2010 South Africa

An England midfielder called Frank
Hit the ball with an almighty spank
Was it over the line?
The Germans cried "Nein"
But it was, and the ref was a plank

2010 saw FIFA take the World Cup to Africa for the first time, to a football mad audience in the rainbow nation of South Africa. Unfortunately South Africa set an unwanted record by becoming the first host nation to fail to progress beyond the first round. However, the first African World Cup was a happy success especially amongst the engaging crowds. Shakira's World Cup song captures that sense of fun.

What was going on in the world in 2010?

  • The tallest man-made structure, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is opened
  • The Deepwater Horizon platform explodes in the Gulf of Mexico killing 11 workers
  • Wikileaks leaks 90,000 internal reports pertaining to the US involvement in the war in Afghanistan
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese opposition leader, is released from house arrest having been detained since 1989
  • The Arab Spring commences in December

Back to the World Cup – Tournament Facts and Records

  • Several players top scored with 5 goals: Diego Forlan, David Villa, Wesley Sneijder, Thomas Muller, but Muller won the Golden Shoe as he had more assists (3). Amazingly his 5 goals came from only 5 shots on target
  • South Africa became the first host nation not to reach the second round
  • 3 Palacios brothers, Jerry, Johnny and Wilson represented Honduras, a new record
  • Both finalists from 2006, Italy and France crashed out in the group. France performed particularly poorly amid player strikes and disagreements with their coach, Raymond Domenech (see 'Villain' below)
  • New Zealand were the only unbeaten team in the tournament


Slovakia played as an independent nation for the first time and Serbia played without Montenegro in a change from 2006. Both had some success. Serbia beat Germany 1-0 but still failed to reach the second round. Slovakia, however, did get to the Last 16 after defeating Italy 3-2 in a spirited World Cup upset, before losing to the Netherlands.

Who should have won but didn't?

Frankly, anyone but Spain. Spain are very good at possession football, but to play 7 matches to win a World Cup and only score 8 goals is thoroughly miserable and is only going to perpetuate the downward trend in goals per game in the World Cup. Spain's record included winning all their knockout games 1-0 and a 1-0 defeat in the group to the equally miserable Swiss.

The most entertaining side to watch in the tournament was undoubtedly Germany, who put 4 goals past each of England and Argentina in the knockout before being strangled to death by Spain. Germany scored 16 goals in the tournament.

The Dutch were also worthy contenders and had a 100% record going into the final. The final itself was an awful, bad tempered match, which saw 13 yellow cards and then a second yellow for Dutch defender, Johnny Heitinga. To be fair to referee, Howard Webb, the vast majority of bookings were completely justified.

Finally there was sympathy for an attractive Ghana side who carried the flag for African football into the quarter-finals, where they were only denied a merited semi-final place by some underhand defending in the quarter-final against Uruguay. A goalbound header seemed about to put the sole surviving African nation into a first ever semi-final in the continent's first hosted World Cup; an outcome that to neutrals seemed entirely fitting. Then Luis Suarez intervened and punched the ball off the line, taking a red card for the team. Surely it would not matter as Asamoah Gyan stepped up to take the resultant penalty. But as Suarez hovered at the entrance to the players' tunnel and celebrated, Gyan's penalty hit the bar and deflected away.

The match went to a penalty shootout and despite Gyan scoring this time, Uruguay prevailed, showing once again, that in the World Cup, cheats very often do indeed prosper.

Heroes and Villains

Hero: Diego Forlan

One of the bright spots of South Africa 2010 was the return of Uruguay as a significant force in the World Cup, reaching the semi-final for the first time since 1970. At the centre of everything good that Uruguay achieved was Diego Forlan, prompting and probing and generally acting as the catalyst for their attacking strategy. It was thoroughly deserved that Forlan won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.

Uruguay have a rich pedigree in the World Cup's history and it is great to see them back at the World Cup's top table, alongside powerhouses Brazil and Argentina.

Villain: Nicolas Anelka

You would have thought that France would be pleased just to be in South Africa after the controversy of qualifying at Ireland's expense via a Thierry Henry handball in the playoffs. But the French players arrived at the World Cup with an appalling attitude, typified by king of wasted talent, Nicolas Anelka, who was sent home after abusing coach Raymond Domenech at half time during the 2-0 defeat to Mexico. When Domenech was critical of Anelka's positioning, surely his right as coach. Anelka reportedly replied "Va te faire enculer, sale fils de pute" ("go fuck yourself, dirty son of a whore"). He refused to apologise and was sent home.

Amazingly, rather than rally behind Domenech, the French players under the "leadership" of Patrice Evra decided to rally behind Anelka and refused to take part in training and their campaign unsurprisingly thereafter fell apart.

Anelka was later given a derisory 18-match ban, over which he was quoted as saying he was "dying with laughter" as he had already decided to retire from international football. Good riddance, Nicolas, have a nice life looking at yourself in the mirror!


In the Last 16 match between Germany and England, in a bizarre echo of 1966, a shot from England's Frank Lampard hit the crossbar and bounced down near the goal line, causing the referee to ponder whether or not a goal should be awarded. There were actually two key differences between this and the Geoff Hurst shot from 1966; the ball was at least a couple of feet over the line this time, and despite this, the referee did not award a goal.

An England midfielder called Frank
Hit the ball with an almighty spank
Was it over the line?
The Germans cried "Nein"
But it was and the ref was a plank

But let's be clear, England were shockingly bad in this match and had this goal been given, taking the score to 2-2, it seems unlikely and unjust that the final result could have been anything other than a resounding German win.

The main positive to come out of this incident was that even Sepp Blatter recognised the need for the technology to be introduced, at least for goal line decisions, some 10 years or more after other major sports (tennis, cricket, rugby) had taken similar steps.

Quick Facts

  • Teams: 32
  • When: 11 June 2010 to 11 July 2010
  • Final: 11 July 2010
  • Matches: 64
  • Goals 145 (average 2.3 per match)
  • Attendance: 3,178,856 (average 49,669)

Verdict: Good, Bad or Ugly?

Good in terms of venue, but bad in terms of the football. we saw victory for dull defensive football over attacking intent and that cheating could be used to a side's advantage. But the atmosphere in the stadiums and the outpouring of joy from the South African public was truly joyous, even if most football fans will be glad to see the back of irritating vuvuzelas!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *