By Ewen Boey
The World Cup in South Africa has finally come to a conclusion. It was indeed an exciting tournament, filled with heart-wrenching and dramatic moments.
Even though the tournament festivities have passed, some things will still live long in our memories. Here are some of the most memorable things in the 2010 World Cup, what are yours?
The omnipresent vuvuzela is hard to ignore. Made of plastic, it produced a tuneless blare that resulted in most people I know turning down their television volumes during a game.
South Africans might prefer to remember the vuvuzela to be the symbol of the World Cup in their home country, but most others will not forget the loud and irritable noise it produced during the matches.
“Jabulani” means “celebrate” in isiZulu. However, goal celebrations were at a premium as players tended to blast the ball over the bar most of the time.
Top goalkeepers like Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas have been very vocal about the ball, with Casillas likening it to a beach ball.
It was reported that FIFA wanted to investigate the “flaw” of the Jabulani ball, which is slightly ridiculous considering that it’s not exactly a new product, having been used in the Bundesliga since last December.
Whoever thought a ball could cause such controversy?
Germany’s young (and older) stars
Germany’s injury woes were well documented before the World Cup started, with talismanic captain Michael Ballack, among other first team players, ruled out injured just a few weeks before the start of the tournament.
However, coach Joachim Loew had no fear. In stepped young stars Thomas Mueller, Sami Khedira and Mesut Oezil to plug the gaps.
The young trio, with an average age below 22, stepped up to the challenge and impressed en route to leading Germany to a respectable third-place finish. Thomas Mueller even managed to bag two awards: the Golden Boot, scoring 5 goals and 3 assists, and the Best Young Player award.
A special mention must be made to Miroslav Klose, who struggled to score goals for his club during the season. However, he returned to impeccable scoring form in the Germany shirt, bagging in 4 goals to equal Gerd Mueller’s World Cup total of 14 goals, just one behind Brazilian Ronaldo’s all-time record.
Who knows how the match might have turned out had Frank Lampard’s shot that crossed the line via the crossbar not been disallowed by referee Jorge Larrionda and his assistants.
True, the Germans were running circles round the English up to that point, but the potential equalising goal might have provided the boost England needed to up their game.
Hindsight and what-ifs are useless though. What has happened, happened.
However, this incident, coupled with Carlos Tevez’s offside goal against Mexico has forced FIFA into reconsidering its stance on implementing goal-line technology.
Looks like something good actually came out of these refereeing and linesmen screw-ups.
The French should take a page out of the Dutch handbook of “how to get along with team-mates you dislike”.
Yes, we all know Raymond Domenech’s an inept coach, and there’s locker-room unrest among the plump egos of the players, but conducting a mini-French Revolution certainly isn’t the way to go about winning the World Cup.
The result: exiting the tournament without winning a single game, and creating a memorable tournament for the country for all the wrong reasons.
Hand of Suarez
Without a doubt, Luis Suarez’s goal-line handball was one of the most controversial moments in this World Cup.
Hailed as a hero in Uruguay, and most certainly a villain to Ghana and the rest of Africa, Luis Suarez helped his country progress to the semi-finals, thereby reinstating them to a position of former glory.
What would you have done in his position?
New Zealand entered this World Cup with the tags of whipping boys, but they were far from it.
Surviving in a group consisting of world champions Italy, in-form Paraguay and a Slovakian side qualifying top of their European qualifying group is no mean feat. Yet, against all odds, New Zealand managed to hold every one of those teams to a draw.
An extremely credible performance, underlined by the fact that they were the only unbeaten team in the tournament.
Now beat that.
Spain’s first World Cup win
Spain have finally lived up to their lofty expectations and can definitely shed the tag of “underachievers” from their international reputation.
The current World and European champions probably tried to make things more interesting for us by losing their first game and limping through to the semi-finals before showing the world what they’re truly made of by comprehensively beating in-form Germany.
Landon Donovan’s late, late goal
Long hailed as the golden boy of American soccer, Landon Donovan came in to this tournament eager to impress after a dismal 2006 showing.
Impress he did.
He contribute three important strikes to the Americans’ cause, one of them being a last-minute goal against Algeria in the final group game that help them avoid certain elimination to top their group above England.
El Diego’s charge
After a cagey end to their qualifying campaign, not many people were convinced Argentina’s coach Diego Maradona had what it took to take them to the soaring heights of World Cup victory.
Well, he didn’t.
He did however provide some entertainment with his interesting press conferences, two wrist watches, as well as a good deal of hugging and kissing with his players when he makes a substitution during the game.
Just as well that he didn’t win the World Cup, a naked Diego Maradona running round the obelisk in Buenos Aires would have made a blind man’s eyes bleed.
Fall of the superstars
Despite the pre-tournament fanfare and expectations, the Cristiano Ronaldos, Kakas, Messis and the Rooneys of this World Cup have miserably failed to deliver.
Instead, we had the unheralded heroes like Wesley Sneijder, Mueller, Diego Forlan and Xavi step up to impress in the tournament, with passmaster Xavi putting in a strong case to dethrone Messi as the world’s best player.
Photos: Getty Images
Feel free to share your best world cup 2010 moments with us!