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?

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13 thoughts on “World Cup South Africa 2010 – Is this the Year of the Underdog?”

  1. Although I get the sentiment and the point you were trying to get across, but you included Slovakia in exceeding the expectations of Eurocentric media, and for them it would have to be Western Europe, since Slovakia is in fact, in Europe. I just had to clarify that. As I said before, I do get your point.

    1. Right, and furthermore Slovakia was picked by much of the euro/anglo-centric media to advance. It was Paraguay and New Zealand that stunned those folks in that group.

      I do think this is an outstanding article and premise though. It’s a whole new world in global football today.

      1. I get New Zealand but unless you are using straw man make believe publications like the Sun to make your argument (and I don’t think this would be the first time that you have conflated English tabloids with the English press), I can’t see where Paraguay would have surprised anyone. Yes, we were caught off by Italy but I think most people assumed that Paraguay would get at least 5 points.

  2. It’s I believe the first time since switching to 16 team knock out that there are more non-European teams in the Round of 16 than European.

  3. Considering that France and Italy played the final in 2006 and they both exited at the group stage it is either the year of the underdog or something else is going on.

    My ideal final was originally Spain vs Brazil. I am hoping the big boys whip themselves into form and start playing better. While its nice to see the underdogs doing well it sucks when the good teams are playing bad because you miss a lot of that quality football that makes the world cup so much fun to watch.

    I think it does make things more interesting though but I’d hate to see somebody win it just because the teams they played against were below par or making amateur mistakes. That kinds of takes away from the spirit of earning wins and hands wins out on the basis of luck.

    Still hoping for a top tier intense battle all the way to the end.

  4. “… let’s be honest, wouldn’t we all like to see an England vs. Ghana final?”

    No. Not at all. I am being honest, too.

  5. But are we really watching the underdogs win or has FIFA got the rankings incorrect. Japan are ranked 45 and they played so much higher then that against Denmark.

  6. Really I was trying to highlight two things, one that there have been alot of ‘surprise’ results, mainly this is because the media that I read do not really follow the fortunes of teams outside of the top 6 or 7 in the World.

    Secondly the love of the underdog in England, did you see the Slovakian reaction to qualification, you would think they had won the World Cup, and that was great to see.

    The sign off was meant to be tongue in cheek 😛

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