Monday, July 12, 2010
Highs and lows of the World Cup
Here we break down the best and worst parts of the World Cup from all of Soccernet's finest writers.
• Soccernet staff's predictions
• Harry Harris High: A new winner of the World Cup, a first for Spain, in the first African tournament was the highlight. And Andres Iniesta deserved to score the winner, as one of the world's most gifted midfielders.
Low: Cheats' Charter. Suarez's handball and the celebration that followed, the ball crossing the line, the offside Tevez goal, FIFA waking up to new technology after it distorted the 2010 finals. Also, Messi, Kaka, Rooney and Ronaldo, the world's so-called best forwards scored one between them. The weight of expectation weighed too heavily.
• Richard Jolly High: Germany's demolition of Argentina was wonderful: the intelligent application of a perfectly-devised plan, with precocious players such as Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil providing the highlights. Without winning the World Cup, they changed perceptions of German football.
Low: Some of the criticism levelled at Paraguay was unfair and undeserved. Yes, they rarely scored but, lacking a world-class winger or creative midfielder, the players of a small nation nonetheless displayed a real ethic in the country's finest ever World Cup.
Luis Suarez palms the ball clear at the end of extra-time against Ghana (GettyImages)
• Phil Ball: High: Outside of Spain's first world title, there was a sense, for the first time ever, that the host country mattered. Instead of focusing on WAGs spending obscene amounts on shopping sprees, both the BBC and Spain's TELE 5 tried to show us something of South Africa, its people, its history.
Low: The whole French farce of course, and the inability of over-paid footballers to put their privileged situations into some sort of perspective. I also disliked the Uruguayans' petty reaction to defeat in the semi-final. As they say, get a life.
• Uli Hesse: High: Watching other people watch Germany versus Argentina. Some just stared at the screen, absolutely motionless and with their mouth open, as if they had been hypnotised.
Low: Realising that not even the two preposterous refereeing decisions on June 27 (Germany vs England, Argentina vs Mexico) will lead FIFA to completely reconsider its absurd line on instant video replays.
• Roberto Gotta: High: The way Germany moved all over the pitch once they had the ball - with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira providing intelligent service from central midfield, the resilience of Diego Forlan, whose endeavour and skills deserve to make him one of the stars of the competition and the clinical finishing of David Villa.
Low: Football is not just what the players do out on the pitch. It is also enriched by the atmosphere, and the horrible vuvuzelas may have made for a typical South African experience but only managed to obliterate the rest, and best, of the stadium experience. No chants or anthems could be heard during the matches.
• Eduardo Alvarez: High: The final between two teams that had never won the tournament before. Both sides managed to integrate their offensive approach with the ability to compete, two factors they traditionally struggled to reconcile.
Low: The stubborn refusal of FIFA to increase the use technology. There's too much at stake to keep looking backwards.
• Ernst Bouwes High: Wesley Sneijder doing a 'Maradona '94'-celebration after his equaliser against Brazil. The vuvuzela-racket reminded me of the Eastern European sirens from the seventies. How nostalgic!
Low: Because of the bleak football in the first week I never got in the right mood. The whining about technological aids got very boring.
• Paul Marshall: High: Kamil Kopunek lobbing reigning champions Italy out of the World Cup and little Slovakia - improbably - into the second round.
Low: Aside from the French farce and the eternal nuisance that is the vuvuzela, seeing many an empty seat inside stadiums was a real let down.
• Andy Brassell: High: Miroslav Klose's second goal against Argentina (Germany's fourth). The best moment from the best team to watch in South Africa, Klose's smooth finish from Mesut Ozil's cross capped a trademark flowing move. A friend of mine watched this in a London pub, and said people stood up to applaud as Klose's shot bulged the net.
Low: Cameroon. Widely expected to be Africa's best hope in the continent's first World Cup, they were hugely disappointing and the first team to be eliminated. Their shock opening loss against Japan was mainly down to a bizarre selection by coach Le Guen which saw Samuel Eto'o on the wing and Alex Song and Achille Emana left on the bench, and they never recovered.
• Sam Kelly High: By some distance, being in Montevideo when Uruguay played their first World Cup semi-final in forty years. Everyone was so proud of their team, despite the defeat. It made me wish the English press could have been there too, to get a sense of perspective.
Low: Watching England vs Algeria in a Buenos Aires bar with two good friends - one American, the other Argentine. I probably don't have to describe to you the kind of ribbing I got from the two of them.
• Matthias Krug: High: Germany's refreshingly attacking style until the semi-finals, Shakira's Waka Waka dance, as well as the fact that Africa was able to put on a fantastic World Cup finals.
Low: Defensive, cautious football, epitomised by the likes of Italy - surely one of the worst defending champions of all times. And Paul the 'psychic' octopus; no octopus can know so much about football.
• James Martin High: Hard to think of a moment more exciting than Landon Donovan's 91st minute goal against Algeria that sent USA into the second round when they had looked like being sent home.
Low: Refs seemed to be hallucinating in the penalty area all tournament, but no call was worse than Frank Lampard's goal that wasn't given.
• Andrew Hush High: Whether it was scoring or setting up goals, or taking corners and free-kicks, Diego Forlan did it all for Uruguay. Against Netherlands, he even donned the captain's armband before almost inspiring his country to an unlikely final berth.
Low: The lack of to-and-fro. Too few teams came back to win games in which they had trailed. By and large, if you took the lead, you won and that created a depressing sense of inevitability.
• Jayaditya Gupta High: Bastian Schweinsteiger vs Argentina. There was plenty of talk about the kids but the 25-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder, with 81 caps under his belt, bossed this show like a true seasoned pro.
Low: England vs Algeria. My third goalless draw in four games; I have never seen a team play so much below their potential. And Algeria were not exactly sizzling either.
• Andrew Warshaw High: Germany's perfect demolition of Argentina, a collective display of defensive togetherness, midfield supremacy and attacking ruthlessness which defined Joachim Low's tactical ability and defied his country's traditions of efficiency and just doing enough to win. A special mention too for New Zealand's memorable campaign. Who would have thought they'd end up unbeaten?
Low: A combination of Lampard's goal-that-wasn't, France's ugly dressing room spat and, most of all, Ghana's gut-wrenching elimination that took the stuffing out of the entire tournament.
• Firdose Moonda High: A country with a smaller population than that of Johannesburg rose to number four in the world. Tiny Uruguay dazzled on the big stage and each of Diego Forlan's five goals were breathtaking.
Low: Cameroon's Indomitable Lions meowed like kittens, Nigeria's Super Eagles' wings were violently clipped, Ivory Coast's Elephants only stomped on North Korea, Algeria were outfoxed and Bafana Bafana's boys never became men. Africa's teams sorely disappointed.
• Martin Williamson High: The sheer child-like joy on the faces of rank outsiders New Zealand when Winston Reid equalised deep into added time to earn his country their first World Cup point. And coming after Australia's drubbing by Germany, the headline in next day's Sydney Morning Herald: "Australasia 1 Slovakia 1".
Low: The World Cup was ruined by a commercial decision to go with the Jabulani ball. The abiding memory of 2010 will be endless overhit crosses and shots sailing miles over the crossbar. It might be technically brilliant but it was practically useless.
Soccernet staff's predictions
• John Brewin: High: The drama of the closing minutes and subsequent penalties during Uruguay vs Ghana were unmatchable. Suarez's handball, Gyan's inexplicable spot-kick miss and then the same player's heroism in taking the first penalty of the shootout. And Sebastian Abreu's deciding penalty capped it in nerveless style. It was a privilege to be there.
Low: The first arrival at Ellis Park of many more to come brought with it a sense of danger that has thankfully not been repeated since. The sight of stadium security staff on a walk-out strike and in full insurrectionary mood was troubling both from a moral and a safety point of view.
• Jon Carter High: Paul the octopus and the giant dung beetle from the opening ceremony off the pitch, while on it, New Zealand gave everything - both human and animal -a shock when they drew all of their three group games, making history in the process.
Low: The embarrassment of France and Italy, as former finalists, and the failure of the African nations (barring Ghana) to advance from the groups. Some horribly dull games - Uruguay v France and Japan vs Paraguay - will not live long in the memory.
• Dale Johnson: High: John Terry finally being exposed for who he truly is at his famous press conference. Rather than a leader of men, a leader of no one but himself. Let's hope Fabio Capello ends his England career before next month's friendly against Hungary. That, and Siphiwe Tshabalala's superb goal for South Africa in the curtain raiser.
Low: The constant drone of the vuvuzela which, contrary to popular belief, is not the sound of sport in South Africa. Which is why it has now been banned by rugby. I'd prefer to be stung by a swarm of bees.
• Dom Raynor High: Joachim Low's attack-minded Germany breathed life into a tournament that was in danger of being suffocated by massed defences. Their four-goal dissections of both England and Argentina were a joy to watch.
Low: Mark van Bommel's rule-bending performances.
• Tom Adams: High: The mad final minutes at Soccer City when Uruguay denied Ghana a place in the semi-finals. Suarez's handball, Gyan missing a penalty before scoring in the shootout and Sebastian Abreu applying a cheeky coup de grace. Pure, unmitigated drama.
Low: England vs Algeria. A dismal, dismal performance that exposed the mental frailties and technical ineptitude eating away at the heart of Fabio Capello's England. A complete waste of 90 minutes, topped off by Wayne Rooney insulting the supporters that had travelled so far to watch him play.
• Brett Taylor: High: The jovial South African people will provide the lasting memory of this tournament and Siphiwe Tshabalala's goal in the opener was the single moment that best captured their support and catapulted their joyful enthusiasm to new heights
Low: Luis Suarez's goal-line handball was a horrible moment for everyone outside of Uruguay. I don't blame the player himself - anyone would have done the same - but the subsequent result was just one of those unjust set of circumstances football can throw up that leaves you feeling sick in your stomach
• Mark Lomas High: Ghana reaching the quarter-finals was hugely important for African football in what was an otherwise disappointing showing for the continent in South Africa. Asamoah Gyan's last-ditch penalty miss was heartbreaking but the Black Stars players were rightly treated like heroes on their return home.
Low: France's farcical exit was an utter embarrassment and by deciding to strike the players disgraced themselves, but worse, shamed the football-following public at home. A complete shambles.
• Robin Hackett High: Siphiwe Tshabalala's goal against Mexico. The opening game provided excitement and hope, with the hosts and underdogs putting in an attacking performance and receiving due reward through Tshabalala's spectacular strike. If only all the underdogs had played with such spirit.
Low: England vs Algeria. All that was disappointing epitomised: a team set up solely to defend, a disjointed and dispassionate England side failing to create chances and one of the pre-tournament stars - Wayne Rooney - turning in his worst performance in years.