So the World Cup is over, like a summer holiday it has come and gone to quickly and we are left with nothing but the memories - another French revolution, a failed English revolution, South Americans crumbling, Injuries and controversies left right and center. Here i plan to look at the good, the bad and the down right ugly
One of the main highlights, for me anyway, was seeing Spain finally confirming themselves as the best International team on the planet, becoming 3rd team in history to hold the Euro & World cup and the 2nd to do it this way round (Germany Euros '72 & World Cup '74) & France (World Cup '98 & Euros 2000). I read many articles and comments about how Spain were boring and how they weren't playing entertaining football, i thought the only problem with the Spain games where the fact that every team seemed to adopt the same approach which was sitting deep and trying to hit Spain on the counter, which clearly didn't work. Torres lacking fitness was a problem as they wanted to use him in tandem with Villa but Torres looked sluggish through out the tournament and clearly wasn't at his sharpest & fittest and broke down in the final to prove this, although an interesting little fact was the only time Villa didn't score was when Torres didn't start.
Another highlight for me was Uruguay, a team who i greatly admire for their history, surprising quite a few people and getting to the Semis and being part of a cracking game against Holland. I said they would be dark horses at the start of the tournament and really lived up to it, playing some very nice football and the attacking qualities of Forlan & Suarez were one of the joys of the tournament, Forlan rightfully picking up the Golden Ball for the best player and i think that's pretty justified. They also had some excellent fans, some quality players in Lugano, Godin, Fucile & Pereira and one of the best national anthems at the tournament.
Their was also quite a few cracking goals scored in the World Cup, and the tournament started off with a cracker, Siphiwe Tshabalala scoring a beautiful left footed thunderbolt from just inside the area, Oezil scored another long range shot in the Germany v Ghana game from just outside the edge of the area teeing himself up lovely with a little touch then powering the ball home. The last good goal from the group stage, that i can think of anyway, is the 2nd Italian goal against Slovakia by Fabio Quagliarella, the ball falls to him about 25 yards out and with the most sublime chip manages to dink it over the keeper and drag Italy back into the game. After the group stage we saw another cracking goal from Tevez against Mexico, he actually lost the ball trying to play a pass to Messi, the ball bounced off a defender and back to him and he hit a lovely shot combining power and accuracy to unleash a near 25 yard shot in to the keepers top left corner. In my opinion the only other 2 goals to be considered are the Van Bronkhorst strike against Uruguay, he was pretty much on the left wing about 35 yards out, took two touches to cut inside and let rip, the ball flying past everyone and crashing into the goal off the post and the other goal would be Forlans in the 3rd/4th place play off, a lovely cross came in and Forlan caught it on the volley on the edge of the area, thumping the ball into the ground and the bounce fooling German keeper Butt as the ball sailed past him into the goal. I personally think Van Bronkhorst's is the best goal at the World Cup closely followed by Tevez's against Mexico.
My final highlight was the lack of predictability at this years world cup, yes i know Spain won and they were one of the favourites but the fact is they are still the first European team to win outside of Europe which is a big achievement. Aside from that i look at the Semi finals and never saw any of the teams, bar maybe Spain, being there - i was expecting 1, maybe 2 South American teams but never expected the only one to be Uruguay, it was also nice to see Holland their and i never expected Germany to get that far. Even the Spanish had a surprising result losing to Switzerland in the first game although i think that provided them with the kick they needed to realise they couldn't just turn up and expect to win no problem. No one saw Algeria drawing with England, New Zealand being the only unbeaten team all tournament, Italy losing to Slovenia and finishing bottom of their group, the French blowing up so spectacularly, South Africa being 2 goals away from going through, Brazil struggling to beat North Korea or a German missing a penalty.
Yes it may not have started off at a blistering pace but come the semi finals i was really enjoying things and will genuinely hold fond memories of this world cup.
Special mentions - Robbie Earle & his participation in getting 30 scantily clad women in to a game, Paul the Octopus (but not the other animals that tried to steal his crown), John Terry eating humble pie & the giant dung beetle during the opening ceremony
Another highlight for me was the 'mute' button on my T.V remote which got a frequent work out thanks to a mixture of abysmal punditry teams & commentators or that horrible noise of Vuvuzelas. Just to make one thing clear, i have absolutely no problem with African culture or what they want to do at their football games but this notion of 'its part of their culture' is absolute crap. The Vuvuzala came to prominence in 2002 - yes, that's right 8 years ago, and was only really used at Church's before this so no its not part of the African 'football culture' that Sepp Blatter told us it was vital to, the reason he said this? What a shocker, the vuvuzelas all have FIFA logo's on them meaning FIFA get a percentage of the money made from these sails, his exact quote was "we should not try to Europeanise an African World Cup ... that is what African and South Africa football is all about — noise, excitement, dancing, shouting and enjoyment" correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that what football all around the world is about?! Somehow its managed for over 100 years with out them and I'm pretty sure football will carry on OK without them......
Moving on from annoying monotone sounds to....annoying monotone sounds this time provided by T.V coverage from the wonderful BBC & ITV pundits & commentators. Starting with the BBC which i thought was the lesser of 2 evils, Gary Lineker was nothing special but his usual steady self on air although he does need to stop acting like Alan Hansen & Alan Shearer are just his mates and we the viewer are eavesdropping on their conversation. Hansen was the same guy he's been for the last 15 years, offering good defensive insight into the game but not really offering anything we haven't heard before. Shearer is just boring and monotonous, the more i listen to him the less interested i get in what he has to say. Those where the main pundits, we also had to endure the ramblings of Emmanuel Adebayor who made sense about 1 in 10 words - the guy made no sense at all and the only thing that stands out about him was his phone going off whilst he was talking in the Japan v Cameroon game, he should never be allowed near a microphone again. Lee Dixon is another one who seems to just make up the numbers, offering nothing insightful or beneficial to the discussions and pretty much stating the obvious and just generally agreeing with anything people like Hansen & Shearer would say (especially in the final).
However the BBC had two ace's up their sleeves with Clarence Seedorf & Jurgen Klinsmann who genuinely offered insightful thoughts & observations which were very useful in both setting expectations and pointing out things to watch out for during the game but sadly these guys were rarely used, as Holland & Germany progressed these guys should have been used more often but instead Seedorf was used at half time & full time for quick comments and Klinsmann just seemed to vanish, probably back to the U.S. Roy Hodgson was another one that was very good although he returned to England after the group games and it was interesting to see a current manger offering insightful thoughts to the game although this shouldn't be taken as a given, Mick McCarthy showed that not all managers make good pundits/commentators as he was awful, in the Nigeria Argentina game he seemed to loose his rag on air at a T.V crew & in the Brazil Ivory coast game he said 'i wish someone would just elbow somebody' personifying just whats wrong with the English attitude towards football. It was a shame to see Motty used sparingly, i understand he's not doing live commentary anymore although if he's out their he should do it because he's sorely missed, but still if your dragging someone out the South Africa given them more than 5 mins at the end of the show. I would talk about commentators but as most of the games i had the T.V on mute i wouldn't be able to say much!! Actually thinking about it, that's a lie - i had the audio on for Argentina v Germany and it took Mark Lawrenson about 20 mins to spot the fact that the reason for Germany's first goal was because the Argentinians didn't have anyone on the front post, so I'm guessing i didn't miss much in the way of insightful observations. Colin Murray was also a good host of the highlights show, proving both interesting and witty yet serious when the situation called for it and was certainly a refreshing break from Lineker & Chiles and it is surly a matter of time before he starts getting bigger roles
The ITV team was easily the most annoying though, a mixture of inaudible English provided by Edgar Davids (so bad he was relegated to James Cordons rubbish show) or Marcel Desailly (although hats off to him, his reactions in the Ghana games was excellent)and rubbish pundits starting with Andy Townsends awful insight which provided the viewer with no extra information and Gareth Southgate who is so boring i don't know what he provides (except constant ribbing about penalty shoot outs). Kevin Keegan wasn't to bad but i only saw him for one match. Again their was one gem in the dirt, Lucas Radabe offered some useful insight into the African mentality and what the whole thing meant to not only South Africa but Africa as a continent, although the highlight must have been Robbie Earle, who's mysterious disappearance from TV screens was explained when the story broke about the Bavarian beer trying to ambush advertise with a number of scantily clad women - turned out they used Earle's complimentary tickets to get in to the ground, somehow Robbie Earle managed to get nearly 50 free tickets a game?! He was delt with swiftly to avoid any FIFA action against ITV, but this is still the highlight of ITV's trip out to South Africa for me. Adrian Chiles went to ITV because he wanted to become a main presenter and proved BBC's decision to let him go was right by being one of the most boring presenters ever, nothing seemed to raise him from his boring flat tone and its no surprise that the BBC coverage of the final was more watched, the numbers nearly being 3-1 in BBC's favour
Although ITV's commentary team did show something that could be taken forward, when before the Holland v Uruguay semi final Jim Beglin was taken ill with an ear infection leaving Clive Tyldesley to commentate on his own and i found it much more beneficial, mainly because i believe Beglin brings nothing to the input, but also because having one voice making statements and observations was better than the game of '1 better' or 'I'll have the last word' we frequently see between commentators. Although i didn't like ITV's idea of having one of Southgate or Townsend commentating as well as being pundits, either to one job or the other we don't need your idiotic thoughts in both formats. The highlight for ITV though was missing Gerrard's first goal against the USA game on there HD channel, the first of 3 high profile blunders (Earle/Ticket scandal & Tyldesley being left on his own). To conclude the nightmare that was ITV after every evening game you got to endure 30 mins of James Cordons 'ego trip' which was just a very boring, very flat program - the guy was sub Tim Lovejoy and that's something.
My one final moan is at the players themselves, FIFA had a big push on the 'fair play' and 'spirt of the game' but this was not evident through most of the tournament and a few teams stood out in this respect, pretty much all the major teams disgraced themselves with petulant behaviour both on and off the pitch, the two major examples of this being France & England. The way the French players behaved during the world cup was disgraceful, any dressing room disagreement between a manger and a player should stay in the dressing room, yes these things get leaked out but to show such petulant behaviour was both a disgrace to football and their country & it will be interesting to see how Laurent Blanc & the FFF react to this when the next squad naming comes around. Although the England players are perceived as a disgrace for their attitude on the pitch & their lack of work ethic you can't criticise them for simply not being good enough, its not their fault its the system they've come through & ultimately this should lay at the feet of the F.A and EPL. However their is one clown who should be singled out for his behaviour and that is John Terry, more specifically the moronic press conference he held where he tried to stage a coup although I'm not quite sure what of, if he really thinks Capello will ever consider him for being captain again then he really is an idiot and I'm not quite sure what else he expected with that press conference. Either way he completely undermined the team spirit, the current captain & vice captain and at the end of the day Capello delivered him a bitch slap that resulted in him having to publicly come out and back down and more than anything he seemingly made Capello stick to his guns more than ever. I said before the world cup that Terry was a liability and if reports are to be believed his attitude during and after this press conference just drove a bigger split in the camp and it wouldn't surprise me if Capello either left him out the next squad or called him up and then made him sit on the bench to prove a point.
It's not just these 2 examples though, the Ivory Coast against Brazil were an absolute disgrace and Kaka's red card was just a joke along with the behaviour of their players, if they weren't rolling around feigning injury they were injuring the other teams players. Mark Van Bommel was another one, clearly the pace of the top games was beyond him so his answer was to kick the other players and somehow got away without a booking until the semi finals when he got booked for time wasting! The final was an example with Spain, the only team that really tried to play football in every game they where in, against a Holland team who's solution to the problems with the ball was to not worry about the ball and just kick the opposition up and down the pitch, then have the cheek to complain about the ref afterwards - for what? not sending De Jong off for showing Xabi Alonso his latest kung fu moves? or because Robben was very lucky not to get a second yellow? either way it showed the petulant nature of the whole tournament because the moment the players failed on the pitch it was everyone else's fault - Brazil are another example, complaining about Melo's red card for a very clear stamp on Robben, then Melo complains saying it wasn't a red card?
Despite the fact i will come away with more positive memories about the tournament it is a shame that the behaviour of certain players, teams & managers have tarnished the memory of this World Cup, and i get the feeling these problems won't go away overnight!
Thanks for reading