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World Cup History: 2010

Iker Casillas holds up the trophy.
Iker Casillas holds up the trophy.

Winners: Spain
Teams: 32
Teams in qualifiers: 197
Notable Absentees: Republic of Ireland
Surprises: North Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, New Zealand
Golden Boot: Thomas Mueller -- 5 (plus 3 assists)
Stats: A total of 145 goals were scored (2.27 per match); Germany (16) scored the most.
Format: Eight groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to a knockout round of 16.
Number of matches: 64

Innovations

• This was the first time the tournament had been hosted in Africa
• FIFA expanded the FIFA Fan Fest, hosting in Sydney, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City, as well as several venues around South Africa
• The tournament was the biggest online sports event yet, with ESPN3.com generating 942 million minutes of viewing, or more than two hours per unique viewer

Controversies

•  Plans to slaughter a cow at each stadium to be used for the World Cup generated concern among animal rights groups. The Makhonya Royal Trust had suggested the concept, stating the cattle killing event was a "true African" way of blessing the tournament. As a compromise, a single ox was slaughtered on May 25 at Soccer City
• During the first week of the tournament, stadium workers went on strike because of low pay, leaving the police to fulfil their duties
• Society queen and celebrity Paris Hilton was arrested on suspicion of possession of cannabis at the quarterfinal between Netherlands and Brazil. The charges were eventually dropped and the incident was described as a "misunderstanding"
• The drone of the vuvuzela (a plastic horn used by many fans) angered TV audiences and visiting fans alike, but may actually have provided a shield to a lack of atmosphere in some of the stadiums
• A low ratio of black African attendees in the stadia, a result of the high price of tickets, was hugely noticeable

Trivia

•  Only six out of 13 European nations made it to the last 16, a record low proportion
• New Zealand ended the tournament as the only unbeaten team, despite exiting at the group stage
•  Andres Iniesta tore his shirt off in the final after scoring the match-winner to pay tribute with a message to Dani Jarque, Espanyol's captain who had died of a heart attack in the summer of 2009


The official poster for the 2010 World Cup.
The official poster for the 2010 World Cup.

Taking the tournament under African skies was FIFA's greatest adventure yet. In the months and years that built up to the finals, barely a day went by without reports of the terrors that might face visitors to South Africa. Car-jackings, home invasions and the anger of the locals would all make this tournament inhospitable to fans and media. Security would be at a premium.

Such reports proved premature, and completely out of perspective. South Africa's people opened their doors with open arms and, though there were some steep prices being paid for accommodation, the hospitality was usually warm. Once western types had got used to a different pace of life, the African way of doing things, there was much to enjoy. The football took off eventually after a slow start in the opening group matches.

"This time for Africa," bellowed Shakira's World Cup anthem "Waka Waka" from every available speaker over a calendar month. The continent took its opportunity with gusto and, despite the tournament never quite hitting the highest heights on the field, most visitors left the country with only good things to say.

Apart from the French, that is, whose campaign was over before it even began amid a team revolution. After playing out a frozen draw with Uruguay on the opening day in Cape Town, it got worse for France when Nicolas Anelka was banished by coach Raymond Domenech after a vicious half-time row during a 2-0 defeat to Mexico.

Domenech, an unpopular character who often consulted astrology when making his big decisions, did not find support among his squad, who subsequently refused to get on a bus to training. Their final match was a dead-rubber defeat to the tournament hosts, who had sadly already perished themselves, and they returned home in disgrace.

No goal was as loudly celebrated all tournament as that by Siphiwe Tshabalala, the first of the opener with Mexico, but it was to prove the hosts' high point. The opening match, preceded by a pair of presidential speeches by Sepp Blatter and Jacob Zuma, ended in a 1-1 draw at Soccer City, and the host's second match saw them destroyed by Uruguay in Pretoria to end realistic hopes of making the round of 16.

The English have never been quite as good at insurrection, but their campaign was similarly derailed by infighting. Fabio Capello's team arrived with high hopes of performing well in a winter World Cup. And when Steven Gerrard scored early against the USA in Rustenberg, a nation's hopes were raised in the usual fashion before crashing down once keeper Rob Green had fumbled a Clint Dempsey shot.

Behind the scenes, England's players were ghettoised in a luxury camp where Capello was depicted as the cruel, killjoy commandant. A truly horrendous performance in a 0-0 draw with Algeria in Cape Town betrayed their boredom. Slovenia were only squeaked past in the final group game.

In truth, the excitement in that group lay in the USA's games. A 2-2 thriller with Slovenia at Ellis Park saw them denied a winner by a ludicrous offside decision when Maurice Edu had clearly scored a legitimate goal. Then came the closer with Algeria, and the goal by Landon Donovan in injury time that perhaps did more than anything to lift the game's status in the 50 states. Bob Bradley's team now seemed to have a clear way into the tournament's latter stages. Hopes were high Stateside.

Brazil were, as ever, tournament favourites, and followed by the largest set of supporters beyond the hosts. They brushed aside North Korea in their opening match at Ellis Park, despite the mysterious minnows employing a novel 7-2-1 formation. Ivory Coast, Africa's best hope in pre-tournament predictions, departed early as Portugal finished behind Brazil in their group.

Africa's only survivors in the last 16 were Ghana, who had qualified second from the group that saw Germany top despite Joachim Loew's men suffering a shock defeat to Serbia. Germany advanced to a Bloemfontein meeting with England, who were put to the sword in one of the most entertaining games of the tournament. The English had legitimate complaints about a Frank Lampard shot that clearly crossed the line behind Manuel Neuer and bounced back out, but they were eventually destroyed by the pace and guile of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller in particular. Their return home was something of a relief -- like the French, the quality of their football had stunk the place out.

Italy, the defending champions, were embarrassed and exited with a whimper. Two 1-1 draws with Paraguay and New Zealand resembled the Azzurri's time-honoured slow start but were then followed by an unthinkable (but wholly deserved) defeat to Slovakia in Johannesburg. Marcello Lippi had paid the price of trusting the same players who had won him success in 2006; these were old soldiers, and battle-worn, too. Andrea Pirlo, carrying a thigh injury, came on at half-time against the Slovaks but he could not rescue them. In postmatch, Lippi accepted total blame and swiftly took his leave of the deposed holders.

Talking of former winners, the undoubted star of the opening round was Diego Maradona. Matches involving Argentina were best enjoyed by watching the coach's antics on the sidelines, even if his team made short and impressive work of their group. Maradona's news conferences were the hottest ticket in town, and he looked to be in charge of a happy ship, even if Lionel Messi was struggling to score goals.

Of the other favourites, the Dutch made similarly easy progress through with three wins. The Spanish, however -- so impressive in winning Euro 2008 -- lost to Switzerland in their Durban opener, and with former coach Luis Aragones throwing out public barbs to successor Vicente del Bosque, the old fears had resumed. The brilliance of David Villa carried them through, as the striker, soon to be of Barcelona, scored twice against Honduras and once in Pretoria against a threatening Chile team coached by Marcelo Bielsa.

Once into the knockout round, Spain would make short work of the Portuguese in Cape Town, winning 1-0 but never letting Cristiano Ronaldo into the match. Chile's thrills were swiftly ended by what looked an ominous 3-0 win for Brazil. Paraguay beat Japan on penalties in Pretoria after the worst game of a tournament hardly short of stinkers. This was an apex of a common approach of teams not daring to commit men forward, and Japan paid the price against an unrepentantly pragmatic Paraguayan team coached by Gerardo "Tata" Martino.

The round of 16's best match was played out in Rustenberg where the American dream was ended by the power of Ghana outlasting them in extra time. Bradley's team departed with mixed feeling of regret about a missed opportunity and the flush of a new national pride behind them.

Argentina's defeat of Mexico carried a 3-1 scoreline that belied their good fortune. The Mexicans threatened from the start, before Carlos Tevez's opener was headed in from an offside position. A FIFA protocol that stopped controversial incidents being shown on stadium video screens was ignored and the whole stadium saw that the goal should not have stood. Referee Roberto Rosetti hesitated but, acting on the principle that video was not allowed to bias his decision, was forced to award the goal. His World Cup -- like Mexico's -- was over.

Maradona's maniacal behaviour seemed to be encouraging his team to success but all fell apart at a quarterfinal stage that was disastrous for South America that only Uruguay, quiet contenders, survived. For Argentina's meeting with Germany, leaving only Javier Mascherano to shield a defence made up of four centre-halves, while attackers sat upfield, looked the product of a deranged mind. After an early Thomas Mueller goal for Germany, Maradona threw the kitchen sink at matters, before three more goals sealed his fate. He would not be joining Franz Beckenbauer in captaining and coaching his country to a world title.

A greater shock was felt in Port Elizabeth, where the Netherlands dumped Brazil out. Robinho's goal looked to have set up a procession but, from there, Dunga's team stalled badly, not helped by a dreadful performance by Felipe Melo. The midfielder, whose deflection helped in Wesley Sneijder's ball for Netherlands' first, stamped on Arjen Robben to be dismissed not long after Sneijder had scored his side's second and the Selecao were doomed. South Africa was soon emptied of those in green and yellow.

Home hearts were with the Ghanaians, as African pride seized Soccer City. Luis Suarez provided the tournament's most incendiary moment with his goal-line handball of Dominic Adiyiah's header in the dying seconds of extra time. He was sent off, but saved a certain goal that would have sent Ghana through and up stepped Asamoah Gyan, Team USA's conqueror, to take the penalty. When his shot hit the bar, all that could be heard was the delight of the Uruguayans, including Suarez, who had not yet been ushered down the tunnel.

Remarkably and with almost reckless bravery, Gyan appeared to take Ghana's first penalty in the shootout. He scored, but his teammates could not emulate his nerve. Africa's time in the tournament was done.

Penalties proved the key moments in Spain's victory over the troublesome Paraguayans at Ellis Park too. Iker Casillas saved from Oscar Cardozo before Xabi Alonso had a retake saved by Justo Villar before Villar then clearly fouled Cesc Fabregas as he claimed the rebound. No penalty was given this time, and it again fell to David Villa to force Spain through.

A repeat of Euro 2008's final took place in the semis in Durban, and for the Germans it was very much a similar story to that in Vienna. Spain were now beating a beguiling rhythm with their tiki-taka and, with Alonso and Sergio Busquets dominant at central pivot, held Germany at arm's length before Carles Puyol scored the header that took them to their first ever final.

There, they would join the Dutch, who won out in a thriller with Uruguay in Cape Town. Diego Forlan scored the type of goal that landed him the award of the tournament's best player from journalists to equalise a fine strike from Giovanni van Bronckhorst. "Gio" was playing in the knowledge that any defeat would be his final match as a professional -- he was set to retire -- and made sure he would prolong his career by another game. Goals from Sneijder and Robben looked to have taken the Dutch to their first final since 1978 but a late consolation from Maximiliano Pereira set their nerves on edge, before finally the final whistle killed off the Uruguayans.

Uruguay failed to gain succour in the third-place playoff with the Germans, who won 3-2 in a game that was as open as the consolation fixture's traditions have always been.

The same was not true of the final. The brief presence in prematch of Nelson Mandela, probably the greatest historic global figure of the age, did not becalm the Dutch approach. Any flowing football was abandoned for a cynicism that was probably borne of an attempt to throw off Spain's passing game. Nigel de Jong pushed far beyond the grounds of decency with an early and barbaric high kick on Alonso and English referee Howard Webb would have brandished a red card in his usual Premier League habitat but instead chose yellow, perhaps hoping not to spoil the occasion before it had begun.

In fact, it had the opposite effect: The Dutch continued their brutality, and the Spanish acted up, with simulation dominating their repertoire. Half-time came as a relief, for the spectacle had been ugly. The yellow cards were mounting fast and would eventually reach 14, more than double the previous record for the final.

It was followed by a second half that continued to be stodgy but in which the Dutch forced the best chance. Robben's break on the hour took him past the Spanish defence, before Casillas' leg outstretched stopped an unconvincing shot. Extra time came, and with it an inevitable sending off when Johnny Heitinga walked after a second yellow card. Eventually Spain's dominance of possession finally forced the chance that they needed.

It arrived through two substitutes. Jesus Navas gained territory with a run down the right and then into the centre. The Dutch could not get the ball under control and Cesc Fabregas curved the ball in the direction of Andres Iniesta. A shot was teed up and then dispatched past Maarten Stekelenburg, and Iniesta peeled away in joy. Espana, campeona del Mundo.

Spain, who had won every knockout game 1-0, had been much the superior team in the tournament after surviving that early blow against the Swiss. La Roja's possession game had the effect of dizzying opponents, so that no more than a singular goal was ever required. World Cup winners for the first time, they were now both continental and global champions.

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