It took less than an hour of South Africa 2010 for South African hopes to be sent soaring as the man with the Motown ditty name, Siphiwe Tshabalala, blasted a crisply volleyed strike into the Mexican goal, cranking the vuvuzelas up to eleven. Ooh Tshabalala, Tshabalala ding dong. Played out to the soundtrack of a broken fridge the greatest show on earth was finally on the road but it was a false dawn for the hosts.
The joy lasted just 25 minutes before Rafael Marquez became the first to spoil the fun with a leveller that ultimately led to Pengeluaran HK South Africa becoming the first hosts ever not to make the Last 16. Diego Forlan completed the party-pooping with two fine goals in a 3-0 win that propelled Uruguay to group winners and on to an eventual fourth place finish.
South Africa’s only consolation was beating an imploding France team in the final group game to condemn Les Blues to bottom place and home in shame, but a victory over a side coached by a walking dead man and chock full of incredible sulks is nothing to blow your horn about.
South Africa’s failure was mirrored by Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon & Ivory Coast and so African attention switched to Ghana. The Black Stars carried the hopes of a continent on a glorious run to the quarter finals which ended in heartbreak against Uruguay as Luis Suarez’s ‘hand of the devil’ hammered the final nail into the Ghanaian coffin with a 120th minute handball that earned him a dismissal and Ghana the penalty chance to make history. Asamoah Gyan’s ballooned miss and subsequent success in a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat provided this tournament’s Stuart ‘Psycho’ Pearce moment. African hopes withered and died but the vuvuzelas lived on, albeit with the pitch side microphones turned down.
Here’s a good quiz question – which was the only unbeaten team at South Africa 2010? Answer – New Zealand as I’m sure you already knew, you clever clogs. Three draws in the group stage saw the All Whites finish above an abysmal Italian side that went the same way as those moody Frenchies. Paraguay & Slovakia were the beneficiaries; both made it out of the group only to be sent packing by the two eventual finalists.
Spain did for Paraguay in the quarter finals en route to lifting the trophy on the back of four successive 1-0 wins, ensuring they became the lowest scoring champions ever with eight goals, five of them scored by David Villa who shared the golden boot with Germany’s Thomas Meuller and, very dubiously, Wesley Sneijder of Holland. Spain also became the first team to lift the trophy after losing their first game; to Switzerland, unsurprisingly 0-1.
Netherlands did not lose a game until the final where a late extra time Iniesta goal was all they deserved for attempting to clog their way to the trophy. Heavy footed spoiling tactics were an affront to the sublime total football attitude of their forebears but even then Arjen Robben had two gilt edged chances to win it. It was an inglorious end to a glorious run that featured wins over Slovakia, Brazil & Uruguay.
Brazil were generally disappointing with an unconvincing 2-1 victory over North Korea setting the tone in their opening game. They still managed to top a tricky group that included Ivory Coast & Portugal, and they saw off Chile easily enough in round two, but the Dutch were too strong in the quarter finals and Brazil were dispatched in a red mist of ill-discipline and acrimony.
Portugal racked up the biggest score of the tournament when they beat North Korea 7-0 but Cristiano Ronaldo failed to fire consistently and joined the growing ranks of underperforming super stars. Finishing second to Brazil ensured they met Spain to become the first of La Roja’s 1-0 victims.
For many an observer, Brazil had looked the most balanced team going into the finals. By the end of the first round of games it was Argentina who had snatched that title; and this for a team who were being guided by a madman.
Interlude: Diego Maradona is a madman; fact not opinion. His use of over 100 players in qualifying was topped when he selected 30 year old Ariel Garce for his final 23 man squad. Garce is a journeyman defender of 4 caps (3 friendlies in 2003 & a 4th recently against Haiti) who was taken because Maradona had a dream that Argentina won the World Cup and the only face he could remember was Garce’s. This story even beats Raymond Domenech’s cosmic selection strategy.
Maradona prowled the touchline in beard and suit and looked like he might bring himself on for Messi at any moment. In the end Messi ran out of steam, Maradona ran out of players to try and Argentina were walloped by those pesky Germans in the quarter finals.
Which brings us neatly to the only two football ‘super powers’ yet to be mentioned. The first, Germany, did as they always do – they brought their A-game to the finals and came third, scoring four goals in three separate matches and only being outdone by Puyol’s thumping header in the semi finals. They were very close to being world champions yet again with a team built on youth, ethics and teamwork.
The second, England, are a ‘super power’ in their own minds but actually couldn’t be further away from a second world title after a disastrous campaign in which their talisman left his heart at home, the coach lost his sanity, the defence lost each other, and the country finally realised they are simply not good enough. It’s like proud parents discovering that the apple of their eye has been placed in the remedial class at school. It was all topped off with an embarrassing Last 16 tonking by Germany and the most unbelievable non-decision in a World Cup game since the last unbelievable non-decision…which ironically involved England and a certain Argentine hand.
There were some players who made a name for themselves in South Africa (Thomas Mueller, Robert Vittek, Keisuke Honda, Mesut Özil, Asamoah Gyan, Landon Donovan), some who enhanced an already growing reputation (Diego Forlan, Wesley Sneijder), and several superstars who simply crashed & burned (Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Torres, Kaka). There was also one, Miroslav Klose, who was cruelly denied by injury the chance to become the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer.
Ultimately the best team won and Paul the Octopus predicted it but South Africa 2010 will probably not be remembered for the football or Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s semi final goal, it will mostly be remembered for one thing – those bloody vuvuzelas.