World Cup 2010 South Africa has now been and gone, a feast of football for a month in the rainbow nation. Here are a few memories of the good and bad for the first World Cup of the decade.
Paul the Octopus – the world stood still in amazement and in humour, (in particular Germany) held its breath on which mussel would Paul take, that ultimately decided the fate of the nation. Paul’s fame quickly grew as the alleged English born two year old Cephalopod gained a 100% throughout the tournament after fierce competition from Mani the physic Parakeet who predicted a Dutch win in the final. After their semi-final defeat to Spain, German fans called for him to end up on a dinner plate. He is now arguably the no. 2 fan in Spain behind Andres Ineista.
Ghana – In Africa’s first World Cup expectations were high for the African nations if not to win the World Cup then to put on a display to make the continent feel proud. By the arrival of the knock-out stages Ghana were the only African nation left, after squeezing through a tricky group with Germany. The unity that spread throughout Africa was unimaginable and propelled the Ghanaians’ to the last eight after a deserved victory over the US and were a handball (and a miss penalty) from the semis.
Germany – Vorsprung Durch Technik: The new generation proved to be a big surprise at the World Cup especially in the manner they took Australia, England and Argentina to the sword. German teams in the past have always been identifiable to how they build their cars: strong, powerful engines, reliable with the occasional touch of class and elegance. This young team are quick, skilful, strong and direct and have been the best counter attacking team of the World Cup with the likes of Ozil and Mueller. Watch out for them in 2012 European Championships, they will only get better between now and then.
Spain’s tiki-taka football: Now you could argue that Spain weren’t always at their best in this tournament and only scored more than one goal in a game against Honduras. But the style, patience and self belief they posses to constantly play the tiki-taka style of football has to be commended. Even when games were very tight entering the last 15 minutes against Portugal, Paraguay and in particular Germany they preserved and persisted with the same formula that has served them exceptionally well in the past.
South Africa ‘dancing out’ against Mexico on the opening day – They have become the first host nation in World Cup history not to qualify to the knockout stages, but their entrance to their opening match against Mexico was simple, breath taking and unique and symbolised the spirit and the coming together of a nation through football.
Vuvuzelas – the less said on these ‘swarm of bees’ instrument the better, they were quite simply annoying and have been banned from the Rugby Tri Nations and World Cup in New Zealand next year – such is the impact they have had over the tournament.
Suarez and the Hand of God II – With the quarter final level at 2-2 between Ghana and Uruguay and heading towards penalties, Ghana striker Dominic Adiyah’s goal bound header was handled on the line by Uruguayan centre forward Luis Suarez. He was subsequently sent off, but with Ghana missing the penalty and then being beaten in the shoot-out 4-2 uproar was felt around the football world. With the Ghanaian Sports Minister Akua Sena Dansua requesting for a rule change for the basketball equivalent of ‘goal-tending’. What made matters worse was the level of joy and celebration from Suarez after the shootout and his claim to be the new ‘Hand of God’
England, France and Italy choking – three of Europe’s more established nations showed how tactically inept they are with over the hill, out-of-position players and ultra egos to cause player-coach bust-ups.
England: a team who were over-hyped carrying a number of injured players (Ferdinand, Barry, Lennon and Rooney to name a few). Key players playing out of position (Gerrard) and dictator of a manager who was unwilling to change the formation or system to balance the team. Recipe equals winning one of your four games, drawing against Algeria and then getting a football lesson from the young and skilful Germans. And to cap it off Rooney mouthing off to England fans when being booed off the pitch.
Italy: The World Cup winners of 2006 looked a shadow of their former selves, and the problems were all too apparent to see. In previous World Cups I fondly remember the likes of Baggio, Del Piero and Totti all being the central point of an Italian team, giving them the spark, the moment of imagination to unlock a defence. This World Cup they lacked a ‘playmaker’ and that water-tight defence that prided itself on being tighter than the Hoover Dam started to looked wary and show that no anti-ageing cream can avoid their ageing: in-deficiencies particularly from set pieces and quick footed players such as Robert Vittek.
France – C”est sacre bleu, Irish men, women and children alike would have been enjoying this one after the deep injustice that was served to them during last year’s playoff defeat. France are a team glittered with huge stars and egos to match, underperforming and splitting their dummies out when they don’t get what they want. Domenech decisions need to be looked at closer under a microscope. Why pick Henry? And play Ribery in the ‘hole’ out of position that is not suited to him? But these issues are chicken feed to the deeper problems in the team: first Nicolas Anelka being sent home for verbally abusing Domenech, then Patrice Evra and the fitness coach Robert Duverne having a ‘set-to’, players refusing to train, FFF Managing Director Louis Valentin resigning and finishing bottom of group A.
Goal-line technology – This is very simple, Mr Blatter. Please introduce it ASAP, this was a major embarrassment for FIFA and football when Frank Lampard’s goal that was wasn’t given – fait accompli.
Jubalani – Why is it in every major championship does the issue of the ball arise? Adidas claim it is lighter and faster than ever, with more serve and power. Quite simple it reminds me of the ones I use to use when I was 10 years old paying £1 from your local shop keeper. It has more bounce than a beach ball, and made a complete embarrassment of some of the world’s best players (excluding Forlan). For future tournaments Herr Adidas why no just create a simple football with 32 panels and leave it to the skill of the footballer.
Mark Van Bommel (closely followed by the large majority of his team mates) – A player who in this World Cup has been more interested in taking players out with poor tackling rather than using experience and craft to out-perform the opponent. How on earth he went nearly the whole 90 minutes against Uruguay before getting booked, and was lucky to not be sent off for a horrific tackle on Iniesta’s standing leg in the final. As for the Dutch tactics on that ill-fated night at Soccer City, it’s all well and good to want to get stuck into your opponents and not give them too much respect and pass you around the park like a game of ‘piggy in-the-middle’ but to truly expect a game-plan to hack and saw your way to winning a World Cup is only going to end in tears once you become restricted to 10-men (or fewer as the case should have been).
Kader Keita – Many people remember Rivaldo’s antics from 2002 against Turkey. This was on an equal par – Keita was elbowed (very slightly) in the chest from Kaka and went down holding his face as if Manny Pacquiao had knocked him out in a title fight. What did FIFA do about it? Nothing!!