 n v at 11 07 2010 in Johannesburg Football Weltmeistschaft 2010 in of 11 06 11 07 2010 men Football World Cup National team international match Final Johannesburg Victory Winner World Champion Celebrations Award Ceremony Vdig 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd.

Taking stock of this World Cup is not a simple exercise for me. There are two strands of thought running through my head, and keeping them from tangling isn't easy. The direct obsession with the U.S. National Team and the disappointing end of their run means the rest of the tournament was an exercise in detached observation. Was I interested? Sure. But to say I was heartily enthusiastic about it would be wrong.

This leads to today, when empty kegs (because the World Cup is definitely kegger - Sepp does a mean keg stand), half-crushed Solo cups, floaters, cast aside vuvuzelas, and other sundry garbage litter the soccer landscape and everyone who gives a damn is casting their aspersions on the tournament itself (it sucked, clearly). If not a negative take on the World Cup itself, it's a negative take on the people who had a negative take on the World Cup. I almost feel obligated to give a negative take on the people with a negative take of the people with a negative take.

If I could keep all that straight on a Monday morning, I just might. I'm certainly turned off by all the hate, no matter who or what is the particular focus. There's an air of elitism to it all, as if by labeling this particular World Cup "poor" it proves the footy pallet of the hater is refined and sophisticated. I-have-a-blog-and-watch-a-lot-of-soccer-and-this-was-terrible-itis, or something less convoluted, exceeded only by the haughtiness of people intent on setting soccer above the "North American" fray by lecturing on how this tournament's value is above the heads of the casual sports fan. Spare me, on both counts.

No, it wasn't an overly riveting tournament. There were uplifting moments, solid performances, dramatic goals and mild surprises, but those are mostly outweighed by officiating blunders, stars coming up dim when it counted most, cynical play and defensive postures carrying many a day, and a final that contained all of those negatives. In fact, in microcosm, Spain 1, Holland 0 with everything that happened over the course of 120 minutes seems just about right in light of what occurred over the past 30 days. Not that there's any comfort in that for those of us who had no rooting interest.

When the hopes accumulated over the course of four long years, both for the glory of our particular team and for a compeition that perfectly encapsulates everything we love about the sport, are thrust upon a short tournament, the potential for disappointment is massive. When the tournament happens during a period of strategic thinking dominated by negative tactics, the entertainment value is guaranteed to be lacking. We want the World Cup to be different from everything else going on in the footballing world; instead, it simply reflects it, compacts it, and parades it for the planet to see.

Spain are deserving champions. They scored less than we had hoped they would, but they resolutely played their style, made their own luck, and grittily soldiered through team after team (minus Switzerland, of course) determined to wall the Spaniards off with no regard for their own attack. The world was hating on Spain, and La Furia Roja played them all. That is what champions do.

It's unfortunate then, that Spain's first World Cup title is being buried under and avalanche of scathing reviews for the tournament as a whole. Spain's win is a setting right of the world after Inter ruined Barcelona's dream, a swing of the pendulum back toward good in the face of so much anti-soccer evil; as we examine the events in South Africa over the course of the past month, it's important to note that in the opinion of most connoisseurs, the right team won. If we want our World Cups to give us the most worthy champion, this one was a success.

In the end, the strands will tangle because my appreciation of South Africa 2010 will always rest on the good and bad it brought for the U.S. National Team. The tournament underwhelmed, but it's almost impossible to know how much of that is tied to my feelings of American disappointment; it's the end, and Spain have won. At least that part feels right.
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