The 2010 World Cup is over. I feel it was a wonderful World Cup; much better than the disappointments of 2002 and 2006! The following is a top ten of the best and the worst respectively, starting with the bad things:
10) Petty nationalism: Many people only interest themselves in football every four years for the World Cup, as the nationalism and stereotypes appeals to them. They don't watch it for the football. At the same time, the results on the pitch are interpreted to confirm all types of stereotypes and situations in the world, and any comment about a play is interpreted as an insult of a nation. When France's team strikes, it does not mean all French are arrogant and selfish. When we say that the Dutch played like animals, it does not mean that we don't still love the Netherlands. When I say that the Spanish team deserved to have their air down against Switzerland, it does not mean that I find that all Spanish are arrogant....
Football is passion, but people who don't watch it often should learn to relax: it is only football!
9) People who kept complaining about the vuvuzelas: the vuvuzelas rocked!
8) Some empty stadiums: Incredibly, there were some empty stadiums in the first rounds, and I am certain that they could have been sold out. Why!?
7) Defensiveness: In the first round in particular too many teams are more afraid to lose than prepared to win. The few goals scored in this tournament are also an expression of a tournament where most teams are not prepared to take risks. Fortunately, the winners were not one of these (although being very inefficient up front, Spain relied strongly on its defense to win).
6) Some referees: In general the referees were quite good, considering the lacking assistance they get from FIFA and from players. However, still some referees were appalling, most notably Mr. Webb in the final, who allowed too much from the violent Dutch.
5) African sides: The first World Cup in Africa, and all but Ghana were eliminated in the first round. In particular Nigeria and Cameroon were hugely disappointing. Even in the long-term, Ghana remains the most likely African World Champions.
4) The Netherlands: To reach the final the Dutch were stable and efficient, as well as outright nasty (notably Van Bommel should have gotten a red card many times during the tournament). It (almost) worked, but many people miss the beautiful and entertaining football that has made the Dutch admired and respected.
3) The soap operas of the European sides: The most pathetic display came from the French side, but also England, who had a humilliating World Cup suffered from internal dicussions, pressure from the press, and so on. Finally, Italy grossly underperformed, perhaps due to a coach who still lives in 2006...
2) Paul the octopus: Who came up with this stupid idea of a psychic octopus...? Granted, it is funny, but as the tournament progressed the octopus got more attention and I personally got increasingly annoyed that it kept making better predictions than myself... Why not just cancel the next World Cup and let it make predictions - imagine how much money, time and nerves will be spared!
1) FIFA and technology: FIFA is a powerful and conservative organization that does not accept any criticism. Its stance on using some technology to improve the game is outright stupid: Lampard's goal against Germany was seen by the entire world, including the referees, within seconds of it happening, but still, the referees could not change!? I understand it is a more complex discussion, but intransigence to consider it in a game that moves billions, is stupid.
I must admit that I did not have an easy time thinking of ten bad things! In any case, it is much easier to mention the good things:
10) Andrés Iniesta: In my humble view, the King of the Tournament.
9) Diego Maradona: the most controversial person in football, and many would surely not put him on this list. But I do: he has been as refreshing as controversial, has tackled the pressure well, and made Argentina play good offensive football. In spite of Argentina falling apart against Germany, he remains one of the great memories of the tournament. Viva Diego!
7) Uruguay: To many Uruguay were the surprise of the tournament. However, the small giants have an excellent team and a great history. The fact that they returned in Africa forty years after their latest semifinal also carries the symbolism that they were the first team to use black players nearly 100 years ago!
6) New Zealand: With three ties the Kiwis were in fact the only undefeated team of the tournament! Bravo for a team nobody expected anything from!
5) The finalists: The Netherlands played their third World Cup final while Spain played its first. Although both teams are giants, this was an unusual final, as it is the first final ever without the participation of Brazil, Italy, Germany or Argentina.
4) Ghana and their fans: Ghana is the best African team, and showed it again, being just one kick away from being the first African semifinalists ever. That they didn't make it was heartbreaking, partly for the team, but mostly for all Ghana's fans, who are surely the best fans in the world! The World Title for best fans went to Ghana!
3) Germany: Germany broke a lot of stereotypes with a young team that any football fan should look forward to seeing in the future. I was not expecting much of them, but was impressed by the German youngsters (notably Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller) who with style, pace and efficiency became the most scoring team of the World Cup.
2) Spain: World Champions for the first time ever, and breaking a longtime curse for the Spanish side. It has been amazing to see how they have united an otherwise disunited country, and knowing Spaniards, I am sure that the party was epic! Cheers!
1) South Africa: the country and people of South Africa silenced all critics (including myself) hosting a marvelous tournament, welcoming the world with hospitality, smiles and a gorgeous country. There are many world champions from this tournament, but South Africa is surely the foremost!
On a personal note, I had the privilege of watching the world cup in five countries, continuously travelling, with friends, family, plenty of beers, smiles, laughs, frustration, disappointments, happiness.... This is what football is about! Still, I have to go cold turkey on this football overdose for now!