This tournament has definitely been soured by all the diving and play acting on the pitch. Sure, there's always going to be "selling the call" to the ref from the players, but at times some players looked like they were shot by a 9mm, wriggling helplessly on the field, only to get up when the ref blows the whistle, hands a card or walks away nonchalantly. Italy are the masters at this (one of the reasons why I can never root for Italy no matter what), but more and more teams are using this as a tactic to keep possession and advance up the field.
Along with the diving, so many teams have resorted to a defense and counter attack type of football. All the great display of attack and goals were only shown in glimpses, while most of the games were a battle between wills and patience, waiting for the other team to start slacking or exposing their weakness for a last minute goal before the end of the match. In the end, Brazil tried to win with this tactic and failed. Netherlands tried to win with this and failed.
The Old England
England yet again disappointed everyone with their play. They boast one of the best leagues in the world, are the inventors of the sport, and annually receive tremendous hype about being serious contenders and have the potential to win it all each time. Yet, they showed no organization or grit, and seemed archaic compared to all the other teams.
What more can be said about the French? Domenech is now gone, and Laurent Blanc is the new head coach. The team imploded during training, and did not have a single player to step up and be the leader to galvanize the team. They boast some of the best talent on this planet, and yet have failed to win a single game. Only if they could convince Zizou to step out of retirement once more, things might have been different. Never mind the fact that he's been in retirement for a few years now. Some youtube footage of Dennis Bergkamp playing currently shows
that these legends still can provide some pizazz. I expect France to be competitive once again with their new guard in Nasri, Gourcuff, and Lloris.
Nigel De Jong
His flying karate kick was worthy of a spot in a kung fu movie, but deserved a red card on the World Cup final. The fact that Howard Webb didn't have the gall to send him off in the first half is probably even more atrocious than the kick itself. It truly epitomized the nastier side of football at the highest level.
Nike's Write The Future
At the time, everyone thought it was a genius piece of advertisement: the world's celebrated footballers coming together to film an epic commercial by one of Hollywood's prominent directors. But, little did everyone know that it would be the reason for such dismal performance from players who often carry the weight of the world's expectations. Not a single person highlighted in the commercial did anything to "write the future". Sure, maybe it's all just hokey pokey non-sense, but there's something to be said about the fact that Drogba, CR, Rooney, Ribery, and Cannavaro did little to push their teams through. Are they too over-hyped? Are they not hungry enough? Do people expect too much out of them? Whatever it is, this commercial doomed them from the start.
Siphiwe Tshabalala's goal
The best goal for me was the first goal
made by South Africa's Siphiwe Tshabalala. It was a beautiful breakaway clinically finished. As the first goal, it truly got everyone excited for the tournament, regardless of what country they were rooting for. In my mind, it showed all that was good and beautiful about soccer. Plus, coming from the tournament hosts, everyone can get behind the goal and celebrate it.
Forlan is truly the player of the tournament. He is a leader among leaders, a consummate professional, and an inspiration to the whole nation. He has single handedly carried his team all the way to the semi-finals, often providing the much needed goal to keep the team alive. Every time the ball was given to Forlan, you could tell that he was going to do something with it, and that the opposing team was fearful of him. He was truly talismanic, and a joy to watch.
Misunderstood for the most part, Maradona showed the world that he did indeed know what he was doing with the Argentina national team. He not only had the appearances of a coach, but he also acted like one too. And some of the set pieces and strategies were from himself. The only piece that Argentina is missing is that of a true playmaker. Messi likes to attack from the wing, while Di Maria likes to come from the opposite end. Neither are meant to be playmakers, but were often forced to play that role for the likes of Higuain and Tevez. Once they have a true number 10, Argentina may yet have another revival.
The New Germany
Germany was easily the most entertaining team this time around. They had three games where they scored 4 goals, and never were afraid to go on the attack. Their squad is young with an average age of 24, and truly play like a team. The world is now familiar with rising stars such as Mueller, Oezil, and Khedira. While England and Italy are languishing as their veteran stars grow old and young talent yet identified to replace them, Germany has successfully blended the two, ensuring a smooth transition. Kiessling, Marin, and Kroos are also up and coming and will make their mark in the future.
What an awesome theme song to accompany the first World Cup in Africa. There's joy, there's celebration, there's spirit, and there's heart. I can listen to it over and over again, and it brings chill down my spine. The song is truly one of the highs of this tournament.
But now, the World Cup is over. And with this, I've decided to take a hiatus of sorts from football. I'll be sad to miss Chamakh's debut as a Gunner, and will miss out on who else Le Professeur will sign on to Arsenal this year. But life is more than football, and there's other matters to tend to. I'm entering another season of simplifying my digital life, spending more time with books, contemplating, and writing.
No more streaming matches, soccer updates from the Guardian, and footytube reviews. Instead, more playing on the fields, more interaction with people, and more being present. But for those of you who want to continue on, best of luck. The internet is your friend and will allow you to follow your favorite teams and players, even if you don't live in England, Spain, Germany, or Italy.
See you on the other side.