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Saying Goodbye to the World

Is it really over? How can early morning games not be there? What will I do now that I’m not burning my eyes out on a TV screen or a computer screen watching games, replays, reading up on everyone. How cruel that it’s only every four years, but it means more because it is. The greatest event in sports draws to a close, the only one besides the odd Olympics and March Madness that I can manage to care about. The weight of history behind very match. The patience of such a game. The planning. The agony. The ridiculously attractive teams (yeah, it’s important to the female crowd so shut up). It’s all over.

On the last day, I had spent all day at work and barely managed to get myself released so I could tune in on Univision.com. I watched most of the match kneeling in front of my computer. It was far from a classic match with the dirty play early on dictating how the rest of the match would be played. There were a lot of Spanish chances and some clean Dutch chances that were not converted. Oh, the agony! But Spain prevailed on the back of a shot by Andres Iniesta who for the third time in the match had a clear shot and had wasted the two previous by waiting too long to shoot. They will run all night through the streets of Madrid tonight… less so in Catalonia. ¡Viva España! The larger part of the Americas celebrates with you tonight, like the Univision commentator said (paraphrased), “Wherever there is a Hernandez, a Ramirez, a Perez, all over the world, they celebrate.”

And now, with FIFA handing out its end of tournament individual prizes, I want in. Here’s my humble version:

MVP: An MVP is someone who means to most to his individual team. Diego Forlan was that man for unheralded Uruguay. Without him in the mix, they were nothing. No other player’s loss would have been felt more on the pitch. As someone wrote, who knows what he would have done if he’d been born a few miles southwest. David Villa is a strong runner up since it was his finishing that delivered Spain into the semis before he was hurt by the new formation upon Del Bosque pulling Torres from the lineup.

The How-To-Lose Award: Germany. They deserved to go to the final at least and it was only thanks to some unfortunate way the draw was made up and some early flameouts by big teams that they ended up playing the superior Spain in the semis and not in the finals, where it should have been. The real final was the semi between Spain and Germany. Classy words by Joachim Low after that match. Immense dignity from all the young players and some of the older leaders. This is how you lose. Germany historically would be a team I would never root for, but this one almost made me want to. They have years, though. They’re so ridiculously young. I imagine they’ll win a World Cup yet and I won’t begrudge them it and neither should you.

The Never Say Die Award: Uruguay. They went down fighting to the Netherlands and simply refused to give up. You don’t often see furious rallies in football simply because of the difficulty of scoring a goal, but that match came close.

The Zinedine Zidane Controversy Award: This is given to the player whose action on the pitch had tongues wagging more than the actual match in question: Luis Suarez, whose handball is still being replayed on ESPN. Nothing may ever match the infamous headbutt but Suarez came the closest this World Cup with his deliberate handball against Ghana that got him sacked from the game and the next, but it gave his team a chance. I can’t say I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

The Miss Congeniality Award: This is awarded to the team that showed the scrappiest sportsmanship and had the unlikeliest rooting for them. The United States. Thanks, guys, for making us look good in the eyes of the world who tends to hate US supercilious, ignorant behavior. You actually got 19 million of your countrymen to watch the game against Ghana, making a sport with no timeouts and minimal commercial breaks for a moment popular in an infamously attention-bereft nation.

The Showmanship Award: Argentina. So offensive-minded that they lead the tournament in goals scored while still in it before being rubbed out by Germany. All of their supporters knew they had a weak back line but what did it matter when they scored goal after goal after goal. Little Leo Messi slicing up midfields to feed his strikers goals on a silver platter, doing for them what Xavi and Iniesta do for him in Barcelona. Maradona on the sidelines looking like a benevolent Santa Claus of sorts, kissing all his players, cheering everything, spewing out quotable line after quotable line. Is was pure theatre. But if you live by the sword, you also die by it. They paid for their lack of defense but once gone, they were the team most missed.

The Goal of the Tournament: Let’s face it, there were a lot of great goals scored. There always are and it’s hard to nail one down, so I had to base it on the one that got me off the couch with a loud exclamation. That goal would have to be Carlos Tevez’ second goal against Mexico. It was a perfect kick and the power, passion, and drive he got off that perfect kick while also silencing any nannering about the first goal went unequaled in the rest of the tournament. Messi may be the head of the Albicelestes but Tevez is the heart and in those seconds, he proved it. It’s uncanny how the goal of the last tournament in Germany 2006 was eerily similar and also by an Argentine (Maxi Rodriguez) against, who else, Mexico. Honorable mention would have to goal to David Villa against Honduras, that sliding beauty that beat three defenders and the keeper.

The John Barrymore Award: This one’s not a positive one and it goes to Arjen Robben. I lost all respect for him and his Dutch teammates and possibly his whole frigging country for his clowning around that nearly ruined the final. Just play ball, jackass. A columnist called his faking injury “Robben falling like a clubbed seal”. Great simile. I was disappointed to find out the man is only 26 (though he looks 40) and we’ll have to see his crap in Brazil in 2014. Team Ghana is a runner up. Why they became such a darling of the tournament is beyond me.

The Walk of Shame Award: France, everything about them.

The Biggest Big-Name Flop: I have yet to see any brilliance out of Cristiano Ronaldo. If he wants to play by himself, he went into the wrong sport.

Most Missed: I loved Fernando Torres in 2006, all blonde hair and bravado. Where was he? Nowhere. He hurt his team and looked a moment away from tears throughout the tournament. I kept hoping for something but it never came.

Grandest Entrance: I had never heard of David Villa before this tournament. in Germany 2006, work prevented me from watching a lot of the Spain games and out of them, I remember Torres the most. But King David burst on the scene in a big way by single-footedly keeping Spain in this thing until someone else stepped up to score. And he’s 5’9″. None of his goals were easy tap-ins, they required creativity and doggedness. Brilliant. Viva Villa. Juan Carlos owes him a drink.

The Jon Stewart Media Award: Univision. Thank you for saving us from the sterile ESPN coverage with their tap-water-in-the-veins British commentators and their clueless American sidekicks. Thanks for airing the games online (ABC is stupid). Thanks for the *love* of football. Thanks for the asides, for the heartfelt valedictions, for the heated arguments, for the real feel of football.

Thanks, South Africa, for hosting. Thanks for the 32 teams for showing up. Thanks to FIFA for arranging it. The one good thing about this wild, beautiful month being over is I will no longer have to hear whining about officiating, suggestions for rule changes, or the idiotic drone of the vuvuzelas.

Goodbye, thanks for the game.

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