World Cup (Highs and) Lows
Now that the 2010 World Cup has come to an end, and we have had a few days to chew over the major talking points of an interesting, if ultimately unsatisfying, tournament; the time has come to reveal my much-anticipated and inevitably seminal: FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 Highs and Lows.
The ups and downs of the tournament will, tantalisingly, be delivered in two posts. I will commence with the lows, so that the lamentable memories they will inevitably invoke can be banished by the euphoric recollection of the subsequent highs (also they’re easier to remember).
1. Empty Seats
Nobody would deny that Africa, a continent in love with football, fully deserved belatedly to host its first World Cup, but FIFA were not able to reconcile their need for a profitable tournament with the average expendable income of South Africans. This led to the extraordinary sight of swathes of empty seats at various games, up to and including the quarter-finals; an embarrassment for FIFA in its global showpiece.
2. The Vuvuzela
Inexplicably popular and monumentally tedious.
3. The Stars
The World Cup is often considered the stage where the globe’s greatest prove themselves, Maradona in 1986, Pele (amongst others) in 1970, Cryuff in 1974, Baggio in 1990, Ronaldo in 2002 etc. Unfortunately, most of the brightest stars of the international game failed to shine very brightly in 2010; Rooney, Kaka, Ronaldo and Drogba all did little to impress, and even the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, couldn’t score a goal. While the eye-catching form of the likes of Uruguay’s Forlan and Mexico’s Salcido was pleasingly surprising, it remained a disappointment not to see the best of the best.
4. Refereeing Errors
The anachronistic policy of FIFA that does not allow the use of technology in the officiating process of football was highlighted in two particular incidents on the same day. Firstly, and most strikingly, a shot from Frank Lampard that bounced a good two yards over the line was extraordinarily missed by the referee and his assistants.
Secondly, Carlos Tevez had a goal that was clearly offside given against a rightly furious Mexico. While it can help neither England nor Mexico now, the atrocious decisions made against them may have caused a change of heart in FIFA and Sepp Blatter. A storm of protest followed these games and, despite his seemingly immovable stance on the subject, even Blatter could not ignore calls loud enough to reach him in his ivory tower. FIFA has finally stopped swimming against the tide and has announced that when the IFAB next meets, technology will at last be raised. Still, this is no guarantee of its introduction…
5. The Jabulani
Never before has such a furore surrounded the ball at a World Cup. As with every tournament, a new ball was introduced especially for 2010: the Jabulani. Adidas produced the usual marketing spiel about how the ball was ‘the most spherical ever’, how it ‘improves stamina by 200%’ and that ‘at least £70 from every purchase would generously be donated to Adidas’. Unfortunately for the German sportswear giant, the reception from coaches and players was less than enthusiastic, with David James, Iker Casillas, Fabio Capello and Lionel Messi all providing conspicuously negative reactions. The general mistrust of the ball seems to have been borne out in the number of shots during the tournament that just kept on rising and the lack of goals from direct free kicks (only Japan’s efforts springing immediately to mind). Next time, just bring back the Tango.