The World Cup is an extraordinary 64 games in a four-week span. So much football in what seems like a massive span of time. Yet the competition went in a flash and suddenly a new winner is crowned and the glorious world tournament is over for another four years. There is a feeling of slight depression when saying goodbye to this old friend, that stops by but once every four years. They leave you in a state of awe, sadness, surprise, joy, and most of all, hungry for more. It’s a cruel, cruel way to come and go, but alas, this is what we love about the beautiful game’s most prestigious tournament.
You could say many things about this World Cup, but in the end, it was a tournament of firsts. South Africa became the first African nation to host a World Cup, and they put on a brilliant show. People all over the world were opened up to a new culture and vibrant people who were as enthusiastic about football as any other great footballing nation around. The crowds were full of energy, and supported their home countries, as well as the other African nations all the way to the bitter end when Ghana were overcome by Uruguay.
It was also the first time the host nation went out of the tournament at the group stage. It wasn’t for lack of trying, South Africa had a splendid start against Mexico and earned a well-deserved 1-1 draw, but they capitulated to a very strong Uruguay side. Their win against France was a nice way to go out, but may have been overlooked due to France’s ultimate display of atrociousness.
Spain, the victors, proudly walked away with the World Cup trophy for the first time in its nation’s history. Not only did they win the final, but they made it to the semifinals for the first time as well. And not only that, but they also were the first European team to win the cup outside of Europe. To go on such a run as they did, and beat Germany in the semifinal, you had to think this was their tournament to lose. That being said, if the Dutch had overcome this resilient Spanish side, they would have also been declared winners for the first time in their history as well.
The World Cup 2010 was not just a time for firsts, but also for surprises. Massive footballing nations bowed out of the competition at much earlier stages than anyone had anticipated. And it’s not even to say they were beaten by far better teams. One of the major stories at this year’s World Cup has to be the way many teams performed well below par. You could name a handful of countries including favorites Brazil and Argentina, as well as England, France, Italy, Ivory Coast, and Portugal that crashed out. The stars on these teams all have a lot to answer for as many of them left the tournament embarrassed and disgraced.
It wasn’t all roses, though. France deserves some kind of medal for being the most deplorable side in attendance. Raymond Domenech should be ashamed of himself and his team for putting on such a ridiculous World Cup campaign. You could argue they had no right to be there after Henry’s “Hand of God,” but to play their games with such a poor spirit and lack of respect was a shame. Many other countries would have been happy to take France’s place.
There’s no way to talk about this World Cup without mentioning the officiating. The refereeing has got to be one of the most abysmal displays at a World Cup to date. What started off strong in the first few group games slowly turned into a nightmare for the tournament’s referees and FIFA. Too many red cards and important, game-changing plays missed by the officials cost teams dearly when the stakes were incredibly high. Lampard’s well over-the-line goal and Tevez’s clear offside have to be two of the biggest mistakes. And of course, who could forget the perfectly good goal-that-never-was for the USA against Slovenia to win the game 3-2. The USA still topped their group, but it made their last game a must-win in the end. The sad thing is, despite these easily correctable offenses, Sepp Blatter and his gang of misfits don’t seem intent on fixing things anytime soon. Knowing them, we’ll be watching the ball cross the line and waved off at the next World Cup in 3-D, but still with no goal-line technology.
I suppose football wouldn’t be football but for all the ups and downs. When all is said and done, it was an engrossing tournament. Full of shocks, headlines, referring decisions, star names (new and old), and in the end, it exploded with footballing wonder as only the World Cup can produce. It’s a shame we have to wait so long to meet again, but as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Goodbye old friend, until we meet again in Brazil.