The FIFA World Cup 2010 was the first World Cup to be held in the African continent. The total prize money on offer was USD 420 million, with the winner getting USD 30 million and the runners up getting USD 24 million. This was also the first time FIFA made payments to the domestic clubs of the players who were playing for their national teams at the World Cup. Something about previous claims for compensation, for the costs of the injuries suffered by the players on international duty. Football, I tell you!
This World Cup belonged to the Jabulani and the Vuvuzela. This World Cup was about the Wavin’ Flag. Not often do you get to see a song by K’naan become more popular than a song by Shakira. ‘This time for Africa’, it seems. Ask Luiz Suarez, he made sure this time it wouldn’t be for Africa, as he single-handedly (pun intended) stopped Ghana from scoring in the last minute of extra time in the quarter-final stage of the tournament. He probably decided to try his hand at volleyball, since he figured Uruguay were going out of the football tournament anyway.
Italy came into the tournament as defending champions. Well, neither did they defend, nor did they play like champions. They couldn’t even make it out of the group stages, finishing at the bottom of their group with 2 points and a goal difference of MINUS ONE. This performance was in stark contrast to the one in World Cup 2006. Pirlo probably forgot to play the PlayStation. That has to be it.
“I spent the afternoon of Sunday, July 9, 2006 in Berlin sleeping and playing the PlayStation. In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.” – Andrea Pirlo
France, meanwhile, had other plans. While French legend Zinedine Zidane made his exit at the end of the 2006 World Cup with a controversial head-butt, Thierry Henry decided to make a controversial entrance to the 2010 World Cup. In the second leg of the playoff vs. Northern Ireland, Henry intentionally handled the ball to setup William Gallas (who once wore the number 10 jersey for Arsenal), who scored to take France through to the World Cup. Following in the footsteps of Italy, they decided not to play like finalists of the previous World Cup and took an early flight home right after elimination in the group stages.
South Africa, meanwhile, got to play in the World Cup solely because they were the host nation. Tshabalala scored the first goal of the tournament against Mexico in the opening match, which ended in a draw. They lost to Uruguay, but then beat France 2-1 (It is unclear whether the French players were determined to make every other team look good or hated coach Domenech so much that they resorted to playing crap football). South Africa missed out on progressing to the next stage on goal difference, and sadly their campaign ended after three games as well.
No World Cup is complete without talk of England’s Golden Generation. The massively talented Englishmen drew against USA (thanks to Robert Green’s heroics) and Algeria, and somehow managed to record a 1-0 win against footballing powerhouse Slovenia in a fast-paced game. They qualified in second place, and managed to draw minnows Germany, who went on to thrash England 4-1 in the biggest upset of the tournament. Of course, had the referee not disallowed Lampard’s goal, the story could have been different, as the scores would have been level at 2-2, and then the Germans would have won 4-2 anyway. Not much Goldenballs can do from the dugout, can he?
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Argentina. What could possibly go wrong, when they had Diego Maradona himself as coach of the national team? Well, after a very fortunate qualifying campaign, Messi and co turned up in spectacular fashion, winning all three games in the group stage, scoring seven and conceding only one goal. Unfortunately, it was their turn after England, as they were routed 4-0 at the feet of an impressive German side in the quarterfinals. More pressure on Messi. Good Lord!
Uruguay were surely over-achievers; nobody quite expected them to reach the semifinal stage. They did so by beating Ghana on penalties in the quarter-finals, after all the handball drama by Luis Suarez. However, Netherlands were too good for a Suarez-less Uruguay, and they lost 3-2 in the semifinals.
Portugal were joint under-achievers with England, as they lost 1-0 to Spain in the round of sixteen, with Ronaldo practically anonymous on the pitch. Brazil’s campaign only went as far as the quarter-finals. They were defeated by Netherlands, and this eventually led to the sacking of Brazilian coach Carlos Dunga, who was not liked by the Brazilian supporters owing to his cautious style of play, as opposed to the Samba magic Brazil are known for.
Germany’s youngsters really made a mark for themselves in this tournament. Ozil announced himself on the international stage with his mesmerizing style of play. The sight of Ozil gliding past Gareth Barry (who seemed to be riding a tortoise cart) is one for the highlight reels. Meanwhile, Thomas Muller went on to win the Golden Boot (five goals and three assists) and the Best Young Player awards.
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The official match ball by Adidas, the Jabulani, means ‘bringing joy to everyone’. Netherlands played throughout the tournament in a similar fashion, impressing everyone with their gameplay. Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robenn were impressive in particular. However, for the final game, a special match ball with golden panels was used. It was called the Jo’bulani. Nigel de Jong apparently took offence to this, and thusly proceeded to kung-fu kick the tiki-taka out of the chest of that handsome, bearded, football God, Xabi Alonso. Netherlands truly played some disgraceful football in the final, and for that sole reason, in my eyes they deserved to lose.
Spain stuck true to their identity, which had won them the Euro 2008. They played a brand of football which emphasized control of the ball – and hence control of the spaces all over the field. Xavi, Iniesta and Villa were the key performers for the team. Xavi set a new record for the number of passes at a tournament: 669. Iniesta scored the winning goal in the final, cementing his place as legend in Spanish lore. They also managed to set a new record – for the fewest goals scored by a team which won the World Cup. Eight goals is all they managed, while the previous low was eleven, set by Brazil in 1994, England in 1966 and Italy in 1938.
Spain followed up this World Cup win by retaining the Euro in 2012. Can they go ahead and retain the World Cup this time around?
I guess we’ll find out over the course of the next few weeks. Que Viva Espana!