Unpredictable Predictability

7 Jul

I’d imagine that fish restaurants from Hamburg to Leipzig will be sharpening their knives tonight in anticipation of a flurry of orders for the ‘kalamari special’ over the next few days. Unfortunately, schools of innocent squid will probably suffer terminal fates because of the uncanny ability of one of their distant cousins to correctly predict the result of all the matches involving Germany at this World Cup. Yet again, Paul the Octopus gravitated towards the flag of the victors in his tank at the Oberhausen Sea Life Aquarium and this time his prediction was Spain.

Of course, we can’t make too much of random sequences of cephalopodic undulation but to attach meaning to such random acts is part of the human need to make sense of the ultimately chaotic world we live in. Despite all the statistics, data and analysis at our disposal, the bizarre, unforeseeable and coincidental occur on a nigh-on daily basis; from lottery numbers producing instant millionaires to the tragic loss of a life before its time. Seeking to order chaos, in the end, is such a futile pursuit.

I had stated so early on in these blogs that the winner of World Cup 2010 would be from the South American continent. (see south-america) The basis for this prediction was rooted in a variety of reasons:

(a) the knowledge that European teams do not tend to prosper beyond the frontiers of their home continent and had never produced a winner,

(b) the assumption that South American teams would acclimatise better to the high altitudes of the host nation,

(c) the evidence being played out at that moment that saw such assurance and confidence on display from the likes of Brazil, Argentina, et al.

One by one the South Americans fell. Some were the architects of their own destruction (Brazil), others outplayed by stronger opponents (Chile, Argentina) whilst others were left to rue missed opportunities and bad luck (Uruguay, Paraguay). In the space of a matter of days, the Europeans managed to re-assert themselves on the international stage, produce three of the final four and make the lionising of the Latins by many of us seem, in the final analysis, rather ridiculous.

Tonight’s semi-final proved a step too far for the young German side. They were beaten by opponents who have a greater experience this level and can administer with such annihilating ease a ‘death of a thousand passes’. Spain had never got past a World Cup Final. Germany were in their tenth semi-final and had gone on to win three World Cups. The winners of the tournament were usually to be found in that exclusive club of seven nations who had previously emerged triumphant. Germany had scored the most goals at this tournament and for many were one of the most exciting teams to watch. Spain had become the masters of the 1-0 victory; playing intricately but without clinically frequent execution. With their victory, Spain have made sure that there will be a new country joining that illustrious band of winners on Sunday. Europe has won.

However, with that certainty I cannot help but feel sadly underwhelmed by it all. The Final is not the Final I had anticipated and if I’m being honest, wanted. In a World Cup that in many respects has failed to live up to the expectations many of us had hoped it would, it is perhaps fitting that we are to get a Final that will leave people thinking wistfully back to what has transpired and that melancholic ‘what if’ (see ifs-and-buts). This World Cup will not be remembered for its classic encounters. There has been no thrilling comeback. The host nation left its own party too early thus failing to carry the wave of its people on a magical journey. Those potential moments of exquisite poetry have been denied us, whether that has been via the raising of a hand or an inability of a coach to apply tactical nous to his unquestionable ability to enthrall and magnetise (see clones). The underdog, in the shape of Uruguay, Ghana or even New Zealand has failed to prevail with any true significance.

What we have been left with is a Dutch team that has reached its third final, without totally shining (see holland) and a Spanish team that plays to its strengths by using possession as its suffocating weapon. The result of this is that we are headed towards a potentially stagnant match in which both these teams negate the other, with ironically, each other’s predictability. As I have said before, both finalists are not beholden to any kind of fantastical notion of purity if the end justifies the means. The hunger for victory, in many respects, outweighs this.

However, waiting four years for this, collecting the stickers, replaying the old videos, putting up the wallchart and everything else that goes with a World Cup just doesn’t feel like it is worth the effort tonight. (see worldcupdreams). The very reason I started this blog was because of my enduring love affair with this tournament. The pragmatists may have got the result they set out for all those days ago. They may have wracked up the wins in the build-up. They may even have played the most technically sound football. But, I know I won’t remember this World Cup for either Spain or Holland. So on Sunday, I will be watching the Final with a sense of what might have been.

I would have dearly loved to have seen a Germany vs Uruguay final. Europe vs South America. Pioneers vs underdogs. Traditional winners vs forgotten trailblazers. The third-place playoff will hopefully see the shackles lifted and perhaps these two nations can give us the match we have all been waiting for. I dare them. Sunday can wait. As can my ‘kalimari special’.

Wednesday 7th July


Germany 0 – Spain 1


4 Responses to “Unpredictable Predictability”

  1. Frank Mortey July 8, 2010 at 07:49 #

    Great blog once again and I think I will agree with you that indeed, Sunday’s final would not in anyway be spectacular and that we would not see a real finale to see to the climax of the World Cup like in USA 1994, France 1998 and Germany 2006. The third place play off will rather bring the world a match worth it salt. But he prospect of what ifs and what could or should have been will also take something out of Saturday’s game. Both teams will be ruing their chances of not playing in the grand finale. But they would have to chin up, especially the Germans because they have played in the semi finals of the three major tournaments they have played in and that is no mean achievement in soccer. It also baffles me when people insist football is a team sports because the absence of just one person or the individual brilliant act of a person really does determine the outcome of a game. Shcweinsteigger, Podolski, Klose and Ozil were reduced to passengers because there was no Muller, likewise Kojo Asamoah and Kevin Prince Boateng had to tag along the Ghana Uruguay game because of the absence of Andre Dede Ayew. A tired, returning from injury and unimpressive Wayne Rooney saw England made a quick entrance and exist of the tournament their press made the whole world think all they had to do to win was to show up.

  2. Steve HUghes July 8, 2010 at 11:10 #

    Don’t be too sad mate, World Cup finals are often like this. Were Italy and France really the best two teams in 2006 or Italy and Germany in 1982? Should Germany have got to the final in 2002? Or Brazil in 98?

    Romance is fleeting in football and that’s why we crave it. It wouldn’t be the same if the heroes always triumphed. The Brazil of 1970 are so cherished because they broke the system and won the competition playing the best football in the most eye-pleasing fashion. It hasn’t been done since, and maybe it never will. Holland almost did it in 74 and Brazil should have done it in 82. If it had been done it would become the norm (or indeed the predictable). I’m not saying the best team never wins, but the teams the romantics want to win rarely do.

    Spain seem to have become a morph of the Arsenal teams of the 1990s (who won 1-0) and the pass pass pass don’t shoot Arsenal of now. It was always going to be tough for the Germans to come up against a side that were defensively sound and defensively minded. And I’ve no doubt Spain were even more cautious than usual because of what the Germans have done to teams who throw caution to the wind (or are just shit). It’s still a shame that they weren’t able to at least threaten the Spanish. It would have been some game if the Spaniards were forced to come out and play. Score first against them and Holland surely have a chance – and if that happens we may actually get the chance to see a good game. Here’s hoping……

  3. ianchanning July 8, 2010 at 12:59 #

    Don’t have a go at the Spanish just cause they keep hold of the ball. I’m going to love the final. I love the way the Spanish play and the way the Dutch play. The Spanish do nothing but attack but have it backed up by an organised defense and a brilliant keeper. What’s not to love?

    Its a new dawn. Two of the greatest teams to never win the world cup are in the final. Now there’ll only be one team with the claim ‘the greatest team to never win the world cup’.

    Bugger any sentiment, the world cup should be one by the best team. The Spanish and the Dutch have showed themselves to be just that.

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