At the end of another World Cup Finals, football proved once again how much dominance it has the World over and in amongst the greatest show on earth, there were a lot of highs, a few lows, a few Wigan Athletic players, some good and bad games with some good and bad efforts thrown in for good measure to keep the Karma.

Amid the Jabulani, Bofana Bofana, Vuvuzelas and awful commentators, believe it or not, there was actually a World Cup going on…

And what a great World Cup it was, there were many surprises, spectacular failures and controversy, making South Africa 2010 as good as any other tournament I can remember, we had Italy and France crashing out, more rows, particularly from the Les Blues, phantom goals, choreographed goal celebrations and those bloody vuvuzelas, here are my highs and lows.


African Nations

Ever since that opening game in Soccer City on June 11th, the scene was set, South Africa were everyone’s second favourite nation, with every neutral willing them to do well, and alot of football fans wanted an African team to go far, with the tournament being held in Africa, and many strong African teams taking part, many thought this would be the year. And it was, well, we didn’t get an an African winner, but South Africa won everyone’s hearts if not a place in the second round, ‘Tshabalala’ was the name on everyone’s lips after that screamer against Mexico, and we’re lead to believe that we may be seeing more from him at the DW next season, I bet Big Dave is rubbing his hands together with glee, a free transfer, and just imagine how much he could charge for a shirt with ‘Tshabalala’ on the back. Bofana Bofana became very popular after a victory over the French. Ivory Coast were expected to do the best of the six African nations on show, but in a tough group, they fell to Brazil and could only draw to Portugal, meaning a last game win over Korea DPR was meaningless, so Drogba and co went home earlier than planned. Nigeria were also sent packing after the group stages after a poor three games, after a slow start against Argentina, they then threw away a lead against Greece and ended up losing 2-1 to an average Greek side, they then went into the final game against South Korea needing a win, Yakubu’s horror miss meant they only drew 2-2 and crashed out prompting a threat of a two year football ban for the nation from their government, it was later dropped, why hasn’t Mr Cameron considered a similar approach?. Algeria earned a point against England, but were very disappointing overall, and despite Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon went out without a single point, meaning that the most successful Africans were Ghana. Lead by the impressive Asamoah Gyan, they managed a win and a draw to finish second behind the impressive Germany, many thought this would make them England’s opponents, after England’s poor showing however, Ghana faced the USA in the second round, and managed a 2-1 extra time win, with Gyan bagging the winner. The Quarter-final with Uruguay was painful for Ghana, with the score tied at 1-1 in the 120th minute, Luis Suarez handled blatantly on the line, handing Asamoah Gyan the chance to fire Ghana into the semi’s from the spot, he hit the bar, and the Uruguayans managed to win on penalties, it was cruel for Ghana, but their success was a success for football.

‘Tika Taka’

The highly inventive name of the Spanish’s beautiful brand of football, which flowed brilliantly, and graced the tournament with flair and breath-taking football. The phrase ‘tika taka’ means a fluid, short passing system that allows players to have total freedom and creates new football onomatopoeia. Hopefully, Mr Martinez can bring some ‘Tika Taka’ to the DW next season. When a player such as Fabregas, Arsenal’s star player, can only make the bench, and Jordi Gomez doesn’t even make the squad, you know that this Spanish team are something special, and were worthy winners of the World’s greatest prize, with such a strong spine to the team, and with every player truly gifted with a ball at their feet, Spain were a team of geniuses, other teams had the odd one, Germany had Ozil, Holland had Sneijder, Argentina had Messi and England had Heskey, but no team had a collective footballing brilliance like Spain had, and their victory was brilliant for the sport, as it proves that beautiful football can be winning football. With Casillas, Puyol, Pique, Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, and Villa, Spain had a dream team. England flopped when one of their stars (Rooney) turned up unfit and out of form, Spain still looked amazing with one of theirs (Torres) in the same situation. You look forward to seeing this Spanish side for many years to come, and if the Spanish La Liga is like that every week, then it’s every bit as good as the English Premier League.

Latics’ Representatives

Despite what you may think, Wigan Athletic had more players in the Quarter-finals that Man Utd, with Kingson and Alcaraz (if you count them) From what I saw, I was impressed with both, Kingson was very hard to beat, and made few errors, Alcaraz was the same, he looked comfortable on the ball and he scored a thumping header against Italy, unfortunately for us, this has put him in the shop window and we now face a battle to keep a player that may not have even signed for us, once again the term ‘only Wigan’ springs to mind. Vladimir Stojkovic proved less of a liability, saving a penalty from Lukas Podolski en route to a surprise 1-0 win over Germany from the Serbs. Other players were less successful however, Steve Gohouri never featured for Ivory Coast, Maynor Figueroa and Hendry Thomas crashed out with Honduras, accumulating just the one point, with Thomas struggling to make the starting 11, but it shows how far we’ve came now we’ve got six players in the finals, with just one other in history, that being Pascal Chimbonda in 2006.

El Diego

What can I say about him? Well Forlan along with Pique, showed that he was the ‘one that got away’ from Fergie at Man Utd, and showed the potential that made United fork out the money for him. Forlan was immense, and even won the Golden Ball after almost single handedly taking Uruguay to the semi’s. Everything about just said ‘quality.’ His trademark head band, his confidence from any distance and set piece dominance made him a constant threat, as shown by his five goals in South Africa, including corkers against Ghana and Germany. Expect a big summer move from Atletico Madrid, hopefully to the Premier League, is Wigan too optimistic? I think he’d be a decent improvement on big Jason…

However, there’s two sides to every coin, so here are my World Cup Lows

The great disappointment /la grande déception/ la grande delusione

2010 was the year of European failures, being English, we should come to expect failure by now, but it’s how we expect to do well at every tournament, how ‘this year is our year’ but I thought that was the case in 2006, and 2004, and 2002, and 2000… At least we’re not alone, thankfully, as Italy were poor, and France were even worse, all three teams have alot of talent, and one paper are great teams. But if football has taught me one thing, it’s to never judge a team that way, as the game isn’t played on paper, otherwise “I’d just fax them a 1-0 defeat” (Paul Jewell, 2007) The Italians though, will be the most angered, going into the tournament as holders, they seemed to lack passion, leading to their group stage exit, even New Zealand finished above them! Hang your heads in shame. France were a disgrace, but we should expect at every tournament a huge fallout, think Davids and Kluivert, McCarthy and Keane and so on. The French, admittedly were held back by a terrible manager, but the players should take some blame too, Patrice Evra, as captain, should be setting a better example to the rest of the team than falling out with one of the coaches, the lack of harmony showed on the pitch and the crashed out with just one goal and one point. I feel alot better having typed that, it makes England’s tournament look a great success. Let’s be honest, we should have reached the semi’s, if we’d topped our group, we’d have faced Ghana then Uruguay, but if’s are useless. We flopped majorly, Gerrard on the left, Rob Green’s butter fingers, Heskey’s lack of firepower, Capello’s very strict attitude, Rooney’s fitness, Lampard’s phantom goal, Upson and Terry’s partnership, I could go on…

The Final

The only real success of the final was that Spain won and a great player scored the winner, besides that, it was poor, this was no fault of Spain’s, but due to Holland’s match spoiling tactics and foul play. It was clear to see from the off what the game plan was, kick Spain and stop them from playing, Van Bommell, lucky not to have been sent off in every game so far, was wreckless, even Sneijder was uncharacteristically dirty and De Jong thought he was Jackie Chan for a brief moment, and yet only saw yellow. Holland could easily have won the game, their dangerman Arjen Robben went clean through twice, and was thwarted by Casillas on both occasions, had he scored either chance, Holland probably would have won, unfairly. The first half was one of few chances, but many yellows, Holland should have been down to at most 9, and the Spanish must have been fearful of their footballing careers being cut short due to injury, oh and there was that idiot ‘Jimmy Jump’ who decided it would be funny to run on the pitch before kick-off, really, why isn’t this guy banned from all stadiums? The second half was an improvement, with more chances and less cards, but no goals, the half hour of extra time was far more entertaining than the opening 90 and both teams could have scored at least twice, Holland were eventually down to 10, when Everton’s Johnny Heitinja gave referee Howard Webb no choice but to show a red, the moment of the game game when Iniesta came up with a glimpse of magic to seal the game, a bright moment of a dark final.

The Theatrics

This has been an issue for a while, drama queens. Whilst alot of the time the divers are fouled, they roll about on the floor as if they’ve been shot, clutching their knee and rolling around in apparent agony, only to be on their feet taking the free-kick seconds later, they really do defy human logic. Either that or they’re just terrible actors. There were many culprits, I don’t have time to name them all, there was Ramos, Robben (he’s a master at it) Drogba, Capdevila, but the one that annoyed me most was Brazil’s Lucio. He’s 6 foot 4, built like a tank, yet still rolls on the floor and cries like a baby, why? You’ve won the free kick, get on with it and take it, I don’t pay a TV license to see you rolling around on the floor! Rant Over!!
So, after all the goals, refereeing decision and controversy, the last vuvuzela has been blown, and the countdown now begins for Brazil 2014, when we’ll do it all over again, maybe that will be England’s year…

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