With time to digest the entire field of the World Cup, there have been multiple ups and downs, highs and lows and everything in between for all 32 nations competing. Having a look at everything, here’s some of the best and the worst things to happen during this month of soccer utopia.
The Good: The opening goal of the tournament, scored by Siphiwe Tshabalala, was a left footed screamer that woke up the event with a bang.
The Bad: Much of the rest of the opening round was pretty sub-standard as the rest of the teams tried to get a foothold in the proceedings.
The Good: The German youth movement paid off in spades as they scored a tournament high 16 goals. Pegged to be a team of note in 2014, they announced themselves early and must look to be a major player in Brazil.
The Bad: African nations who panicked after the ACN. Nigeria and The Ivory Coast in particular could have done better but managerial shifts in the months leading up to the tournament had to be a major factor in the poor showings.
The Good: The Japanese Football Association, for not taking the resignation thoughts of Takeshi Okada too seriously. Turmoil that could have been for the Island nation was averted and their performance was well received.
The Bad: ….Officiating, anyone?
The Good: In a tournament filled with “first goal wins” games, the United States continually refused to bow out without a fight, finally falling to Ghana when extra time came calling in the Knockout Round.
The Bad: Things happening around the goal line. Just a couple of…”interesting” things.
The Good: The Third Place contest.
The Bad: The Final.
The Good: The South American push up to the quarterfinals, particularly Uruguay’s performance throughout the tournament.
The Bad: England, France and Italy. ‘Nuff Said.
The Good: New Zealand. God love ‘em, they played well over their ability and had a result gone the right way, could have got into the Knockout Round. Not bad for a team pegged to be one of the whipping boys of the tournament.
The Bad: Teams needing results in the third group games laying eggs, including: France, Nigeria, Slovenia, Serbia, Italy, Denmark and Switzerland.
The Good: Diego Forlan. Had a whale of a tournament, played through pain and nearly capped off his tournament with what would have been last second dramatics of legend.
The Bad: Fernando Torres. Tried to play through injury but looked completely out of it. Disappointing considering what he did for Spain during Euro 2008.
The Good: South Africa. Aside from some not-so-high-profile contests that had noticeable vacancies in seating, the country provided a unique atmosphere for the tournament. Also created an instrument that many will claim is from the devil that will inevitably become a “Where’s Waldo?” type game with security trying to figure out who the hell is blowing that damn vuvuzela.
The Bad: Another month before anything meaningful happens again. MLS, here we come!
Of course, no review would be complete with out the cream of the crop, of which the jury (of one) will now bestow to the people. In 4-4-2 style:
Okay, so the one goal he gave up sent Portugal out, but damn if he didn’t do everything to keep them alive against Spain and hold off Brazil, the Ivory Coast and 30 minutes of North Korean attacks. Even then, probably unlucky not to be on a team that went deeper in the tournament.
Diego Lugano, Uruguay
A noticeable deference was seen when the Uruguayan strongman was missing from the field against the Dutch. While protected well by a tenacious midfield, plays that went at Lugano ended up going the other way in a hurry. Kept la Celeste in balance and was outstanding as captain for the fourth place nation.
John Mensah, Ghana
Absolutely unwilling to lose anything in the air, the Ghanaian captain’s only fault might be his penalty kick taking abilities. That said, he ran things well at the back while keeping a 19 year old Jonathan Mensah (no relation) from crapping himself at times.
Ryan Nelson, New Zealand
He probably wouldn’t get a sniff from three quarters of the rest of the competing nations, but Nelson captained and led a stout Kiwi defense that many predicted would be target practice for the rest of the group. Commandeering a side that lacked big time experience takes a skillful leader and Nelson was the man to do the job while also putting out fires left, right, center and back.
Marco Tulio Tanaka, Japan
The Brazilian-born Japan backline man was practically unbeatable in assisting the Blue Samurai into the Knockout Round. Sporting one of the more interesting hairstyles of the tournament, the defender was the emergency man on countless occasions, took some serious hits and just kept ticking on as Japan only conceded twice in four matches.
Thomas Muller, Germany
Four months ago, this kid was an unknown to most of the footballing world (outside of Germany). Not capped until March for the first time, Muller wound up with the Golden Boot and struck perpetual fear into the hearts of defenders with his off the ball runs and non-stop movement. Showed a glimpse of the future of German football, one that is pretty bright by all accounts.
Distributing the ball is his job for Spain. Fortunately, he just happens to be really good at that. I mean, really, really good. While there are certainly players that could have been plugged into that spot on the Spanish roster and done the job, he does it with such calmness and elegance that it’s hard to envision how exactly this side only scored eight times.
Kevin-Prince Boateng, Ghana
While Andre Ayew was getting looks for the Young Player of the tournament, it was the last minute addition Boateng that was the missing cog in the Ghana machine. Savvy on the ball, continually back to fill his defensive role and shutting up the entire time, Boateng had a lot to do and not very much time to do it. He passed with flying colors and gave Ghana and massive boost in ability that was missing without Michael Essien.
Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands
While many were given stick in the final, Sneijder escaped such criticism and shouldn’t be held to any as he was the catalyst of many of the Oranje’s best offensive movements, not to mention hauling five goals in himself to propel the Netherlands to the final. Industrious when necessary, his attacking clout kept the Dutch afloat, with his second half against Brazil one of the finest performances of the tournament.
David Villa, Spain
The single most important man in the Spanish line-up, bar none. All the pretty passes in the world don’t put the ball in the back of the net unless someone can stick it in there, and, fortunately for la Furia Roja, Villa was golden. Had he not been available, Spain never even makes the final, let alone wins the whole shebang.
Diego Forlan, Uruguay
Maybe the most inspiring performance of them all, Forlan played on like a warrior and justified his spot at the table with the best in the business. Coming off a double to win the Europa League, he hammered home five goals, all of which came at key moments in big contests. He won the Golden Ball and is a deserved winner at that.
Substitutes Bench: Iker Casillas (Spain), Manuel Neuer (Germany), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Carlos Salcido (Mexico), Fabio Coentrao (Portugal), Raul Meireles (Portugal), Andre Ayew (Ghana), Simon Elliott (New Zealand), Michael Bradley (USA), Miroslav Klose (Germany), Robert Vittek (Slovakia), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)
Tags: 2010 World Cup, Argentina, England, France, Germany, New Zealand, Soccer, United States