In the end it was the artisans of Spain who rightfully triumphed over the hatchet men of Holland (whatever happened to Total Football?) in what must have been the most brutal World Cup final of all last night at Soccer City.
It wasn't the greatest World Cup ever and a lot of the actual football was disappointing (especially in the group stages) as were the histrionics of the teams representing England (that refers to you John Terry) and especially France. However, this was more then put into the shade by the wonderful spectacle that was Africa's first World Cup and the brilliant pass and move style of the new champions.
We wrote earlier in the tournament that cricket should heed a warning from football in the manner how money and celebrity has soiled what was once the People's Game (read Cricket's warning from football here). However, cricket could learn a lot from football in terms of how to run and stage a World Cup.
Football's version of the World Cup lasted a month and a day and FIFA correctly adopts a 'less is more' approach (despite having to accommodate 32 instead of 14 teams), which certainly leaves spectators wanting more. Cricket used to take this approach, but since the 1996 tournament, the ICC has served up an ever more bloated version of what should be the sport's premier event.
Next year's competition starts on February 19 and doesn't end until April 2, which shows that lessons have not been heeded from the elongated 2003 and 2007 tournaments, which tried the patience of even the most ardent cricket fan. At least the dreadful Super Six/Eight round has been replaced by straight knockout quarter finals, but two groups of seven to start with?
It would be much better to extend the number of teams participating to 16 and start with four groups of four. That would mean that the ICC strategy of growing the game internationally would be better supported and enable Afghanistan for instance to continue their rapid progress by getting more exposure to playing the top teams. Each team would then be guaranteed three matches - the same as the football minnows in South Africa.
Then you could move to the knockout stages with the Super Six/Eight being banished forever (has anything been so inappropriately named?). This second league is completely unnecessary - witness the farce of 2003 when Zimbabwe and Kenya made this stage and Australia had already effectively qualified for the semi-finals. Its supporters may argue that it prevents teams that win all their group games being eliminated in a one-off game by a team that scrapes through their group. But it works in football, so why not cricket? If you want to give the group winners an advantage, why not scrap the toss and let them choose whether to bat or bowl in the quarter final?
All this means that a cricket World Cup could involve two extra teams whilst limiting the tournament to 31 matches (instead of 49 next year), meaning that the whole shebang could be completed in a month. This would help the World Cup return to its rightful place in the schedule as cricket's premier event. At the moment, the totally pointless Champions Trophy is a better spectacle as at least it has brevity in its favour being completed within less than two weeks.
So, come on cricket, learn from football in time for 2015.