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World Cup's five best moments

July 12, 2010
Schaerlaeckens By Leander Schaerlaeckens
ESPN.com
(Archive)

JOHANNESBURG -- Sixty-four games in 31 days by 32 teams in 10 stadiums across nine cities all over South Africa. That made for quite a few amazing moments. Here are five:

5. Terry told to can it

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when soccer's managers lost their power to the players. So how refreshing it was, then, to see Fabio Capello exercise his authority to the fullest extent. England had been so unhappy with the disciplinarian's sway over the team that deposed captain John Terry called for a team meeting. That he got, and then Capello told him to shut up, that nobody would be talking but him. Capello got through the group phase, and despite losing to Germany he even got to keep his job.

4. Switzerland beats Spain

It was the opening game for both teams, and Spain was still the tournament's favorite -- a badge that was ultimately deserved, of course. But a plucky Switzerland with nary a player of note was duly unimpressed and hit Spain on the break time and again. In the 55th minute, Eren Derdiyok broke away for Switzerland and saw his effort fall to Gelson Fernandes on the rebound, allowing him to skip past a few defenders to sweep home the winner. Switzerland then withstood a biblical barrage of goal-scoring chances for Spain before holding on for the unlikeliest of wins.

3. Van Bronckhorst's wonderstrike

It was the second-to-last game of his career. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst has been a reliable and diligent Netherlands player for 14 years now, shifting from an attacking midfielder to a holding one and then, at last, to left back. He has played in three World Cups and three Euros, amassed 100 caps and served as captain for this World Cup. That's what made his opening wonderstrike against Uruguay in the semifinals (only his sixth international goal) such a wonderful story. Receiving the ball at a good 30 yards from goal in the regular run of play, Van Bronckhorst didn't hesitate and laid the ball off for a shot with his preferred left foot. The ball zoomed through the air, hard and straight as an arrow, before settling into the far right top corner of the frame, handing him the goal of the tournament.

2. Siphiwe Tshabalala scores the opening goal of the tournament

In Soccer City's frenzied atmosphere, with ear-shattering vuvuzelas ringing out, South Africa was offered the chance to experience what it is like to be on top of the soccer world. Fifty-five minutes into the opening game against Mexico, Tshabalala took a ball on the left, charged into the box and unleashed a gobsmackingly beautiful shot that settled into the top right corner of the goal. For that moment -- and for the next 24 minutes until Rafael Marquez capitalized on a defensive blunder to equalize -- this really was South Africa's tournament.

1. Landon Donovan and, well, you know the rest

You could feel the heartbeat of the American players throb in the press box. This was not happening. With a draw this favorable and a team with its star players at their peaks, they were about to crash out of the group stage. With just minutes to play, the Yanks were tied 0-0 with Algeria in their last group game at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria. And then goalkeeper Tim Howard stopped a dangerous shot and threw a Hail Mary pass forward to Landon Donovan, which set off what can now only be described as the most celebrated sequence in U.S. soccer history. Donovan to Jozy Altidore. Altidore to Clint Dempsey. Dempsey shoots. Blocked. Donovan swoops in. The U.S. wins.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at leander.espn@gmail.com.