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Sunday, July 11, 2010
World Cup lows

Tom Adams

After enjoying a spectacle that comes around only once every four years, it seems somewhat churlish to pick out the bad parts, but pick them out we must, and South Africa certainly had its fair share of low points. Adams: World Cup highs From technological failures to very human flaws, these are the five aspects of South Africa 2010 that will not be remembered fondly. 1. The scourge of simulation The World Cup is supposed to be the four-yearly event in which football enchants the world, demonstrating just why it is beloved of billions across the globe. Sadly, certain events in South Africa threatened to provide ammunition to those who maintain footballers are nothing but a bunch of preening prima donnas. Perhaps the most notable, and most infuriating, was the reaction of Ivory Coast's Kader Keita as he threw himself to the floor after walking into Kaka, earning the Brazil playmaker a ridiculous red card. While Brazil were incensed, the mind immediately wandered back to 2002 in Ulsan and Rivaldo's deception to get Hakan Unsal sent off. In 2010, Keita was far from the only offender. Swathes of players were sent sprawling to the turf, tenderly clutching their faces, as replays revealed the merest of brushes from an opponent's shoulder. Time and again, games witnessed more theatrical spills than Oliver Reed on a particularly unsteady night out. Let's name and shame a few: the Italy defence against New Zealand, Arturo Vidal getting Valon Behrami sent off and Switzerland's Steve von Bergen embarrassing himself in the same game were all notable examples of behaviour that must be eradictated. 2. FIFA's Black Sunday As staunch opponents to the introduction of technology, FIFA's bigwigs must have been shifting uncomfortably in their executive seats, prawn sandwiches left uneaten, when two glaring mistakes from match officials left a black spot on the competition on June 27. Firstly, and most notably, Frank Lampard's shot clearly crossed the line against Germany, only for Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda to wave play on, sparking confusion in pubs across England. Replays confirmed the horrible truth, and surely moved the game a step closer to welcoming technology, rather than fearing it. However the suspicion remains that Sepp Blatter will continue to be the John Connor to Hawk-Eye's Skynet. In the evening kick-off, Carlos Tevez then scored a blatantly offside goal as Argentina defeated Mexico 3-1. Somehow, the replay was broadcast live to the Soccer City crowd so referee Roberto Rosetti immediately knew his assistant had made a horrendous call. Aware of the grievous mistake but bound by the rules to ignore the evidence in front of his eyes, the Italian had no option but to ignore Mexico's pleas to disallow the goal. Not a great day for the governing body. 3. Vuvuzelas We understand the argument that the vuvuzelas are part of South Africa culture and a legitimate way to express delight at a sporting occasion, but they are, in a word, annoying. Drowning out chants and songs from supporters inside the crowd, the constant drone from the dreaded horns came to infuriate television spectators as well. They were especially irritating when played in unison to create a pulsing sound; like having a particularly nasty migrane while sitting in a beehive. After the opening game, South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune even had the cheek to complain that the vuvuzelas were not loud enough. Abu Dhabi officials had the right idea when issuing a fatwa against the instruments on Thursday. We now fear a vuvuzela influx in time for the new domestic season. 4. Empty seats These were a constant source of frustration throughout the tournament. There really should be no excuse for failing to fill a stadium for a World Cup game, and we are talking semi-finals as well as Slovakia v New Zealand here. If there are tickets remaining, FIFA should have given them to local schoolchildren rather than letting them lie fallow. FIFA will say there are mitigating circumstances, with the global recession playing a part, transport problems highlighted and no-shows in the corporate seats having a significant effect, but the failure to sell out games is a disappointing one. Games between Algeria and Slovenia, and Japan and Cameroon had in excess of 10,000 spare seats going - a fact that reflects badly on the organising committee and indeed the tournament. 5. The Jabulani The advent of every major tournament sees goalkeepers complain about the state of the official ball, no doubt looking to get their excuses in early when a shot squirms under their body, but this year was different. Goalkeepers, outfield players and coaches all lined up to lambast the Jabulani. Brazil midfielder Felipe Melo described it as "horrible", Iker Casillas said it behaved like a "beach ball" and, perhaps most damning of all, USA 'keeper Marcus Hahnemann simply said: "Scientists came up with the atom bomb, doesn't mean we should have invented it." And when play got underway, there was something not right about the much-discussed ball. The vast majority of long-range shots were awful, accurate free-kicks were few and far between and even cross-field passes looked a real effort at times. However, Fabio Capello's attempt to blame the Jabulani for Robert Green's inability to grasp Clint Dempsey's shot was fairly laughable.


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