Just like four years ago, the biggest star of the World Cup has hung up his boots after it. Like Zinedine Zidane before him, Paul the psychic octopus has had enough and opted for retirement.
Both used their heads to great effect in their respective tournaments, but it was ‘Okrakel Paul’ who used his to great effect throughout, correctly predicting all eight matches he was asked to and making a mockery of his chief rival, Mani the psychic parakeet, who declared The Netherlands would win the final. Hmmm…
It was of course Spain who won, as Pulpo Paul had predicted all along. If we had listened to him in the first place and just given the trophy to Iker Casillas it would have saved us the ordeal of a truly awful final. The players – Xabi Alonso in particular – would have been spared the ordeal of Holland’s filthy tactics, and the referee would have been spared the ordeal of “the most difficult two hours” of his career in which he issued 14 yellow cards and one red and should have issued more.
While technically brilliant, Spain are surely the most boring team ever to have won a World Cup. They scored a grand total of eight goals – the lowest total for any world champions ever – and they only have San Iker to thank for keeping their hides in it at all. The captain made crucial saves against Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and most notably Robben in the final. Simply put, without him they wouldn’t have won it.
Again Spain were happy to pass the ball around amongst themselves as they indulged in ‘tiki-taca’ between getting fouled. It took them 116 minutes to score the goal, during which time Holland should have been ahead but for the aforementioned San Iker and a desperate lunge which Carles Puyol was lucky to get away with.
La Furia Roja may have been the best team in the competition, but only if you consider possession a cornerstone of greatness. Forget the aesthetics of passing the ball around in the middle of the field far away from the danger area, the whole point of football is to put the ball in the back of the net and Spain failed miserably in that regard. Four 1-0 victories in a row is not a sign of greatness. Still they aren’t complaining in Madrid right now….
Germany played the best football at the World Cup, creating far more chances than their Spanish rivals and scoring twice as many goals. Crucially though – even with Jogi’s lucky blue jumper on board – none of them were scored against Vicente del Bosque’s men. They salvaged some pride against Uruguay but ultimately it was a hollow victory considering what could have been.
Overall, it was a pretty disappointing World Cup, with a fairly low standard of football compared to previous years. From an Irish point of view, the highlight was undoubtedly watching the French self destruct, closely followed by watching England’s bubble burst once again. Even the Three Lions’ attempt at a coup was upstaged by their friends across the channel. “We couldn’t even do that properly!” remarked one long-suffering guy I know.
For Africa it has to be a disappointment too, the continent’s limited involvement basically coming to an end when poor Asamoah Gyan’s penalty crashed against the bar in the last seconds of extra-time against Uruguay. The Ghanaian showed remarkable courage to take and score the first spot kick but it was always going to end in tears after that.
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Now that the whole thing is over South Africa is left to pick up the tab. Life for us non-cephalopods returns to normal and Paul the Oracle Octopus can look forward to resting his weary tentacles from now on. On Monday he was presented with a gold cup for his performances, a replica of the one San Iker got his tentacles on the day before. Despite it containing three delicious mussels however, Pulpo Paul chose to ignore it at first. Clearly an octopus who likes a challenge. Maybe he’s not ready for retirement after all…