It was a strange old tournament, as Back of the Net's Paul Watson recalls...
Holders Italy didn’t bother to show up in South Africa, erroneously believing they could just turn up for the semi-finals, while England were cruelly denied by the lack of goal-line technology or talented players. The beneficiaries were Spain, who selfishly hogged the ball for almost the entire month, thereby winning the World Cup.
Vuvuzuelas add unique South African flavour, ruin competition
The grating drone of the vuvuzela gave the opening match a distinctive soundtrack but when it became apparent that every game would take place against these flatulent lamentations, panic set in. TV viewers made the unprecedented complaint that they couldn’t hear Peter Drury properly. Eventually, ITV worked out how to mute the crowd noise and armchair fans were able to hear Drury. Many then invested in vuvuzelas for the rest of the competition.
Ball doesn’t really work
The Jabulani football caused widespread frustration as it didn’t really work. Some players said it was too light; others insisted it was too heavy; Diego Maradona believed it to be haunted by the spirit of a mythical snake god, but by this point Maradona was certifiably mad. Whichever way, the Jabulani fizzed around like one of those cheap balls you’d buy on a beach holiday and even the world’s greatest players couldn’t do more than two or three kick-ups with it.
French are revolting
Raymond Domenech finally lost his tenuous grip on the French side when the players led a revolt, which culminated in Domenech reading aloud an open letter from the players consisting entirely of one-liners about Domenech. France’s players were in for a shock when they returned home to be treated like any other mutineers and tarred and feathered.
England are robbed
Video technology knocked England out of the World Cup. That and Germany. England had come into the last 16 on a high after squeezing past Slovenia and Algeria, but those giddy heights couldn’t be matched when they came up against a Germany side with young talent - a concept that can’t fully be translated into English.
England seemed to have Germany just where they wanted them, comfortably ahead, when Frank Lampard hit the bar. The ball appeared to cross the line but no goal was given. As a protest, England stubbornly conceded two more goals to lose 4-1. While video replays may have allowed England to get back into the contest, they may also have shown it was technically impossible for Matthew Upson to score the first goal, as he was indisputably Matthew Upson.
Spain underachieve their way to glory
Spain continued their history of underachievement on the biggest stage, only just winning the World Cup. The Spaniards’ possession football proved hard to combat: they enjoyed 100% possession for several games and considerably more in their win over Germany when they refused to allow their opponents to even kick a ball around in the warm-up.
Holland bludgeoned their way to the final, having managed to direct the hate the players usually feel towards each other towards their opponents. Having seen off Brazil and pantomime villains Uruguay, the Dutch attempted to rough up Spain in the final. It worked well until extra time, when Andres Iniesta scored. Although there were four minutes remaining, Holland conceded as it was clear they had no way of getting the ball. Spain had ended their wait for the biggest honour in football, but critics quite rightly pointed out that winning it in extra-time doesn’t really count.