In the first part of this series, completed at the end of the group stage, we concluded that the representatives of La Liga had out performed their Premiership equivalents. We took four of the most prominent players from each league, with no more than one country represented in each league, and aggregated their scores. The La Liga quartet, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Xavi, had scored 25/40. The Premiership quartet of Wayne Rooney, Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda and Carlos Tevez had only scored 15/40.
In the second part of this series we will follow up our review and decide conclusively which league has had more influence on the tournament and which has been better represented.
La Liga – Part 1 – 25/40
Lionel Messi –
Messi featured in two more matches, against Mexico and against Germany. In neither match did Diego Maradona choose a formation which helped his star player. With Maxi Rodriguez playing instead of Juan Sebastian Veron the attacking quartet of Carlos Tevez, Angel de Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi were deprived of the ball in advanced positions. Maxi Rodriguez was often running around chasing the ball when the plan was that he should be playing simple passes for Messi to then turn and run at the opposition defences. That Diego Maradona’s strategy failed also meant that Lionel Messi failed. His fate was directly connected to that of the team’s system. Against Mexico Messi had to take a backseat and watch Carlos Tevez steal the headlines. In the quarter final against Germany Lionel Messi was so frustrated he often had to drop into his own half to receive the ball. When his team really needed him is influence was minimal.
The metronome. Xavi has orchestrated the midfield for Barcelona and Spain for the past 3 seasons and his teams have in turn won the Champions League, La Liga, European Championships, World Club Championship, Copa del Ray, European Super Cup and now the World Cup. As time passes and memory becomes recorded history Xavi might well be remembered as the best midfielder of the decade. Against Portugal Xavi was efficient, against Paraguay Xavi was functional, against Germany Xavi was commanding and against Holland Xavi was exquisite. As always he passed the ball perfectly and he has timed his performances accordingly, improving as the tournament went on. Xavi completed 21 more passes than his nearest rival, Sergio Busquets, in the final. The aggression from Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong did not perturb him. He was a class apart.
Cristiano Ronaldo –
The Iberian phenomenon couldn’t transform his club form of the past 3 seasons onto the international stage. In terms of international tournaments Cristiano Ronaldo has probably never played as admirably as he did as a teenager in 2004 in his homeland during the European Championships which Greece won. He only featured once in the knock-out stage against Spain and struggled to impose himself on the match. He was deprived of service and support and revealed his frustration at Carlos Quieroz, the Portuguese manager, after the match for the tactics he had employed. Nevertheless, Cristiano Ronaldo was asked to operate in such a way because the coach, and most fans, believed he was capable of doing so. Unfortunately for Portugal he did not meet those expectations when Portugal really wanted him too. Constantly shooting from distance, thus frustrating his team mates who had worked hard to regain possession against the Spanish, whilst never threatening Iker Casillas meant that Cristiano Ronaldo ended up having a disappointing tournament.
After his suspension was completed, for the invisible attack he was accused of in the game against the Ivory Coast, Kaka was recalled to the side for the Chile match. He was truly impressive, creating chances for Luis Fabiano and threatening himself, and part of the reason why a majority of the press started to believe that Brazil were going to win the World Cup before their quarter final clash against Holland. Against Holland, for 45 minutes, all was going to plan. Kaka himself had a glorious shot saved that would have put Brazil two goals to the good. That Kaka’s effort was saved ended up changing the entire tournament. Brazil capitulated in the second half and once they found themselves down to 10 men and a goal behind with only a little bit of time left the whole of Brazil was hoping for a little piece of magic from Kaka or Robinho. Neither offered any. Kaka’s involvement in the knock-out stage was peripheral and he will be disappointed with his contribution. 5/10
La Liga Part 2 Total – 20/40
World Cup 2010 La Liga total: 45/80