World Cup 2010 – The Aftermath – Part 1

Posted on August 2, 2010 12:58 am

We’re almost a month down the road from the final whistle of the 2010 World Cup which took place in South Africa this summer. Personally, I have been quiet for a few weeks to try and collect my thoughts, and quite frankly, to take a break from the game and recharge my batteries ready for the 2010-2011 season. The time off also allowed me to put the events of the tournament into perspective and be a little more analytical, rather than relying on emotional reactions that tend to take over immediately after such tournaments conclude. Consequently, I’ve put together a few thoughts and impressions that I had about what happened, and I’ll try to be brief as possible, and then we’ll move on to the new season.

Many people prior to kick-off in early June were critical of South Africa’s preparations for the month long extravaganza. Security, lack of ticket sales, and disinterest from the host nation supporters were all forecasted to be legacies of this year’s edition, but as is the case with most Domesday predictions, it all proved groundless. Security was tight for the most part, although David Beckham might disagree. Ticket sales were healthy although empty seats were visible at some games, more so because of the sheer size of the hosting stadiums which all had capacities of 40,000 or more. The host nation provided a very vocal atmosphere which was friendly to foreign visitors and supportive certainly to their own team. Goals were hard to come by in the opening round of matches but that went away as we moved through the knockout stages. Excitement and drama although were in short supply as defenses controlled many of the games but there were moments to look back on. Generally, I thought a successful production from the South Africans.

Almost unknown even after the Confederations Cup in 2009, the vuvuzela became the most talked about subject in South Africa. A loud, shrill scream was heard at every game, to the point where broadcasters found a way to tune out the noise for the commentators. FIFA even debated whether they should outlaw the horn instrument They were not just brought to the games by South African fans either. Supporters from every country had a bunch of them to blow on and someone sure made a ton of money selling them. Personally, I hated the darned things. I felt they made the crowd noise too monotone, and so the ebb and flow of the game was lost in the drone of the horns. Definitely an African cultural icon but thankfully many Leagues around the world have banned them from stadiums, following the lead from other sports. Sorry, but they were an annoyance.

The word Jabulani became almost as controversial as the vuvuzela. The new Adidas match ball was seen as a devilish development that haunted players and goalkeepers especially. Seemingly passing through the air with an unpredictable flightpath, the Jabulani was blamed for several goals which may or may not have been the case, but for me, the main drawback was the ball’s effect on passing. Long passes were almost extinct as the ball flew out of play on the first bounce, and the total disappearance of goals from free-kicks suggested that the players were right. Next time, FIFA need to leave well enough alone and just rename a ball that flies true, straight, and still puts money in the coffers of the fatcats in Switzerland.

Obviously being stationed in the USA, I can only pass judgment on what we were offered here, but I thought that ESPN did a tremendous job. They had some early hiccups with their presenters but once they found their feet, they all shined. Chris Fowler was excellent as studio anchor and although Bob Ley struggled at first he gave a good account of himself. Mike Turico knows exactly what covering an international tournament takes and was solid. The combination of Steve McMananan, Roberto Martinez, Ruud Gullitt, Shaun Bartlett, and even Alexei Lalas, did a superb job in discussing games, preparations and tactics and the whole broadcast effort would have been top class even in Europe. The weakest link, I think, surprisingly enough, was Martin Tyler. He sounded disinterested and monotone. Even with the educated Efan Ekoku at his side, their broadcasts paled into second place behind the passionate calling of Ian Darke and John Harkes. Time for Tyler to hang it up maybe even though I think he’s already signed for 2014.

I tend to disagree with the common view that the refereeing was poor.Definitely better than expected in my view despite some howlers that were more due to the system rather than the individual. FIFA clearly knew who their top referee teams were and consistently went back to them throughout. Offenders were weeded out quickly and the possibility of a plethora of diving and “gunshot” tactics never materialized. The biggest controversy was Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal in England’s quarter final against Germany which hopefully results in a change in the rules. The officials were not to blame as they all followed the regulations to the letter. I would not have given the goal either, as you could not make a definitive decision on whether the ball crossed the line unless you were level with the goal-line, or if you slowed down the video, neither of which were possible under the current rules. As for the final, I think Howard Webb and his team did what they could to control the game, maybe choosing to throw the yellows too early, but based on the tactics of the Dutch, he didn’t have too much of a choice.

In Part 2, we’ll look at some of the teams that performed, and some of those that didn’t along with some player evaluations too. Stay tuned !

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