Home > General > FIFA WORLD CUP 2010: A REVIEW

FIFA WORLD CUP 2010: A REVIEW

The ‘Beautiful Game’ which gripped and enthralled the entire world for 31 days has finally come to an end. From spectacular stadiums, some dazzling and mesmerizing football, the controversial Jabulani ball, deafening sound of vuvuzelas, some horrendous refereeing decisions, misfiring superstars, the slightly lesser known names coming to the party, some sensational talent to look forward to, the new ‘Hand of God’, the grandest of Closing Ceremonies, and a Finale which was as tactical as it could get, culminating in Spain being crowned champions for the first time and Netherlands being third time unlucky; this World Cup had it ALL. The first ever FIFA World Cup in the continent of Africa has definitely been a huge success.

Before the start of the tournament, there were apprehensions regarding the ability of South Africa to host such an event successfully. But, these apprehensions were soon brushed aside as the world witnessed the wonderfully built picturesque stadiums and superb arrangements all around. The focus now shifted to the action on ground as 32 teams went in pursuit of living and realizing their dream, to lift the coveted World Cup trophy come the 11th of July.

The Group Stage started with some sedate cautious football as teams settled themselves into the tournament, desperately wanting, to not start off on a losing note and jeopardizing their chances of reaching the knockout stage. The cautious tactics backfired to many a team as there was one upset after another, the most shocking being the defeat of favorites Spain to Switzerland in their opening encounter. While the likes of Spain, England recovered from their poor starts and scraped through to the knockout stage, it was a disaster for the defending champions Italy and runners up France as both crashed out pathetically. The only 2 teams to come out of the Group Stage with 100% record were Netherlands and Argentina.

There was largely heartbreak for the African crowd as the fancied African teams Cameroon and Ivory Coast failed to make the cut, along with South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria. Ghana was the only team to make through to the next stage, resulting in the entire continent getting behind them from then on.

The highlight of the first knockout stage i.e the round of 16 was the 4-1 thrashing of pre-tournament favorites England by a young, impressive German Side. England had no answer to the breathtaking counter attacks lead by ‘potential superstars in the making’ from Germany in Ozil, Muller and Schweinsteiger. The stunning performance by Germany was perhaps marred by the shocking goal line decision by the assistant referee as the goal from England’s Lampard was disallowed, when the ball had clearly crossed the line. This decision and many other howlers (mainly offside decisions) throughout the tournament made the case stronger for the use of video technology in football matches to decide contentious decisions. Why the use of technology has been completely ignored thus far in football is a mindboggling question, but that is a topic which warrants greater discussion later.

As the knockout stages continued, the tournament was set alight by some scintillating goals and exhilarating match-ups. The standout in the quarter final stage was the encounter between Netherlands and Brazil as the former, lead by Sneijder, Robben and company came from behind to knockout the much favored Samba boys. Also, the German juggernaut continued with another 4-0 mauling of Maradona’s Argentina team, which won all its 4 matches up till then. The world’s best footballer Messi failed to inspire his team into the semis. Infact, Messi could not score even 1 goal in the tournament. It was similar story for other superstars like Ronaldo (1 goal) and Rooney (no goal) as the biggest names failed to live up to their reputations.

The biggest match of the tournament for the African contingent was the quarter final clash between Ghana and South Americans Uruguay. With the support of whole Africa behind them, Ghana put up an inspired performance and were on the verge of reaching the last 4 when the new ‘Hand of God’ happened. In the last seconds of the Extra time, Ghana had the match won as Adiyah’s header was going into the back of the net when Suarez, standing at the goal-line pushed the ball away ‘Volleyball’ style to save Uruguay. Expectedly, Suarez was dismissed with a red card and a penalty was awarded. But the damage had been done as Gyan missed the penalty and Ghana lost in the penalty shootout that followed.

While the entire Africa called him a cheat, Suarez claimed he was the new ‘Hand of God’ and his spontaneous decision of saving the goal by his hands, getting sent off, missing the next match was all worth it as it gave his team the chance to go through. His reaction when Gyan’s penalty hit the cross bar will remain etched in everyone’s memory forever.

While all this was going on, Spain had also slowly made their way into the semis, getting past Portugal and Paraguay, both with 1-0 scorelines. Their resolute defense was not allowing anyone to score, while their famed midfield and forwards were finding the net at a time (with few minutes to the end) when there was no coming back from, for the opponent.

Spain’s obsession with 1-0 didn’t stop as they outlasted the hot, in-form Germans in the semis with a goal in the dying moments of the match again. On the other hand, Netherlands’ continued their 100% record in the tournament with a 3-2 victory over Uruguay.
Hence, we had the final line-up between the Irrepressible Dutch and the Irresistible pass masters in Spain. While this was the first ever World Cup finals for Spain, it was the third attempt by Dutch in the finals after disappointments in 1974 and 1978. The fact that both teams had so much at stake and history was to be made either way meant that the match was always going to be a cagy affair with both teams not wanting to give an inch. The same happened as there was one foul after another, resulting in as many as unprecedented 14 yellow cards (including 1 red for Netherlands). There were hardly any openings for either side, but when they came; their stars missed relatively easy chances as goalkeepers made valiant saves.

The match seemed destined for a penalty shootout, when Spain once again, from nowhere, found a last gasp winner 3 minutes from the end to create history. Andres Iniesta, Spain’s influential playmaker found the net as Netherlands dreams were shattered once again. And hence, we had the new World Champions in Spain. The emotions in both camps were as contrasting as chalk and cheese and understandably so.

It was a tournament for the lesser known names in Germany’s Muller (Golden Boot Award), Uruguay’s Forlan (Golden Ball Award), Netherlands Sneijder, Spain’s David Villa and others like Ozil, Suarez, Robben, Shweinsteiger and so on to shine at the world’s biggest stage and enhance their reputations. It was also the tournament which once again proved that South Africa can not only host any event successfully, but can do so in grand style. The glittering and fantabulous Closing Ceremony just before the final was just an icing on the cake.

I would end by saying:

‘Zaminamina Zangalewa, Sensational Africa’

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Categories: General
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  1. July 15, 2010 at 10:41 pm
  2. September 11, 2010 at 12:54 am

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