Spain make history as hosts exceed expectations(Cup Review)

July 12th, 2010 - 6:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, July 12 (DPA) On the one hand, the story of the 2010 World Cup is easily told: Spain were crowned world champions for the first time, German youngster Thomas Mueller topped the scorer charts and Diego Forlan was an unlikely winner of the Golden Ball for best player.
Africa disappointed, as just one of the continent’s six teams that participated advanced past the first round, with South Africa becoming the first hosts in the history of the competition to be knocked out in the first round.

The shift of power from Europe to South America, which looked likely at the end of the group phase, simply fizzled out as Spain and the Netherlands dished up the eighth all-European final.

It was, however, the first time that an all-European final took place outside Europe and it was also the first time that a European team won the competition outside Europe.

All five South American countries advanced past the group stage and all but Chile - beaten by Brazil - went into the round of the last eight. But only Uruguay made it to the semi-finals.

The six remaining European teams after the group phase had to play each other in the round of 16, which resulted in just three teams advancing to the quarter-finals. It was then that the European dominance came to the fore.

Germany trounced Argentina 4-0, becoming only the second team since Brazil in 1970 to score four goals in three different matches at one World Cup finals, while the Netherlands beat one of the favourites, Brazil.

Spain looked less impressive, but managed a 1-0 victory against Paraguay, with both sides missing a penalty.

The three European sides were joined in the semi-finals by Uruguay, who broke African hearts with a penalty shoot-out victory against Ghana.

The Black Stars were agonizingly close to becoming the first African country to advance to the quarter-finals but were thwarted by a deliberate handball on the line from striker Luis Suarez, who prevented a last minute goal that would have seen Ghana through.

Asamoah Gyan missed from the spot with the last kick of extra-time and Ghana went out in the resultant penalty shoot-out.

Germany, who were beaten 1-0 by Spain in the semi-final, finished third, with Mueller, who also won the Young Player of the Tournament award, getting a goal in their 3-2 victory against Uruguay.

Like Forlan, Spain’s David Villa and Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, the 20-year-old German finished on five goals, but took the Golden Boot award for top scorer with his three assists.

The final saw Spain prevail in an ill-tempered match which saw English referee Howard Webb flash a record 14 yellow cards, as well as a red for a second bookable offence by Dutch defender John Heitinga.

The star World Cup performer was arguably an octopus called Paul from the German city of Oberhausen, who captured the world’s attention by correctly predicting the outcome of all seven German matches, as well as the final.

But if all of that is just one side of the story - there is also another.

In the run-up to the competition, there had been much scepticism about the ability of South Africa to host the World Cup. The stadiums would not be ready, seats would remain empty, the infrastructure would collapse under the influx of so many foreigners and fans and players would fall victim to the country’s high crime rate.

However, when FIFA president Joseph Blatter and South African President Jacob Zuma handed over the trophy to Spanish captain Iker Casillas Sunday, they brought the curtain down on a hugely successful tournament.

There were, of course, some minor hiccups along the way.

Hundreds of fans could not make it to the stadium on time in Durban for the semi-final between Germany and Spain because the airport parking bays were blocked by charter planes that had brought VIPs to the game.

The Mandela family accused FIFA of putting pressure on them to ensure Nelson Mandela attend the final. In the end, the former South African president put in a brief appearance, but left before the start of the match.

And there were some security issues, with even some of the teams being robbed in their hotel rooms.

But all in all, none of the doomsday prophecies came true and Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said at a press conference at which the 2014 World Cup emblem was unveiled that he had never doubted South Africa.

“After 2006 everybody thought that we would never again see such a World Cup with so much perfection. But in the last few years I never had the feeling that South Africa would not be ready.

“I always said that they would host a beautiful World Cup and that is how it happened.”

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