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Football | FIFA World Cup

World champions Spain celebrate © Gallo Images

The best, and worst, from the World Cup

So, that's it then. Six years of preparation and anticipation culminated in a whirlwind month of colour, noise and festivity; of joy and heartbreak; of relief and frustration, but all in all a celebration of football that only Africa could provide.

South Africans can hold their heads up proudly after the 32-day, 64-match 2010 Fifa World Cup™ and say "See, told you you could stick your Plan B", as the tournament was a roaring success on all fronts and rightly earned a '9 out of 10' rating from Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

The naysayers were left choking on their words and the organisers and security forces will be patting themselves on the back long after the final bewildered World Cup tourist has left these shores. There was barely a disappointed word to be heard -- until the Durban airport fiasco -- and Brazil will do well to take a leaf out of SA's 'Believe completely in your own abilities, even if the rest of the world doesn't' manual.

Of course, everything that goes on off the field is completely focused on providing the perfect platform for the world's best players to showcase their talents inside the lines, and though many of them left their adoring fans scratching their puzzled heads, there were many others who used the winter fields of South Africa to announce themselves in stunning fashion. We here at SuperSport.com have put our heads together to try and provide you with a summary of all that made this the greatest sporting spectacle the continent has ever seen.


Several outstanding candidates here. Uruguay's Diego Forlan, whose five goals - some of which were the World Cup's best - left Manchester United fans wondering what they feed him in Spain. The Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder, who lived up to Dutch legend Ruud Gullit's pre-tournament prediction that he would outshine the Messis and Ronaldos. Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger, who took over the midfield reins from the injured Michael Ballack and helped make Germany perhaps the team of the tournament with his powerful performances, and teammate Thomas Muller, who showed there is no substitute for youthful exuberance. Spain's David Villa, whose goals carried his country to the brink of glory.

Our top man, though, did not set the scoring charts alight. At the business-end of the tournament he dominated the midfield for Spain, running the well-oiled machine as La Furia Roja 'possessed' their way to victory. Andres Iniesta, along with cohorts Xavi and Xabi Alonso, denied their opponents any meaningful possession (Germany being the most notable), and while their keepy-ball may not have yielded a flood of goals, it worked a charm. Iniesta also delighted with many sublime touches and brilliant trickery, and his winning goal in the final was the icing on a most delicious cake.


When an emotion-free review of the World Cup is done in a few months time, it will probably be acknowledged that the Jabulani ball - along with the officiating - was not one of the finer aspects of the four-week festival. The players struggled with its unpredictable swerve, steep bounce and tendency to just keep on climbing, particularly at altitude, and the tournament was robbed of who knows how many goals from free-kicks around the area.

Still, as demonstrated by these stupendous efforts, some of them managed to make friends with Jabu...

5: Maicon: 15 June, Brazil v Korea DPR, Ellis Park. One of those that scored by any other team would have you believing it was luck, but when it's Brazil, you just shake your head in wonder. Their first goal of the tournament, and one that had you thinking there was plenty more magic to come.

From just inside the box, and not a yard from the goalline, he beat the keeper at his near post. Can't blame him though -- no one scores from there. Do they? Video clip

4. Siphiwe Tshabalala: 11 June, Bafana v Mexico, Soccer City. The goal that got a country believing. There will have been plenty of non-football fans in SA wondering if this tournament would raise any passion within them. After 54 minutes of the opening clash, they knew the answer. A stunning strike at just the right time during a thrilling opening act, and tens of millions of South Africans clenched their fists and let out a collective roar of belief and pride. Video clip

3. David Villa: 21 June, Spain v Honduras, Ellis Park. After being shocked in their opening game against Switzerland, the highly fancied Spaniards could ill afford another slip up in their second game. After 16 minutes their star striker came to the rescue with a superb individual effort, and the 2008 European champions never looked back. Video clip

2. Carlos Tevez: 27 June, Argentina v Mexico, Soccer City. What is it with the Argentinean side and their ability to score controversial goals and absolute gems in the same game? This time is was the terrier Tevez who followed his 'so far off it's gone all the way back to on' goal with this net-busting rocket. Video clip

1. Giovanni van Bronckhorst: 6 July, Netherlands v Uruguay, Green Point Stadium. World Cup semifinal time. This is obviously going to be tight with the teams playing it safe and feeling each other out for an hour. Ja right. Just 17 minutes in and the Dutch skipper, some 40 yards out and near the left touchline, tapped it forward then unleashed a left-foot thunderbolt into the top far corner that left 'keeper Muslera with no chance. It opened up the game and gave us a five-goal semi. Blistering, and our Goal of the Tournament. Video clip

Other notable efforts:

  • Spaniard Carles Puyol's bullet header that won the semifinal against Germany Video clip
  • Villa's 40m effort against Chile after 'keeper Claudio Bravo had charged out of his box to clear from Fernando Torres - Video clip
  • Asamoah Gyan's extra-time winner against USA for Ghana, staying strong on his feet when many others would have engaged in back-arching theatrics Video clip
  • German Mesut Ozil's exquisite strike against Ghana, which took them through as group winners. Ozil was outstanding in this tournament, and no more so than when he demonstrated here how deadly that left foot is
  • Luis Suarez's curler against South Korea in the 79th minute that took that Uruguayans into the quarterfinals for the first time since 1970 - Video clip
  • Lucas Podolski's goal for Germany against England, rounding off a marvellous team effort with a precision finish from a tight angle.


Keeper: Iker Casillas (Spain). Hard to argue against two goals conceded in seven games, and his save against Robben when the Dutchman was clean through late in the final was top class.

Defenders: Garcia Sergio Ramos (Spain); Carles Puyol (Spain); Per Mertesacker (Germany); Jerome Boateng (Germany).

Midfield: Iniesta (Spain); Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany); Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands); Mesut Ozil (Germany).

Forwards: Diego Forlan (Uruguay); David Villa (Spain)

Substitutes: Carvalho Eduardo (Portugal); Philip Lahm (Germany); Xavi (Spain); John Heitinga (Netherlands); Diego Lugano (Uruguay); Thomas Muller (Germany); Miroslav Klose (Germany); Asamoah Gyan (Ghana).


There were numerous incidents that got tongues wagging and FIFA dishing out Diplomacy 101 answers, but these were three that will long be remembered:

3. Luis Suarez's 'save' against Ghana, an instinctive reaction that made him a sacrificial hero back home in Uruguay and the most popular voodoo doll in Africa. The striker, in the last minute of extra time in the quarterfinal, first saved a goal-bound effort on the line with his feet before blocking the follow-up header with his hands. The resulting missed spotkick from Gyan led to the penalty-shootout demise of Ghana, and the creation of another 'Hand of God' episode. To be fair though it's what anyone would have done, and he did pay the price with a red card, though try telling that to the seething support around Africa. Video clip

2. Carlos Tevez's opener against Mexico in the round of 16, a goal so clearly offside that it just beggars belief. The frustrating thing about all this though is that FIFA will not be looking at this sort of situation when video technology is discussed later this year (they will be focused just on goalline decisions), so these type of goals will still be standing come 2014. Come on, step up Sepp and at this level give the teams one TV-ref challenge per match. The tiny bit of 'human element' sacrificed will be more than made up for by the tense anticipation created while awaiting the decision, and the knowledge that many wrongs will have been righted. Video clip

1. Frank Lampard's 'goal' against Germany, a situation that could have been rectified by checking a replay in less time than it takes to take a throw-in. It was at such a crucial stage in the match that even Blatter could not brush it off as part of what football is all about. On the upside, it will eventually be seen as the catalyst for the use of TV refs in goalline decisions at the highest level, and the elimination of one of the sport's most obvious flaws. Video clip

Honorary mentions:

  • Fabiano's basketball effort against Ivory Coast, using his hand twice to control the ball before slotting home for Brazil's crucial second on the night - Video clip
  • Brazilian Kaka's sending off against Ivory Coast. Sure his elbow was raised, but it wasn't used in anger and Kader Keita's clutching of his face while rolling around in agony - this after being hit in the chest - left football as the loser. This is what puts people off the game, so FIFA, while you're discussing TV technology in the near future, please bring post-match citing to the table too. The sooner this play acting is eliminated, the better for the currently rather ragged-looking beautiful game. - Video clip
  • Referee Carlos Batres's handling of the penalties in the Paraguay v Spain quarterfinal. He didn't order a re-take when Spanish players were encroaching during Oscar Cardozo's miss. Then he did order a re-take when they entered the penalty area for Xabi Alonso's successful first effort, and then he failed to see a another blatant penalty for a foul on Cesc Fabregas when following up the saved re-take. A bizarre five minutes of play.
  • Mali referee Koman Coulibaly disallowing what would have been the USA's winner against Slovenia in the final minutes of their group match, awarding a free kick to the Europeans when all the replays could show was three reasons to give a penalty to the States
  • Vuvuzelas. Love 'em or hate 'em, they were a massive part of World Cup and have changed the face of world sport forever. Rugby has recently taken up the fight, but if the fans really didn't like them, they wouldn't have bought them.
  • The disgraceful Durban airport episode ahead of the Spain v Germany semifinal. The rambling excuses were a source of national embarrassment, and we can only hope that those who missed the match because the King Shaka parking lot was full will hopefully be fully compensated for their monetary loss and frustration.


Super Blooper: England coach Fabio Capello obviously went with Robert Green in goal for the opening match against USA as he was hoping to avoid any 'Calamity James' incidents. Green's howler though made all of David James's previous shockers look completely forgivable, and it cost England top spot in the group and sent them on to face Germany in 'that' KO match. Green fingers will never have quite the same meaning again. Video clip

Mentions must go to Algerian 'keeper Faouzi Chaouchi's dreadful error against Slovenia, gifting Robert Koren the winner; Yakubu's open-goal miss for Nigeria against South Korea; Gyan's penalty miss against Uruguay that cost Africa its first semifinalist, and Nigeria's Sani Kaita, whose petulant kick out at Greece's Vassilis Torosidis meant Nigeria had to play for an hour with ten men, and handed the Europeans their first-ever World Cup victory.

Cry me a river: the fields around the country received some much-needed watering from the eyes of grown men, but two stood out as staying in the penthouse suites of Heartbreak Hotel. Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo was inconsolable after his penalty miss against Spain contributed to their 1-0 quarterfinal loss, and Ghana's Asamoah Gyan brought tears to many eyes other than his own with his distraught behaviour on the field after the shootout quarterfinal loss against Uruguay.

Mystic mollusc: Paul, the oracle octopus in Germany, correctly predicted the winner for every Germany match, and then topped it off with a correct prediction for the final. He became world famous, and his morsel-selecting predictions were carried live on television. He became the No 1 requested seafood dish in his homeland after the semifinal loss to Spain.

The Bakkies Botha 'chicken flesh' awards: two standout moments: SA's amiable arch, Desmond Tutu, dancing during the opening ceremony at Soccer City, and one month later the sight of the world's greatest humanitarian, Nelson Mandela, greeting the crowd at the final. He was the major factor in the event coming to SA, according to Sepp Blatter, and it is heart-warming to know that the great man got to see his dream come true. For the two of them, the struggle against apartheid must now seem just that little bit sweeter.

Kudos to:

  • New Zealand. One of the minnows of world football left with their undefeated heads held high after three draws, including one against world champions Italy
  • USA. What fighting spirit. Scored in injury time in their final group match against Algeria to top Group C; came from two behind against Slovenia to snatch a draw, and were only denied a winner through a nonsensical refereeing decision, and pushed Ghana into extra time in the Ro16 clash. Their never-say-die attitude won them a lot of fans
  • Germany. Their fantastic mix of youth and experience enabled them to score four goals three times in the World Cup, the first time that has been done since Brazil in 1970. Watch this side over the next decade.
  • Gonzalo Higuain. Provided us with the tournament's only hat-trick, scoring three in Argentina's 4-1 pasting of South Korea in their opening game.
  • The LOC. There may have been worldwide scepticism at the planet's greatest event coming to a developing country, but everything from transport to security, the opening and closing ceremonies and the arrangements for the fans were world class, resulting in a spectacle that won't soon be forgetten. Respect.
  • The fans. In particular the Dutch and Argentineans, who brought so much colour and joy. The bright-orange fancy dress of the Netherlands supporters for the final was a sight to behold, with ostriches, the Pope, air hostesses and countless other characters bringing the pre-match mingling alive.
  • John Barnes. The former England star may talk like he's just had three or four double espressos before coming on air, but he offered fantastic insights into the game and added great value to SuperSport's blanket coverage of the event.

Thumbs down

  • Officiating. Enough has been said already in this article, but it really wasn't up to scratch. Other sports have moved with the times and brought the incredible world of technology into their mix. Football now has to play catch up and do the same.
  • Italy and France. A tournament to forget for the European giants. World champions Italy were just aged and poor, while the French did their best impressions of sulking teenagers, and the tournament was better off without them. Oh to have had tens of thousands more Irish supporters here for a few weeks.
  • Big names. Rooney, Ronaldo and Torres were just plain old let downs, and will hopefully have learnt the lesson that at this level there are no weak teams anymore. Bring your A-game, even if you are a superstar, as you are just going to be watched more closely than ever.
  • Portugal v Brazil game. They may have earned a few yellow cards to try and demonstrate there was passion, but this match - the most anticipated of the group stages - was dreadful, with both teams quite happy to take the point from a 0-0 draw. Forgettable is the nicest description we can come up with.
  • African teams. Though Ghana may have been within a whisker of a last-four spot, the continent let itself down badly in its home tournament. In the cold light of day, the stats are depressing, and in the 20 matches that African sides played in, only three were won inside 90 minutes (Ghana v Serbia, SA v France and Ivory Coast v Korea DPR). Time for a little introspective thought, as there is no doubt the strength, skill and talent is there. Something, though, is clearly missing.

So there you have it, the SuperSport.com wrap of the greatest sporting month in our country's history. We're sure there are many more incidents and memories you would like to share, so don't hesitate to post your comments below.


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