I know it's been like 4 days since the 2010 World Cup ended and this is my first chance to post about it. But has the entire world except for Spain already moved on? I wonder.
This is the first World Cup where I've paid a decent amount of attention, and while the hornet-like buzz of vuvuzelas is a sound I can live without for the rest of my life, I found the tournament itself quite enjoyable. After all, what's not to enjoy when you pick the two finalists and the eventual winner, which happens to be the team you were rooting for the whole time? Paul the Octopus and I were all OVER this World Cup with our predictive powers. We had it on lockdown from the beginning. Here are some personal highlights and lowlights from the 2010 World Cup.
Spain was great. I'm so glad Fabby and I bought our jerseys at Paragon before the tourney and were gung ho for our team the whole time. They had that one horrible gaffe in the 1st game when they lost 1-0 to Switzerland, but after that they had it under control. Casillas was amazing in goal. Xavi was unbelievable controlling the midfield. Iniesta came through with solid performances up front in the knock out rounds and then won the whole thing for Spain with only 2 minutes to go in the final when it looked like it was gonna have to be decided in penalty kicks. Villa was a total force, scoring 5 goals overall and nailing the deciders against Portugal and Paraguay. Capdevilla, Ramos, Piqué and Puyol all delivered as well, and Puyol had that awesome header that sent Germany packing in the semifinals. All in all, Spain won their last 4 games 1-0, with Spain scoring the only goal late in the game each time. They win their first World Cup scoring only 8 goals in 7 games which is the smallest amount of any winning team ever.
One of the bonus delights of Spain winning was getting to see Rafael Nadal freak the eff out like the ultimate Futbol Fanboy he is. Rafa loves Spanish soccer much more than tennis. It was hilarious to see him there at the Final with the flag rapped around his shoulders and a towel wrapped around his head and his face painted like it was some make-shift superhero costume. He was beyond excited for the game and admitted afterwards that he "cried like a little boy," seeing his home country take the championship for the first time ever. He got to party with the team afterwards and take a bite out of the World Cup trophy, which had to rank right up there for him with winning Wimbledon.
(Nadal takes his signature bite out of the trophy, because why the hell not?)
On the other hand, I have no love for the Netherlands right now. They played like thugs in the Final, amassing 10 yellow cards and one dismissal for John Heitinga. At one point Nigel De Jong kicked Xabi Alonso square in the chest. Regardless of how well they played during the tournament, their unsportsmanlike strategy toward Spain in the Final made them undeserving of a win. Better luck next time, Dutchmen.
Other things of note from the tourney: Paul the Octopus in Germany went 8 for 8 in guessing who would win in every German game and then the Final. very impressive!
In the first African World Cup, only Ghana managed to go deep in the draw. It was sad that South Africa became the first host not to advance to the knockout rounds. Bafana Bafana was a fun group, but their play was inconsistent. They did score the first goal of the entire tourney, but their brutal 0-3 loss to U.R.Gay closed the door on their chances early on. Guess there was no such thing as home continent advantage this time.
England was a disappointment getting ousted by Germany, but will probably still be remembered most for letting in that silly goal in the first match against the US. That was the best missed save ever! It still makes me laugh thinking about it.
I heard a lot of talk about Leo Messi, but apparently one great player does not a winning soccer team make. Don't cry for him, Argetina. He'll go play with the winners of the World Cup on Barcelona soon enough. Keeheehee!
In an especially weird twist, both of the 2006 finalists didn't make it to the knock-out round. The defending champs, Italy, didn’t win one match and finished LAST. Yikes! No wonder the team captain looked so sheepish when he brought the Cup Trophy out on the pitch for the Final Game.
Nobody was as delightfully terrible as France, though. I've never seen a team in ANY sport unravel like this team did over the course of the opening rounds. They lost miserably, fought publicly, and sent one teammate for cursing out the coach. That dismissal caused the other players to boycott practice. There were staff resignations, refusals to speak to the press - this one had it all. It was a total embarassment for France - a country with such a deep soccer tradition and love for their national team. The soap opera of it all was kind of amazing. But their unprofessional behavior was a total slap in the face to all their loyal fans who had such high hopes for World Cup. Get it together, Les Bleus.
Before we wrap up, one final shout out to the US Squad who were very entertaining this tourney. So many great moments in their matches. They were very fun to watch at work with a big crowd around the TV. That being said, the US Squad needs to find a way to not give up goals so early. Being the Come From Behind Kids is exciting to watch, but it would be easier to win if they didn't spend almost every game giving up a goal right at the beginning and then spending the next 80 or so minutes simply trying to tie the score! Go for the lead, next time guys and then spend the game.
So World Cup goes away for four more years. Spain gets to throw a party for at least the next year, but I'm betting they can find a way to stretch it all the way to the European Championships in 2012. Spain likes a party. Even if World Cup fever doesn't transfer over to the MLS, I'm sure there will be another outbreak of passion for it in 2014. You can only go so long without screaming GOOOOOAAALLL!!!!