The month-long festival of football has come to an end. We’ve had giant killings, mundane match-ups and countless intriguing tactical battles. Spain came out as top-dogs after defeating the cynical Dutch in the final, but who were the other winners in the first World Cup on African soil?
Team of the tournament: Germany
Runners-up: Spain, Netherlands
South Africa 2010 was the World Cup where the 4-2-3-1 formation came of age. No other team adopted the system as successfully as the Germans though, who defended solidly before counter-attacking with fantastic speed. Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger occupied the middle of the park and sat deep, limiting themselves to only the occasional venture forward. This allowed the quartet of Muller, Podolski, Ozil and Klose more freedom in the opposition half—the former picking up the Golden Boot for his efforts.
The Germans lost to Serbia in the first round but still managed to finish top of Group D. Then came the consecutive crushings of England and Argentina in the knockout stages before a semi-final tie with the Spanish. The eventual winners were just too strong though, with Carlos Puyol’s header sending the young German side home.
Player of the tournament: Diego Forlan
Runners-up: Wesley Sneijder, Bastian Schweinsteiger
In a tournament where many so-called ‘superstars’ failed to live up to expectations, it was ironic that a man considered a ‘flop’ to Premier League supporters set the tournament alight. During his three and a half year stay at Manchester United, the Uruguay marksman scored just 17 goals for the club. Sir Alex Ferguson shipped him off to Villarreal, where Forlan began to score, and brought in Wayne Rooney (who is mentioned later).
Forlan opened his 2010 account with a brace against South Africa and then scored the equaliser against Ghana in the quarter-finals. His goal against the Netherlands in the semi-finals was not enough to send the Uruguayans crashing out, while his third place play-off strike against Germany inspired a comeback from Joachim Loew’s side. Despite his tournament ending in disappointment, Forlan picked up FIFA’s ‘Golden Ball’ award for the best player of the World Cup.
Coach of the tournament: Joachim Loew
Runners-up: Bert Van Marwijk, Vicente Del Bosque
Loew was certainly the best dressed coach, and his stylish ‘father from an American teen show’ look was matched only by his tactical prowess. Losing Michael Ballack to injury before departing to South Africa proved to be a blessing in disguise as the inclusion of Khedira gave better balance to the side.
His side were only stopped by a persistent and disciplined Spain in the semi-finals. In four years time Loew, assuming he stays on as head coach, will be more experienced and equipped to go further. As will his players.
Surprise package of the tournament: Ghana
Runners-up: Uruguay, Paraguay
Ghana carried the torch admirably for Africa in a campaign where it’s nations failed to impress. Placed in the so-called ‘group of death’, Ghana did well to finish above Australia and Serbia and qualify for the next round. An extra time victory over USA set up a winnable quarter final against the Uruguayans.
Right at the death of extra time, Dominic Adiyah’s header was about to cross the line when Luis Suarez cruelly handled the ball, denying Africa an historic first semi-finalist ever. Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty and the rest is history. But winning this award means Uruguay will hopefully give the Ghanaians some sense of consolation and justice. Maybe not.
Flop of the tournament: Italy
Runners-up: Wayne Rooney, France
They arrived into the tournament with a much weaker squad than they did four years ago, but the disastrous campaign that developed was not predicted by anyone. The Italians were lucky after being placed in a relatively easy group with Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand.
After Daniele De Rossi rescued a point for the Italians in their opening game against Paraguay, it was expected Marcello Lippi’s team would up their game against New Zealand. But the 1000/1 rank outsiders for the World Cup held them to a 1-1 draw. It was down to the Italians to win their last match to qualify which everyone still expected them to do. But the Slovakians put in a marvellous performance and came away with a 3-2 win to send the Azzurri home.
Goal of the tournament: Van Bronckhorst v Uruguay
Runners-up: Tshabalala v Mexico, Tevez v Mexico
Giovanni Van Bronchorst announced prior to the tournament that he would retire from football altogether after its conclusion. The Dutch captain managed to lead his team to the final which ultimately ended in disappointment, but he will cherish the memory of his strike in the semi-final against Uruguay.
The former Feyenoord and Rangers left back let fly from 35 yards, with the ball striking the inside of the post and soaring into the top left hand corner of Fernando Muslera’s goal.Tweet