World Cup 2010 Review
Well, it’s over. The greatest tournament on earth came to a close on Sunday evening as Spain took on Holland in the final, so today I’d like to share my thoughts and opinions on the extravaganza with a general review plus a team-by-team analysis.
We’ll start with how the tournament played out on the whole. I’ll begin by being brutally honest, the World Cup of 2010 was not as impressive as most of us hoped it would be. The quality of the football itself was more often than not appalling, I’d love to see the overall stats for shots on target compared to those off target but it’s a safe bet to say the numbers are in favour of the latter – the amounts of shots, free kicks and headed attempts that cleared the top of the goal by some distance was ridiculous at times, and the ball specifically designed for the tournament played a huge part in this.
None of the players liked it. They found it too light, unpredictable and generally badly designed, and when the players could get the thing going for the goal it gave the goalkeepers all kinds of trouble. Excluding the French team, goalkeepers were made to look the silliest players of the tournament time and time again with shots that looked to be going straight at them suddenly taking a wild turn in mid-air leaving them flapping like fish out of water. The Uruguay ‘keeper in particular probably suffered the most, combining his own errors with those that weren’t really his fault made him stand out as a player who looked dafter than he should have and will probably be remembered for those frequent howlers than the fact that he helped his team to a fantastic fourth place finish.
But enough about all that for now, let’s get on with the team by team analysis.
Without a doubt the overachievers of the tournament, Uruguay finished unbeaten at the top of a group in which they were expected to struggle. As a result they earned a relatively simple opportunity to progress to the later stages of the knockout rounds, and with wins over South Korea and Ghana they seized the opportunity presented to them to make it to the semi-final. They put in an admirable performance against The Netherlands in that game but ultimately lost 3-2, but in the third place play-off they took part in one of the best games of the tournament – again with a 3-2 losing effort. Even so, a fourth place finish was a truly stunning end result for such a small nation.
Runners-up to Uruguay in Group A, the Mexicans had a decent yet uneventful World Cup tournament highlighted with a 2-0 win over France to earn their place in the last 16. They were beaten by an impressive Argentina side 3-1, but the game’s biggest talking point was a refereeing error that allowed Carloz Tevez to score. Javier Hernandez scored a consolation goal but ultimately Mexico went out. Coach Javier Aguirre resigned afterwards because he didn’t meet the target of reaching the quarter-finals, which I thought was bizarre considering they did a great job of just getting out of the group.
A team which most likely wouldn’t have qualified at all for the World Cup if they weren’t the host nation, nevertheless South Africa made a real go of it and if nothing else entertained their loyal supporters. Things began well when they took the lead over Mexico in their opening game, with Siphiwe Tshabalala scoring the first and in the end one of the best goals of the tournament. They went on to draw the game and then lose heaving to Uruguay, but a 2-1 victory over France meant they only missed out on progressing to the knockout stages on goal difference.
I honestly can’t decide between France and Italy when it comes to choosing the word team of the World Cup, but either way France were dismal from the start. They began with a dire game against Uruguay with the only talking point being Nicolas Lodeiro receiving the first red card of the tournament, and then they went on to lost to both Mexico and South Africa in games where the lack of teamwork was extremely evident. Behind the scenes problems were blamed for the collapse of the team, with coach Raymond Dominech literally descending into a state of insanity and players being sent home, refusing to train and all sorts. Of course the situation didn’t help matters but France are a team who should have performed far better than they did.
They were very fortunate to even qualify for the World Cup initially, but during the group stage Diego Maradona’s men turned their performances around with three wins out of three, scoring seven and conceding one. They went on to dismantle Mexico in a controversial match for reasons previously stated, but Carlos Tevez performed a feat Maradona himself would have been no doubt proud of by scoring controversially and then again with one of the stand-out goals of the tournament. Things were looking good for the team until the met an equally impressive Germany in the quarter-finals, and what should have been an evenly contested game turned out to be a rout in the end. After a promising run Argentina went out of the tournament courtesy of a 4-0 thumping at the hands (or rather, the feet) of the Germans.
Semi-finalists of 2002 on home soil, South Korea had perhaps a little too much expectancy balanced on their shoulders when they arrived in South Africa. They qualified behind Argentina with a win, a draw and a loss to their names they were beaten by two goals from Uruguay’s Luis Suarez in the first game of the knockout rounds. South Korea certainly had their chances to win the game and go on to the quarter-finals but their tournament ended in fairly unspectacular fashion.
There’s honestly very little to say about Greece’s performance, other than a 2-1 win over Nigeria they were soundly beaten in both their other games. After their miraculous Euro 2004 finals win expectancy was fairly mixed, despite still containing a large percentage of that winning team they barely qualified, only making it to South Africa after a lucky 1-0 aggregate win over Ukraine in the play-offs. However there was an outside chance that they could progress past the group stage, but ultimately they finished third.
Much like Greece, Nigeria had an outside chance of making it out of Group B but failed to win a single match, which as a result caused the President of Nigeria to suspend the team from international competition for two years. The suspension put the team at risk of being banned from international football by FIFA for reasons of political interference, but fortunately it was rescinded fairly quickly. Nigeria were considered one of the hopefuls of Africal football along with the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Cameroon to succeed at the World Cup, but the team performed badly throughout their time in the tournament.
In what was considered one of the easier groups in the World Cup the USA were expected to qualify, and they did just that by winning the group with a last minute winner against Algeria in the final group game. This earned them a last-16 game against Ghana which they were hotly tipped to win, and while Asamoah Gyan of Ghana scored an extra time winner to put the USA out of the competition the game became the most watched association football match in United States history with 19 million people watching.
Even though I’m an Englishman myself I didn’t buy into the hype the media were selling regarding the England team. Almost every newspaper expected the team to win the entire tournament which was never going to happen. The players benefit from some word-class colleagues at club level which makes them appear better than they actually are, when they pull on an England shirt it’s quickly evident how badly they perform together. This was most definitely the case during the group games, with draws against both the USA and Algeria followed by a very narrow 1-0 win over Slovenia to qualify in second place. Despite that, TV pundits in particular tipped the team to beat Germany, and true to form they were destroyed 4-1 in the last 16.
The smallest nation in the tournament were punching above their weight just by qualifying for the competition, but they made a good go of it and picked up a win against Algeria and an admirable 2-2 draw against the USA which they led 2-0 at one stage. Had they not lost to England they might have qualified for the knockout rounds, but even though they didn’t they still did their nation proud with their performances.
As expected Algeria didn’t do well at all, although a loss to Slovenia could be considered somewhat of an upset. They did earn a credible 0-0 draw against England in a match best forgotten, and to their credit they didn’t lose their other two matches by more than one goal.
Despite a shock 1-0 loss to Serbia in their group Germany looked almost unstoppable up until the semi-final, and the players used their knowledge of the Jabulani ball to their advantage as they’d used it in the Bundesliga for the second half of the season. Players like Klose, Schweinsteiger, Ozil and Lahm impressed throughout the tournament, and for the second World Cup running they finished third after scoring four goals on three occasions and completely outclassing Australia followed by England and Argentina with some breathtaking performances. Germany were consistently one of the most exciting teams to watch throughout the World Cup.
The Ivory Cost and Cameroon were two African nations of which the hopes of millions of African peoples’ hopes rested on to perform well in the World Cup, but it was Ghana who surprised not only them but the entire world by going all the way to the quarter-finals. Their first two games were settled by two penalties by Asamoah Gyan, and after a narrow loss to Germany the team put in a battling performance against the USA and won it in extra time thanks to a stunning goal by the player who had effectively carried the team that far. Another close-faught match followed against Uruguay in which they only lost on penalties, but the overall commitment earned Ghana a strong following from the entire African continent.
Probably the unluckiest team of the tournament having both their talisman Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell sent off in consecutive matches, but nevertheless Australia recovered well after an initial 4-0 thumping at the hands of Germany in their opening game. They ultimately finished third in their group after the loss, a draw against Ghana and a win over Serbia, the chance was there for them to qualify but realistically the players and fans should be happy with how they performed on the whole without their two best players for the most part.
After an initial 1-0 loss to Ghana which was only decided by a penalty, Serbia caused one of the biggest shocks of the tournament by then beating Germany. A win against Australia would have guaranteed them a place in the last 16 but they cracked under pressure by losing 2-1. This was the heaviest loss they suffered however thanks to solid defensive performances from the likes of Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic and Chelsea’s Branislav Invanovic, but ultimately the team finished bottom of their group and really should have done better.
An impressive group stage performance insured that The Netherlands cruised to the last 16 without too many problems, they won all three of their games and scored five along the way – only conceding once to Cameroon in the final group game. From their they conceded again in a 2-1 win over Slovakia, and then managed to upset Brazin in another 2-1 winning effort. In a fantastic semi-final game they defeated Uruguay before taking on Spain in the final. What should have been a classic was ruined by dirty play from the Dutch, by extra time they should have been down to eight or nine men but instead were only reduced to ten late on. Andreas Iniesta scored the late winner for Spain, ensuring that the better team won on the night.
One of the surprise packages of the World Cup, Japan finished runner-up to The Netherlands after two wins and a narrow 1-0 loss to the eventual finalists. Keisuke Honda was one of the standout players of the tournament with his ability to be a threat on goal from anywhere up to 30 yards away, he proved to be one of the better dead ball specialists time and time again. They eventually lost to Paraguay on penalties after a dull goalless draw in the first knockout round, with both sides adopting defensive strategies which didn’t suit the style of the Japanese who had played so well with an attacking mentality beforehand.
With only one win in their group games Denmark were maybe not expected to do better after failing to qualify at all for the 2006 World Cup, but their fans back home probably hoped they would do. As it turned out they were soundly beaten by both The Netherlands and Japan, and had to come from a goal behind to win against Cameroon. The ever-confident Nicklas Bendtner only scored one goal when so much rested on his shoulders but the entire team ultimately lacked that ‘cutting edge’ to try and win what probably should have been a victory against Japan.
Cameroon unfortunately hold the distinction of being the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup after a 2-1 loss to The Netherlands in their final group game, which was a shame as the African people had hoped they’d be one of the teams of the continent to perform well. Samuel Eto’o was the standout player of the team as anticipated, but he doesn’t seem to have the support of his team mates as he’s recently voiced his frustrations regarding the supposed inadequacies of those around him on the pitch. It’s a fair point to make but not one that he should have mentioned, but nevertheless he did score both of Cameroon’s goals in the tournament.
They somehow managed to win the group with a solid win over Slovakia and two very contrasting draws – a shock one against Italy and a disappointing one against New Zealand. From there Paraguay managed to beat Japan on penalties before losing to Spain in their first ever quarter-finals match, and while that’s a huge accomplishment for the small South American nation they didn’t exactly light up the tournament with any truly outstanding performances.
Slovakia took part in one of the most thrilling games of the tournament, defeating Italy 3-2 in the final game of Group E to clinch a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup. They were beaten 2-1 by The Netherlands in their next game but they did their nation proud by qualifying and perhaps even more so by defeating the then-world champions and dumping them unceremoniously out of the tournament.
I love statistics, and here’s a good one for you – New Zealand were the only team in the entire World Cup to remain undefeated throughout the tournament. That’s reading between the lines a little however as that astounding-looking statistic consists of three draws, but that’s not meaning to take anything away from the teams’ performances despite the fact they wouldn’t have been there had Australia not switched confederations. At 32 captain Ryan Nelson played his socks off and was one of the standout players of the tournament, he and his teammates did their country proud.
I mentioned earlier that I couldn’t decide between France and Italy as the worst team of the tournament, but after having a think about it I’ve got to go with Italy. While France may have had their excuses the Italians had none – they were in a group they should have easily qualified from and were defending world champions, yet they exited the competition without winning a game. Age could be attributed to it all as a lot of their players are well in their 30’s, but even that’s clutching at straws a little. They underperformed badly and they knew it, finishing last in their group was disgraceful.
As usual one of the favourites to win the entire thing, Brazil performed well enough in Group G up until the final game against Portugal. In what was the first really big game of the tournament the fans were expecting a classic, but instead we were treated to an atrocious 0-0 draw in what was in my opinion the worst game of the tournament. However Brazil’s fortunes turned in a 3-0 demolition of Chile in the round of 16, but they were surprisingly defeated by The Netherlands in the quarter-finals. As a result their manager Dunga was rightly sacked, with the Brazilian supporters not too happy about his more conservative approach to each game rather than the free-flowing style they were used to seeing.
After struggling badly in the initial qualifying stage Portugal made it out of the group stage largely due to the 7-0 mauling of North Korea, their other two games were both dull draws with the aforementioned game against Brazil being particularly woeful. They were knocked out in the last 16 courtesy of a 1-0 loss to Spain, with a controversial goal being scored by David Villa being the difference. Despite a difficult qualifying campaign and a poor World Cup in general the manager Carlos Queiroz surprisingly wasn’t sacked nor offered to resign, despit quite honestly having little idea what he’s doing.
Unfortunately for them, The Ivory Coast were drawn in what’s considered a ‘Group of Death’ – and for the second time in successive World Cup tournaments. They made a good go of it though and managed a win, a loss and a draw and narrowly missed out on qualifying ahead of Portugal – mathematically they could only go through if the established goal difference of 9 was reduced and Portugal lost, so for example The Ivory Coast had to score something like 5 against North Korea while Portugal lost 4-0 to Brazil, both of which were possible but highly unlikely. As it turned out Portugal played out a 0-0 draw while The Ivory Coast won 3-0, but it wasn’t enough.
They never really stood a chance in the group they were in along with all the political turmoil taking place in their home country, but striker Jong Tae-Se provided a moment that will last in everyone’s memory for a long time – he was overcome with emotion during his country’s national anthem and subsequently cried his eyes out. Even though he promised to score in every game he participated in the entire team only managed to score one, but at least it was against Brazil which is something to be proud of.
Interestingly I didn’t think Spain were worthy finalists, having escaped with 1-0 victories in every knockout game up to and ultimately including the final itself. However due to The Netherlands’ appalling tactics they did deserve to win on the night. Their entire campaign started badly as well, with an opening game loss to Switzerland. It’s statistic time again, that loss meant that Spain were the only World Cup winners in history to lose their opening game. Strange how these things work out, but the European and new World champions didn’t play particularly well throughout the tournament with David Villa and the majority of whatever midfield quartet played throughout as the only real outstanding players. Still, that’s football.
One of the surprise packages of the tournament, Chile showed what organisational skills can do for a football team. They only conceded and lost to Spain on their way to the last 16 before unfortunately getting their rear ends handed to them by Brazil, but they put in a good showing during their time in the World Cup.
In what would eventually prove to be one of the upsets of the tournament, Switzerland beat eventual World Cup winners Spain in their opening game. They weren’t able to capitalise on their success in their following encounters though, first losing to Chile and then drawing 0-0 with Honduras to finish third in Group G. I wish there was more to say but aside from the win over Spain they did little else of any interest.
Honduras were never expected to do particularly well in the World Cup, but they do possess some good talent such as Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa and perhaps should have performed slightly better than they did. Having said that they only lost by one goal to both Chile and Spain and held Switzerland to a goalless draw, but the team ultimately finished bottom of the group at the end of a disappointing campaign for them.
My team of the World Cup
And finally, here’s what I consider to be the team of the World Cup 2010.
Goalkeeper: Richard Kingson – As the goalkeeper for Ghana Kingson was never going to have an easy time at the World Cup. With no disrespect meant to his defenders he was kept busy from the start, but despite playing more times for his country than his clubs in recent years he was instrumental in Ghana’s march to the quarter-finals.
Left back: Giovanni van Bronckhorst – He stated before the World Cup that he would retire completely from football after The Netherlands’ final match, and he almost did it in the perfect way by making the final and nearly winning it. He put in some good performances and scored a stunning goal against Uruguay along the way, but unfortunately couldn’t control his teammates’ temperament when it mattered most. Still, individually he was almost flawless.
Centre back: Carles Puyol – He had his share of criticism going into South Africa, but Puyol answered his critics by being a sturdy rock at the heart of the Spanish defence along with Gerard Pique and scoring a powerful headed goal against Germany to put Spain in the final. He subsequently retired from International football at the age of 32, having been an integral part of Spain’s European and World championship winning campaigns.
Centre back: Diego Lugano – Voted as the best captain of the World Cup, it was easy to see why judging by his leadership of Uruguay’s excellent tournament as they comfortably won their group and went on to finish fourth.
Right back: Philipp Lahm – The youngest captain at the World Cup aged only 25 yet one of the most influential, Lahm continually displayed how to masterfully command the right wing of a football pitch throughout Germany’s successful campaign. Rightly so in my opinion he fell out with the man he replaced as captain, the injured Michael Ballack, because he didn’t want to give the captaincy back to him once he’d recovered. After his excellent personal showing it’s easy to see why.
Left midfield: Arjen Robben – The Netherlands visibly missed him when he wasn’t on the field of play, as he was one of their main playmakers and a lot of the time the teams biggest threat on goal. He nearly didn’t make the tournament after suffering a slight hamstring tear, but manager Bert van Marwijk correctly kept faith with him and allowed him plenty of time to fully recover. As a result Robben became the key man for The Nethelands’ route to the final.
Centre midfield: Mesut Ozil – The main man for Germany particularly in the group and early knockout stages, Ozil looked unstoppable at times and commanded the midfield with some clever off-the-ball play and his ability with the football. He managed to provide three assists along with indirectly assisting several more goals along with scoring a belter himself, capping an impressive overall showing.
Centre midfield: Wesley Sneijder – Along with Robben, Sneijder was a key man for The Netherlands throughout the tournament and was the joint top goalscorer with five which is impressive enough as a midfield player. He won the man of the match award in his teams’ first two group games which really set the tone for his overall performances, and he was again given the award for his part in the quarter-final victory over Brazil.
Right midfield: Thomas Muller – Undoubtedly the player of the entire World Cup for me, in Muller’s first tournament he scored five from a midfield position and assisted with a further three, earning him the prestigious Golden Boot. This is a young man who is only 20 and also won the Best Young Player award as well, which isn’t bad for someone who had only played twice for his country prior to playing in South Africa.
Striker: David Villa – At times he essentially carried Spain in their matches, helping himself to five goals along the way and scoring some important winners against Portugal and Paraguay in the knockout stages. He was involved in a couple of controversial moments, including slapping Honduras player Emilio Izaguirre which he got away with. He surprisingly escaped a ban which proved to be very fortunate for his team considering the goals he would score in future games.
Striker: Diego Forlan – Voted the player of the World Cup by FIFA, even though I think Thomas Muller had a better tournament on the whole there’s no denying that Forlan did wonderfully well at the World Cup. He scored two and assisted with the third in a 3-0 win over host nation South Africa, and then went on to score important goals against the likes of Ghana and he scored in losing efforts against The Netherlands and Germany, ending with five for his country.
I’ve also included a ‘subs bench’ of players who didn’t quite make the final 11.
In all honestly I was left feeling disappointed by the 2010 World Cup. Yes, there were some shock results and some of the smaller nations did far, far better than anyone expected, but far too frequently the quality of the football itself was below what was expected of the event. There were too many dull draws and shot being fired basically anywhere but at the goal, and the final itself disgraced football thanks to The Netherlands’ violent approach to the game.
Still, the World Cup no doubt did a lot for South Africa’s economy and the entire thing was generally very well organised, so there are some good points to take from the tournament. I just feel it could have been a lot better in so many ways.
And finally, some personal awards as it were to give out.
Best teams of the tournament – Germany & Argentina
Worst teams of the tournament – France & Italy
Overachievers – Uruguay, Ghana & Paraguay
Underachievers – France, Italy, Portugal & England
Best game – Uruguay 2-3 Germany, third place play-off
Worst game – Portugal 0-0 Brazil, Group G
Best goal – Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s 35 yard screamer against Uruguay