World Cup South Africa 2010 – Is this the Year of the Underdog?
As the final whistle shrieked like a gunshot into the eardrums of the Italians and sent the Slovakians into delirious celebrations in Johannesburg, the second giant killing of the tournament sent goose bumps down the spines of the millions, if not billions of people watching across the globe.
I watched the game in a Nottingham bar, surrounded by spectators who may not be able to locate Slovakia on a map, collectively they roared every chance, goal and decision in favour of the European minnows, as suddenly the improbable became possible.
This identification with the lower ranked sides in the World Cup seems to be a common theme, when South Africa took the lead against France, there were audible cries of celebration in the office. As in most sports and their domestic league, the English public are showing that they love to back the underdog.
Crucially the elimination of both 2006 finalists at the group stages is just the kick start this tournament needed, providing excitement and drama to a World Cup that is gaining momentum after a slow start.
The countries of Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand are not instantly synonymous with football talent, however whilst the latter did not qualify from their group, all of these teams have exceeded the expectations of Eurocentric football media.
This can only be good for football and silence the cries for a smaller, more elite tournament, competition is fierce and a new generation of unknowns are propelling themselves towards stardom, suddenly drawing Slovakia in the office sweepstake is not as bad as it first seemed.
I hope that we see more upsets and drama as we start to reach the business end of the competition and let’s be honest, wouldn’t we all like to see an England vs. Ghana final?