The Ultimate World Cup Review

Posted: July 12, 2010 by undergroundfisherman in Sport, World Cup
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Mandela has another reason to be proud of his rapidly-improving nation

In my May 27th post, two weeks before the World Cup began, I was foolish enough to predict – with a degree of confidence bordering on stupidity – how the World Cup would pan out. I may have gotten Spain, the eventual winners right, but very little of this tournament played out as expected. Now that it’s over, we can see just how foolish it is to even try to guess what’s going to happen. From North Korea in 1966, to Sweden in ’94, South Korea in 2002 and Uruaguay this year, there’s always at least one side who will come from nowhere and surprise everyone.

What was even more surprising about this year’s tournament, however, was the incredible amount of big teams and big players who just didn’t perform on the when it mattered most. While it’s nice to see (to a certain extent) the chaos that surrounded the French team, it was also very frustrating to watch them throw away their chance to compete on the biggest stage of all because of some petty personal differences, and their ridiculous manager Raymond Domenech (Leos can’t defend y’know).

Domenech - baffling decisions made him the architect of his own destruction

While Ireland may not have the same amount of star quality, Trapattoni’s men have much more heart, and in a group consisting of Uruguay, sub-par hosts South Africa  and Mexico, there would have been no reason why we couldn’t have got to the knockout stages. Uruguay, of course, were one of the best stories of the tournament. Their adventure took them all the way to the semi-final, led by their charismatic frontman Diego Forlan. The ex-Manchester United striker, who was more than likely playing in his first and last World Cup, was like a man possessed, and drove his team much further than anyone expected.

We also saw, not for the first time, England’s inability to perform when it mattered most. Their emphatic qualification led to Fabio Capello being hailed as a genius, but they were turfed out after only four games. Having struggled in the group stages against the footballing powerhouses of America, Algeria and Slovenia, they were sent home by the Germans in the last 16. At this stage of the competition, Germany looked like the favourites. Having put four past Australia in what was otherwise a painfully dull first round of games, we were introduced to the likes of Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, young players who rose to the big occasion, unlike Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, or indeed any of the big English names, with James Milner being possibly the only exception. Joachim Low’s side continued their great form by putting four past the disappointing English, and, more surprisingly, four more past the Argentinians as well. It was difficult to watch Maradona’s men get torn apart so easily, but they could do little when faced with what was probably the best team performance of the whole tournament. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s contribution against the South Americans was phenomenal, and his new centre-midfield role seems to suit him better than his previous postion on the right wing. Having beaten two of the pre-tournament favourites, their semi-final capitulation to Spain was even more disappointing after the promise they had shown.

Spanish fans in Madrid celebrate Andres Iniesta's goal as they watch a live broadcast of the World Cup final.

Having never gone further than the quarter-final before, Madrid went mad as Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup

Spain, as we now know, went on to win, despite never playing to their full potential. We saw flashes of brilliance from David Villa – probably their most important player, with Torres out of form – Iniesta and Xabi Alonso also played well, but too often we saw their passing game hit a brick wall. Most teams played very deep against the Spanish, and absorbed the pressure before attempting a counter-attack, or relying on set-pieces. It was a tactic which lead to many boring games involving Spain.

Mark Van Bommel - World Cup final: Bert Van Marwijk defends Holland enforcer Mark Van Bommel

Mark Van Bommel has been taking lessons at the Nigel De Jong karate school

The Dutch were to blame for what many have described as a dull final, with the game resembling a 1970’s Leeds v Burnley match, with Norman Hunter (Van Bommel) trying to kill all round him. Nigel De Jong nearly did kill Xabi Alonso with a boot to the chest, as the tackles flew in during a crazy first half. In the earlier stages of the tournament, the likes of Switzerland and Paraguay played some very negative, defensive football as well, but this is not an excuse if you are vying for the World Cup.  If your tactics aren’t working, change them. Spain, at times, were in danger of “Arsenal Syndrome” – the desire to score the perfect goal, and this perfectionism meant they only just scraped through certain matches. At the end of the day however, did they deserve to win? The answer, in short, is yes. They peaked at the right time, and certainly deserved it more than Holland. I don’t want to seem too critical of the Oranje either, having produced some of the best players in the tournament. There is a serious case to be made for Wesley Sneijder as the next World Player of the Year, having dragged Inter to Champions League glory, and then dragged Holland to the greatest stage of them all. He was the most important player on both sides, and yet still hasn’t got the kind of recognition he deserves. I do wonder about Bert Van Marwijk’s decision to play Robin Van Persie up front. He, like Torres, was clearly not at his best, with the likes of Klaas Jan Huntelaar and the promising young Eljero Elia on the bench, it’s difficult to justify the decision to stick with the Arsenal man.

As far as I’m concerned, the only teams who played at their best in this tournament were firstly, Uruguay, then Germany (bar their terrible performance against Del Bosque’s men), New Zealand, Slovakia and Japan. Practically all of the big teams proved disappointing.

 It was a bad tournament all round for the big names, Nike’s Write the Future advert proved to be even more innacurate than my pre-tournament predictions, with Rooney, Ribery, Ronaldo, Cannavaro and Drogba all failing to deliver, even Roger Federer, who makes a brief appearance, has had a hard time of it lately.

Lionel Messi was another who came in for some criticism, but the fact that he didn’t score is fine by me, because his performances were incredible and Tevez and Higuain were in great form. Speaking of Tevez, that brings me nicely to my next topic; best goals of the tournament. Tevez’s 30-yard strike against Mexico was pretty special, but there were three others which were even better:

Keisuke Honda v Denmark: The “Cristiano Ronaldo of Japan” showed how good the Jabulani ball can be when used in the right way, and the sheer speed at which the ball was travelling made it impossible to stop

Fabio Quagliarella v Slovakia: It was one of the most exciting games of the whole tournament, and the Napoli striker produced this stunning chip in injury time. It wasn’t enough to put the Italians through to the last 16, but they’ll go home with one nice memory at least.

Maicon v North Korea: He did mean it.

Diego Forlan was quite rightly voted Player of the Tournament

I want to make a final note about just how great Diego Forlan was. Himself and  Suarez were one of very few real “strike partnerships” for any team. Most sides relied on one target man, such as Rooney, Klose, Zigic etc, and were too often crowded out by overly-defensive opponents. The two Uruguayans were superb together, and it’s great to see Forlan get the Player of the Tournament award. Thomas Mueller won Young Player of the Tourmanent AND the Golden Boot; everyone was talking about Mesut Ozil after the group stages, but Mueller was the more consistent player, and, at the age of just 20, he’s only going to get better. I’m putting my money on the Germans for Euro 2012, and Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Playing on home soil, I don’t see any other victor other than the Selecao. While this year’s quarter-final exit, and uncharacteristic defensive tactics were a cause of concern, they will no doubt be back to their best in four years time.

It was a strange World Cup in that respect – we saw the boring Brazilians, the flashy Germans, the useless French, and the dirty Dutch. It certainly was interesting, and if you’re craving more football, don’t worry, the new Premiership season starts on August 14.

  1. Shaun says:

    Van Bronckhorst goal was by far the best –

    • undergroundfisherman says:

      I know what ya mean dude, but I thought Quagliarella’s goal was so great because he was so cool under pressure, and Maicon’s defied the laws of physics! Honda’s goal was a great advertisement for the new ball, it shows there’s a definite upside to it, if you can master it

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