Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2010 World Cup Roundup

For all you readers who are not football fans, you will be happy to know that this is likely to be my last World Cup-related post. Until Brazil 2014, anyway.

BEST PLAYER:
Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands). Diego Forlan may have got FIFA's Golden Ball, and he was indeed brilliant, but the Dutch playmaker Sneijder was better in my estimation. Bear in mind that aside from Arjen Robben, the rest of the Dutch side was fairly workmanlike. Almost every goal the team scored was due to the involvement of Sneijder, be it through his own 5 strikes, his menacing free kicks, or his precision passing.

BEST COACH:
Joachim Loew (Germany). It took guts to build the team around the promising but untried Ozil and Mueller, and start with Podolski and Klose despite them having uninspiring domestic seasons. Completed the tranformation of the German team, started by Jurgen Klinsmann 4 years ago, into a pacy and technical young side built for devastating counterattacks.
BEST GAME:
Slovakia vs Italy (3-2). It had everything both good and bad that makes football interesting. Plenty of goals, including an outrageous chip from Fabio Quagliarella in the dying seconds, all manner of ridiculous diving and ugly spats, and high drama as the Italians launched an ultimately futile effort to keep their tournament alive.

GREATEST DISAPPOINTMENTS:
* Wayne Rooney. It's hard to believe that only a few months ago some in England were touting him as the best player in the world. Rooney didn't merely disappoint - for 4 games, he was utterly anonymous.
* Nigeria and Cameroon. With Cote D'Ivoire stuck in the Group of Death, these were the 2 African teams which had golden chances to impress and make it out of their relatively weak pools. But they were woeful, Nigeria in particular, exemplified by Yakubu somehow missing a tap-in on the goal line with no one anywhere near him.

MOST CYNICAL PLAYERS:
Kader Keita (Cote D'Ivoire) for his comedic face-clutching, rolling-around in agony routine that somehow got Kaka sent off.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay) for single-handedly redefining the phrase "deliberate handball" against Ghana. Actually, that should probably read "double-handedly".
Mark Van Bommel (Netherlands) for his sheer commitment to kicking opponents, whining to referees and generally being the nastiest c**t in professional football today.

BEST GOALS:
Giovanni Van Bronckhorst vs Uruguay
Maicon vs North Korea
Carlos Tevez vs Mexico
David Villa vs Honduras
Siphiwe Tshabalala vs Mexico

ODD SIGHTS:
Joachim Loew and his assistant, Hans-Dieter Flick, dressed in their matching v-necks and black jackets, game after game.

Cameroon's veteran defender Rigobert Song, now with blond beard and dreads, looking like a homeless 60-year-old man. (He's listed as being 34.)
This Danish supporter.

BREAKOUT TALENTS TO WATCH:
Thomas Mueller & Mesut Ozil (Germany)
Gervinho (Cote D'Ivoire)
Keisuke Honda (Japan)
Eljero Elia (Netherlands)

MY ALL-WORLD CUP SQUAD
Those in italics would be the starters, in a 4-3-3 formation.
Forwards:
Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
David Villa (Spain)
Thomas Mueller (Germany)
Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Miroslav Klose (Germany)
Landon Donovan (USA)

Midfielders:
Xavi Hernandez (Spain)
Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
Mesut Ozil (Germany)
Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
Andres Iniesta (Spain)
Park Ji-Sung (Korea)

Defenders:
Gerard Pique (Spain)
Per Mertesacker (Germany)
Sergio Ramos (Spain)Diego Lugano (Uruguay)
Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Netherlands)
Philipp Lahm (Germany)
Fabio Coentrao (Portugal)

Keepers:
Iker Casillas (Spain)
Eduardo (Portugal)
Richard Kingson (Ghana)


A FEW THOUGHTS...

* The two most impressive teams in the tournament were Spain and Germany (Netherlands were good throughout the Cup but never looked like they were the best team). Perhaps the key to the fluid play of both teams is that they are based around players who regularly play domestic football together at two of Europe's top clubs. Spain revolves around a core of Barcelona players, while Germany was basic Bayern Munich with a few extras. The Dutch, by contrast, didn't mesh as well as a unit and relied excessively on their two most talented players.

* Despite two bad calls against them towards the end of the game that preceded Spain's winning goal, the Dutch are in no position to complain about Howard Webb's refereeing. They were very lucky not to receive at least one red card early in the game for Nigel De Jong's kung fu manouvre on Xabi Alonso. While Webb erred in not sending off De Jong, it was to the benefit of the game that he didn't, as the second half was a tense affair in which the Dutch made a real game of it. But it's a good thing that justice prevailed in the end due to Iniesta's late goal.

* An interesting moment came late on in the final, when Spain's Carles Puyol tried to bring down Arjen Robben as the Dutchman surged past him towards goal. Robben is not renowned for staying on his feet, and had he gone down, it may well have been a red card for Puyol (as the last defender illegally denying a clear goalscoring opportunity), thus handing the Dutch a distinct advantage. Unusually, Robben stayed on his feet; and failed to get the ball past the Spanish keeper Casillas. You can sort of understand why players do go down so easily; there is frequently no reward for managing to stay on one's feet, with refs not bothering to blow the whistle unless a player hits the turf.


See also: 2006 World Cup Roundup

Who are the hottest players at the World Cup?

I should be a professional football pundit (in which I gloat over the accuracy of my pre-tournament predictions).

Assorted World Cup 2010 Thoughts:
Post-Quarter Finals
Day 16
Day 8
Day 5

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