Brian Phillips is pulling for Spain to win Sunday's World Cup. Or, more precisely, he's pulling for the Netherlands to lose, for the good of the sport and its traditions. Holland's teams, he explains, "are soccer's most gorgeous losers." They earned this stamp in the 1970s, when their tactically brilliant squads redefined soccer strategy but lost back-to-back World Cup finals "in memorable and devastating ways."
In doing so, "they became the icons of soccer romantics who would rather see teams play beautifully and lose than win and be boring," Phillips writes for Slate. The Dutch no longer play that "total football" style of the 1970s, but no matter. There's a principle at stake: "Teams that play stylishly make the game worth watching, and thus assume an importance that can't be reflected by wins and losses." So go, Spain! "It's not because I don't like Holland; it's because I like the history of Holland so much."