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With South Africa 2010 proving to be an acquired taste, Jon Holmes reflects on the 19th World Cup's recipe for success - or failure.

It began in Africa's new cauldron of football - Johannesburg's Soccer City - and it ended a month later with Spain crowned champions of the world for the first time in their history. With the stadium's look inspired by the 'calabash' cooking pot, I've taken a similar theme to my reflections on the tournament. Here's 10 significant ingredients that provided strong flavours - for better or worse - during World Cup 2010.

Underperforming 'stars'

For those on safari, it's all about spotting the Big Five animals - lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Before World Cup 2010, the talk was focused on the Big Five footballers - Ronaldo, Rooney, Drogba, Kaka and Messi. The latter had his moments but got nowhere near his best form, while the rest were nothing to write home about (and that's being kind). Hyped to high heaven by their sponsors, they failed to shine for a variety of reasons and must now nurse their battered egos back to health before we go again in August. In their place, a new breed of young heroes took centre stage in South Africa - Ozil and Muller for Germany, Ghana's Dede Ayew and Jonathan Mensah, Sanchez of Chile and Japan's Honda. In addition, Andres Iniesta and Wesley Sneijder - in my opinion, the two best players at this tournament - have only just turned 26. Perhaps we should be pleased that the obsession with individual genius soon faded away. To quote the slogan of our very own Royal Navy - 'the team works'.

Insipid pundits

In 1970, Jimmy Hill and an ITV sports producer called John Bromley came up with a new idea for coverage of the World Cup: a panel of football experts. A drink or three beforehand loosened the tongues of Allison, Dougan, Crerand and McNab (Clough and Jack Charlton would come on board four years later), so by the time they went on air, strong opinions and pub banter were guaranteed. Forty years later, there's barely any spirit left in our dreary TV pundits (alcohol or otherwise). On the Beeb, Adebayor mumbled incoherently, Shearer stated the bleeding obvious like it was cutting-edge analysis, and Lineker and Hansen openly laughed about the fact they knew next to nothing about any of the players in the Slovakia v New Zealand match. On the other side, Davids scowled throughout while off camera Robbie Earle's bid to shift 400 complimentary tickets was soon curtailed. In short, the so-called experts were exasperating. Chris Waddle's furious anti-FA rant on 5 Live was about as good as it got for passion and polemic.

The genius of Diego

Diego Maradona - a true maverick. In a sport so flooded with money that everyone appears to think three times before opening their mouths, lest they run the risk of losing a sponsor, the Argentina coach was a gift to the media and fans alike. Having selected Ariel Garce in his squad based upon a dream he had of the defender lifting the World Cup, Maradona continued his unconventional approach to management by telling Pele to "go back to the museum", firmly asserting his sexuality and saying anyone who didn't rate Demichelis was as blind as Andrea Bocelli. He also covered every square inch of his technical area in all five matches.

Something for everyone

Your criteria for goal of the tournament depends entirely on what you value most in the game. Giovanni van Bronckhorst's long-ranger for Holland against Uruguay was one for the individual; Brazil's second against Chile delighted aficionados of free-flowing team goals; there was a bit of both in Mesut Ozil's winner for Germany over Ghana; and for speed, style and symbolism, it's hard to beat Siphiwe Tshabalala's tournament opener for South Africa. But from an Englishman's point of view, one goal above all others changed the course of World Cup 2010. Landon Donovan's 92nd-minute strike for the USA against Algeria sent the Three Lions down a rockier road on which they quickly stumbled. Capello's men were poor in Group C, but could they have found an upward curve on the kinder side of the knock-out draw? Donovan's intervention means we'll never know. Great pile-on celebration too.

Technological advancements (or lack of)

Fifa's main argument against the use of technology has always been based upon the 'universality' of the game: to quote Sepp Blatter in March 2010, "the game must be played in the same way no matter where you are in the world". Whilst this tenet of integrity would once have been commendable, events in recent years have shown it to be seriously outdated. Blatter and his fellow bigwigs have used the principle to block any attempts to conduct proper trials with technology, even though the rest of football has long accepted that a World Cup match or other major fixture is considerably more important than a kickabout in the park, and that the decision-making involved should reflect that. England will always rue Frank Lampard's lost goal against Germany but with Blatter in the Bloemfontein stands that day, it may yet mark the turning point in a movement for change that the majority of those who love football feel is for the good of the game.


From the moment the FA and Fabio Capello lost control of the England squad announcement to Twitter on June 1, the ubiquitous microblogging website/app claimed possession of the World Cup news cycle. All the major stories - injuries, team announcements etc - seemed to be broken first via a tweet from one of the many journalists from around the world working in South Africa, and they were supplemented by wit and wisdom from across the globe too (my favourite was this from the brief output of lost England fan @Pavlos_Intruder: "I have found the toilet now. Thank u for ur msgs of support.") Twitter provided the biggest and best-informed World Cup conversation - even the Golden Boot winner @DiegoForlan7, FIFA president @SeppBlatter and @the_vuvuzela got involved.

Talking tactics

Blatter hit the nail on the head (for once) when, in response to criticism of the tournament's quality, he pointed the finger at the 'directors' eg the national-team coaches. Amid the current football fad that is the 4-2-3-1 formation (Spain, Holland and Germany all employed subtle variations on this theme), there was a distinct lack of new tactical thinking at this World Cup. Only Marcelo Bielsa offered something novel - an attack-loaded 3-3-1-3 system that was a joy to watch but was gradually pressed and pulled apart by Brazil at Ellis Park. How we longed for a sweeper, a libero or Herbert Chapman's WM formation, just to mix it up.

Stereotypes smashed

It's always satisfying to smash a few stereotypes during a World Cup, and the long-awaited beneficiaries of this in 2010 were undoubtedly Germany. Their fast-paced proactive style was refreshing in a tournament stymied by negativity, and Jogi Low's tactical acumen proved more than a match for the experience of Fabio Capello and the enthusiasm of Diego Maradona. Their attempt to counter-attack their way past Spain ultimately failed but there was much to admire in the direction of the new Deutschland. To take a wider view, Europe appeared to bond over the course of the tournament, perhaps as a result of the suggestion going into the quarter-finals that South American nations were dominating. Instead, a continental shift ensued and the UEFA elite locked out the podium on African soil.

Clockwork Oranje

Representing your country at a World Cup is a privilege that should never be taken for granted. It's the dream of men and boys from Aberdeen to Zhengzhou, regardless of how unlikely that may be (Scotland and China, your time will come again). Sadly, in the England and France camps, there were players who forgot to leave their inflated egos, primadonna behaviour and self-serving interests at home. Some even made excuses about the atmosphere inside their Rustenburg and Knysna bases while outside their gated compounds, millions of South Africans went about their daily lives in poverty. Meanwhile, the Dutch (of all people) mingled happily with strangers in their hotel, Sneijder and Robin van Persie put a long-standing dispute behind them and the team went all the way to the final. The Oranje ran like clockwork.

Positive world view

Race war, murder, even Al Qaeda terrorist attacks. Scaremongering British tabloids ran a series of headlines in the months building up to the World Cup that warned fans of the dangers of travelling to South Africa this summer. In the end, the one major incident which affected supporters - the Durban flight chaos before the Germany v Spain semi-final - was largely caused by celebrities and VIPs jetting in on charter flights. Crime rates fell dramatically in Cape Town and other cities, the investment in infrastructure paid off and over one million people entered the country because of the tournament. By any standards, the World Cup has provided a positive world view of South Africa that will endear for years to come - although there is plenty of work to be done to secure its legacy. The government must now attempt to maintain three key factors - the national unity engendered by Bafana Bafana and the tournament, the security afforded by increased policing, and the prosperity that tourism and education can help to facilitate.

What will your abiding memories be from World Cup 2010? Please post your comments below and let us know...

Comments (19)

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Alan Brody (Tottenham Hotspur fan) says...

As a South African American I was struck by three things: 1. How well South Africa responds to a national campaign. Things work, crime goes down, the national spirit is high. South Africans love being part of an impi (a regiment) and as long as were moving forward, ubuntu (people spirit) works. 2. How badly the Dutch team behaved when they realized they couldn't beat Spain at their own game - and how little soccer fans seemed to care. Their thuggishness was a form of organized crime. Soccer and the Netherlands left a bad taste with American fans who were starting to admire the world sport. 3. Say what you like about vuvuzelas but they gave fans an interactive outlet that took the edge off potentially destructive behavior. Plus, it's hard to make trouble when your hands are attached to a horn. That's why Blatter couldn't condemn them. Someone needs to invent a tolerable vuvezela..... Maybe a wireless silent horn that gives the fans their blaring results on a giant screen. Prizes for best, random shout outs for blowers etc...... Where do I file that patent.....?

Posted 15:34 14th July 2010

Miles Tucker (Tottenham Hotspur fan) says...

Worst World Cup ever. Why? 3 reasons: 1. Deplorable refereeing standards (bung lack of technology in here too because they're intertwined) 2. A truly awful football that was hard to control, harder to strike and even worse to save. It was supposed to bring goals - it didnt. 3. Negative and cynical tactics from most all of the teams in attendance. Boring and Cheat being the two most used terms in our household... The solution? Hard to solve it all in one go but two changes MUST be forthcoming for the good og the game: 1. Goal line technology (wont slow the game and who gives a you know what if we dont have them at the middle schools and parks...) 2.FIFA/UEFA, etc MUST install retroactive suspensions (2 games?) for simulation. It is ruining the game and it breaks my heart to see 8 year olds doing it. What sort of a game do we want people playing in the future? In Latin America and Continental Europe diving is being actively coached and is considred part of the "art" of football. NO WAY! Kaka should have had his ban overturned and the lad from Ivory Coast should have had a 2 game ban on the International stage. Understand that every game gets reviewed as a matter ofcourse and you can see that this adds no cost and causes no delay (2 things I would always be sensitiv to). These 2 changes would improve the credibility and integritry of the sport I love, how do we make it happen?

Posted 14:38 14th July 2010

Colin Brown says...

It's has been a great world cup, the Prophet of Doom could be herd every morning on talksport. These guys displayed a level of ignorance on virtually every thing to do with South African, according to them there would be rampant crime, rampant rapes, murders , the stadiums would fall down, terrible communications, awful internal transport, and as for the Africans playing football, you could forget that. Fortunately history will record that it was a well run safe world cup, that brought a smile to the world,and also showed that South Africa in particular and Africa in General have a lot of things going for it.

Posted 10:10 14th July 2010

Alihusein Namajee (Manchester United fan) says...

Hats off to South Africa for a well staged world cup. The organisation was fantastic and the people so friendly I never felt I was away from home. The football was a shame most teams played rugby rather than football and it was sad to so many blatant fouls, bad refeering and unsportsmanlike behaviour on the field. The team that played the best football was Uruguay but unfortunately they were knocked out and Diego Forlan was the man of the tournament undoubtedly. But surely South Africa won the kudos from people all over the world.

Posted 09:13 14th July 2010

Steven Ashiembi (Liverpool fan) says...

the stakes in football have are growing higher by the day and the fear of losing has removed the gloss from entertainment football. there is too much pressure to perform even for teams that have never been top notch and the public following has increased so much that it is a must for good performances in terms of results than the style of soccer.

Posted 08:35 14th July 2010

Hassan Ismael (Celtic fan) says...

I live in the middle east and I enjoyed watching the WC on aljazeera sport they have got the likes of Luis aragonis, Terry vanuables, arsene wenger, and the list goes on

Posted 05:16 14th July 2010

David Mcgregor (Dundee fan) says...

Overall not great quality of football and distinct lack of free flowing football is my memory of this World Cup. Too much negativity (not wanting to lose). Was that really interesting watching Spain v Switzerland for example?? And bring in video technology to help the refs Blatter - why are you such a dinosaur! As for the TV pundits only Alan Hansen was worth listening to.

Posted 19:35 13th July 2010

Aron Ekstein (Hoffenheim fan) says...

For me as a German I cannot even express how glad I am that we're no longer (rightfully) considered the powerful, muscular defensive players that somehow without playing even one nice combination win all the games... It's a great thing and I want to thank you that you so kindly regard us as a colorful team that's got a lot of fun playing football. Just wanted to add this.

Posted 18:14 13th July 2010

Neil Treacy says...

In relation to the point about analysis where nothing groundbreaking gets said, our national station, RTE is filled with controversy every single night! Brady, Giles and Dunphy have thoroughly entertaining debates about the game, which sometimes go a bit too far.... For those who don't know what I mean, just YouTube Eamonn Dunphy!

Posted 15:59 13th July 2010

Ekasak Bodhi (Barcelona fan) says...

When you put Rooney with the same class as Messi, Kaka, Ronaldo and Drogba is a REAL JOKE.. The first 3 are current and former world's players of the year. Drogba is top EPL scorers and multi-times African players of the year.. What about Rooney!! Nothing at all.. Real JOKE.. Also, Messi plays very good accordingly to any other player standard, except that he is Messi, so everyone expect him to play at Maradona level, even he is just 23..

Posted 15:06 13th July 2010

John O sullivan (Aston Villa fan) says...

3 points stick out for me... The first is that, as was mentioned above, the so-called stars of modern day football turned up to the world cup expecting to waltz through the tournament were given a hugh shock, which delighted me. I much prefer to see a team that works for each other than one that has one superstar and tries to get everything to him for a through-ball to get him one-on-one with the keeper. The second point is the rediculous vuvuzelas...For me, they left the tournament leaving a sour taste in the mouth in what was otherwise an entertaining world cup. They were a constant drone in the background, which even the commentators had to shout over at times. They were a novelty at first, but very quickly became a great annoyance. It was like a swarm of bees attacking the stadiums.] The final point is the Jubilani. This football was a joke. Even the players did'nt like it, and obviously the goalkeepers hated it. The long range efforts were not great goals because it had very little to do with the player. They didnt have to place the ball, just blast it straight at the keeper, knowing that it would swerve violently until the goalkeeper had no idea where the ball was going (obviously there were notable exceptions, like the van Bronckhorst goal, and SA's first goal). How many free kicks were scored? players themselves couldnt place the ball from a free kick because they had no idea where it would end up.

Posted 14:56 13th July 2010

Bradley Rose (Tottenham Hotspur fan) says...

Proudly South African, another Arsenal fan talking out of their backside. 'Rampant Afro-pessimism of many of the British people'. Get real mate.

Posted 14:50 13th July 2010

David G says...

So pleased about your comments regarding the pundits. The BBC crowd were nausiating throughout the tournament, talking across one another and stating blindingly obvious points. The BBC needs to do a lot of work to sharpen up their delivery. They sounded like a bunch of blokes after too many pints. The abiding memory of the World Cup is South Africa. The nation and its people gave their all to this tournament to host a bunch of overpaid prima donnas whose lack of interest in the case of most counties was an embarrassment to their countries. The second abiding memory is the pitiful quality of the football which resulted in the winning team scoring only eight goals throughout the tournament. Sadly Fifa lacks imagination in the award of its prizes. As there was no great player in this tournament it would have been just to award the Golden Ball to South Africa and not to any player.

Posted 14:42 13th July 2010

Aidan Fitz says...

if you want to see some decent analysis try giles dunphy and brady on rte!best by a mile

Posted 14:15 13th July 2010

Jr Robson says...

There's more spin on this article regarding the legacy for S Africa than you'll ever get from the Jabulani ball. The reality which remains is that people are living in the shadow of the newly builit and now mainly redundant stadia, who have no electricity or toilet.

Posted 14:00 13th July 2010

R Conway (Arsenal fan) says...

I wholeheartedly agree with the comment concerning the standard of (bbc) punditry. Alan Shearer and Lee Dixon probably share a brain cell between them, and on the day of the match, must have misplaced it. The only information imparted by these two was whether their coupons had come in. At least Alan Hansen did offer a bit of (mainly) impartial analysis, albeit his dry drawl was almost as annoying as a fork scratching on a plate. Adebayor - a career as a pundit does not beckon. Although with such a grasp of fashion, its a suprise he didn't sign for the red half of manchester instead. Worst though was the decision to have Mark Lawrenson at the matches. Every single game he commentated on, his input were purile, negative, lacked enthusiasm and failed to give a single hint of profesional tactical insight, which im pretty certain he was flown out and paid for. The BBC might as well have hired Jack Dee - at least he could stick in a joke or two. Clarence Seedorf, four-time Champions League winner, was the only panellist who stood out. However, more often than not he was interrupted mid-flow by his colleagues. At least its only two years until we get to endure those bunch again.

Posted 13:40 13th July 2010

Sundesh Mahes (Liverpool fan) says...

As a proud South African the World Cup has been a dream come true and I would like to let the entire world know how great it feels to be a South African at this moment. the main reason we feel like this is because we know it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we will not see this again on our shores. The Stadiums that have been built are absolutely awesome and I hope that our Football Federation (SAFA) mantains the standard of football to be played in our local league and by our National Team - Bafana Bafana in those stadiums, the team showed moments of greatness and need to be more consistant and hungry to achieve success on the international scene. The World Cup has shown the rugby loving nation of SA that football is the greatest game on earth. I also hope that football will be introduced into high schools as rugby has dominated the schools sports scene for far too long and this is the main development phase for young aspiring footballers. Well Done South Africa you done us proud!

Posted 13:29 13th July 2010

Proudly South african (Arsenal fan) says...

I think the behaviour of the British tabloids and the rampant Afro-pessimism of many of the British people has left a sour taste in South African's mouths. However, the increasing insignificance of Britain's football prowess is matched by its economic decline too. One thing we have learned is that our future belongs with the developing world and most especially with Africa. Sure, poverty and other social problems resulting from it abound but the story of South Africa (and Africa) is one of high growth rates, increasing geo-political relevance in the world and incredible development. Despite having lived in the US and the UK for short periods of time, I am more convinced than ever that South Africa is the greatest place on earth to live. This World Cup has reminded us of our potential and where our future lies!

Posted 13:14 13th July 2010

Andrew Ortiz (Arsenal fan) says...

What about that swerving ball, the Jabulani???

Posted 13:14 13th July 2010

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