July 11, 2010
World Cup boring on pitch, colourful off it
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
JOHANNESBURG Ė It will be remembered as a tournament unique for everything except it's football.
The 2010 World Cup was played in a unique location, under a unique atmosphere and it had a unique winner. The one thing that wasn't unique was the football. It will be remembered overall as being quite ordinary.
The tournament did have its moments.
There were the Germans, who surprised everyone with the wonderful play their young players produced.
There was Uruguay, a two-time champion who had done very little in recent World Cups but picked the 2010 tournament for a resurrection. It finished fourth and striker Diego Forlan thrust himself into the limelight as one of the world's best strikers.
There was courageous Ghana, the one African nation that survived the group stages and came within a handball of making the World Cup semifinals. Its eventual heartbreaking defeat on penalties ripped the emotions of a continent.
No one will quickly forget Germany's 4-1 defeat of England. They will remember German artistry but they will also remember the goal that wasn't called a goal. When Frank Lampard's shot hit the crossbar, bounced in and wasn't counted, it added another chapter to the electric history of the two nations.
There was the spirited play of the United States who provided four good games.
And Diego Maradona added a great deal to the World Cup with his colourful demeanour and the way his team played.
There was individual excellent of David Villa, Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and a number of others.
One of those moments was not the World Cup final. This tournament needed a great final to save it from a footballing aspect. It needed two teams to play freely and without fear. It needed two teams who were willing to play to win rather than not to lose.
It didn't happen.
The Netherlands and Spain played a dreary, uninteresting, choppy game where referee Howard Webb was the centre of attention.
Some would say the game was a fitting ending to a tournament that produced mostly ordinary football. There will be ample speculation as to why the football produced few memorable moments.
With so many average teams in the tournament, their goal was to advance. As a result, those teams were only interested in surviving. Many would put eight or nine players behind the ball and try and take the pace out of the game.
The favoured teams usually play cautiously in the group stages so as not to be upset.
Eventual World Cup champion Spain was defeated in its first game by Switzerland when the Swiss got a fortunate goal and then put up a wall for a defence.
After the group stages though, one can usually count on at least the good teams to produce some solid football.
But this was not a banner tournament for those soccer powers either. Several wound up going out earlier in the tournament than they normally do, robbing the event of top-draw teams.
England, a favourite going into the event, had a horrible time and didnít even win its group. After playing wonderful soccer to qualify, it was embarrassed by Germany and sent home.
Italy didnít even get out of their group. France was an abomination.
Brazil never really found its rhythm and never produced the kind of football that usually raises the quality of a tournamentís play. It was sent home by the Netherlands.
Argentina started strongly but didnít stick around long enough in the tournament.
It is difficult to produce high-quality entertaining football when teams such as Paraguay go deep into the event and when high-quality teams come into a tournament not in the best form.
When itís all said and done, the final game of this tournament truly reflected the quality of football this tournament produced . . . not good enough by a long shot.