The 'Shroom:World Cup Recap
World Cup Recap
This year, the 19th FIFA World Cup took place in South Africa.
Before the 32 teams could arrive in South Africa, they had to survive a qualification process that featured a record 203 teams in 6 confederations. There were a total of 848 qualifiers played, and 2,337 goals were scored during qualification. Though many people only paid attention to the main stage, let's take a look at how the teams got there.
In addition to South Africa's automatic qualification, five other African teams qualified for the World Cup.
In the first phase, Africa's bottom ten teams were drawn to play two-leg series. The winners joined the other 43 teams and were split into 12 groups of four. The top team in each group and the eight best second-place teams advanced to the third round. The teams were split into five groups of four, and the winner of each group advanced to the World Cup. Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, and Ivory Coast qualified, but in Group C, Egypt and Algeria were tied. The two North African nations were dead even in every tiebreaker, and they had to play a one-game playoff in Sudan. The teams met on November 18, 2009 in the city of Omdurman. Antar Yahia's goal in the fortieth minute, combined with brilliant goalkeeping by Faouzi Chaouchi, sent Algeria to the FIFA World Cup amidst violence between the Egyptian and Algerian fans.
In Asia, four teams qualified automatically and a fifth was put in a playoff against a team from Oceania to qualify.
The 43 members of AFC that entered qualification (Laos, Brunei and the Philippines didn't enter before the deadline) were sorted into three groups. The top 5 teams advanced to Phase 3, while teams 6-43 played in Phase 1. Teams ranked 6-24 were placed in Pot A, and they were paired with teams ranked 25-43 in Pot B for two-leg, aggregate score series. (This means that if each team won one game, the winner would be the team that scored the most goals rather than having to travel across Asia to play a third game). The bottom 8 first-round winners played in Phase 2, while the rest advanced directly to Phase 3. In Phase 3, 20 teams were split into five groups of four. The top two teams in each group advanced to Phase 4, in which the top ten teams were split into two groups of five. The top two teams in each group qualified for the World Cup and the third-place teams met in a two-leg playoff. In Group 1, Australia and Japan qualified, while Bahrain finished third. In Group 2, South Korea and North Korea qualified while Saudi Arabia finished third. In the two-leg playoff, the match played in Bahrain was a 0-0 tie, and the teams tied 2-2 in Saudi Arabia. However, Bahrain advanced on away goals, 2-0. They would play the best team in Oceania in a two-leg playoff to qualify for the World Cup.
In Europe, 13 teams qualified for the World Cup.
The 53 teams were split into nine groups. Eight groups had six teams, and one had five. The winners of each group qualified automatically. The top eight second-place teams were paired up in two-leg playoffs. Denmark, Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany, Spain, England, Serbia, Italy and the Netherlands won their respective groups.
Russia took on Slovenia in what was expected to be a blowout series, but Russia narrowly won the first game, 2-1. In the second game, Slovenia won on their home field, 1-0, advancing to the World Cup on away goals and defeating the mighty Russians.
Greece met with Ukraine, and the two teams played to a scoreless tie in Athens. When they met four days later in Ukraine's second-largest city, Donetsk, Greece shocked the home crowd, winning 1-0 and clinching their spot in the World Cup for the second time (their first was in 1994).
Portugal was drawn against Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Portuguese won each match by a score of 1-0 to advance to the World Cup.
France, whose group was won by Serbia, was drawn to play Ireland. The French won the first match in Dublin. In Saint-Denis, Robbie Keane scored for Ireland, tying the aggregate score at 1-1. The teams were to play 30 minutes of extra time to determine the series winner (if the teams remained deadlocked, they would decide the winner on penalty kicks). In the 13th minute of extra time, Florent Malouda took a free kick toward Thierry Henry. He hit the ball twice with his hand, which should have drawn a yellow card from the referee, Martin Hansson. However, Hansson missed the hand ball, and William Gallas headed in the ball for the goal that sent France to the World Cup and ended Ireland's hopes.
In North America, 3 teams qualified for the World Cup and a fourth was put in a playoff against a team from South America to qualify.
Of the 35 teams (12 of which were not countries recognized by the UN, they were territories belonging to other countries), the top 13 were given byes to the second round. Teams ranked 14-24 and 25-35 were drawn against each other for two-leg series. The winners joined the other 13 teams in the second round, where the 24 teams were paired up and split into 12 two-leg series. The winners advanced to the third round, where they were split into three groups of four. The top two teams in each group advanced to the final round, a six-team double-round robin.
In the final set of games in the fourth phase of qualification, Honduras and Costa Rica were battling for the third automatic ticket to South Africa. Costa Rica had 15 points and Honduras 13. Honduras defeated El Salvador, 1-0, to finish with 16 points. Costa Rica was leading the USA in a meaningless game for the Americans (who had already qualified), 2-1. However, Jonathan Bornstein scored in the final minute of stoppage time, ending the game in a 2-2 tie. Honduras led Costa Rica in the tiebreaker, goal differential, and therefore finished in third place. USA, Mexico and Honduras finished in the top three spots and advanced to the World Cup. Costa Rica finished in fourth, which led to them playing against a team from South America in a two-leg playoff from which the winner would advance to the World Cup. El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago finished in fifth and sixth place and did not qualify.
The top team from Oceania would advance to a playoff against a team from Asia to qualify.
The first round of qualification was held during the 2007 South Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa. The ten teams playing were split into two groups of five. The top two teams in each group would advance to the semifinals, and the two semifinal winners and the winner of the third-place game would advance to the second round of qualifying along with New Zealand. Fiji and New Caledonia took the top two spots in Group A. Fiji ran the table, scoring 25 goals and allowing just 1 in four games. 16 of these goals were scored in a shutout win over Tuvalu, including six by Osea Vakatalesau, who scored the only double hat-trick in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were the top two teams in Group B. New Caledonia and Fiji advanced to the final, ensuring their place in the next round of qualifying (New Caledonia eventually won their gold medal match, 1-0). Vanuatu defeated the Solomon Islands, 2-0 to join the other teams in the next round.
The 2008 OFC Nations Cup was used as the second round of qualifying, a four-team double-round robin. The winner would face a team from Asia in a two-leg series to clinch a spot in South Africa. New Zealand easily finished in first place. They hadn't made it past Oceania qualifying since 1982, when they played in their first World Cup. Qualifying for the 2010 Cup was made far easier for the All Whites when Australia left the OFC for Asia's confederation, AFC (coincidentally, this also worked out well for Australia, who didn't have to participate in a playoff to qualify).
Four teams from CONMEBOL qualified automatically, a fifth would advance to a playoff against a team from North America to qualify.
The ten teams (Guyana and Suriname, though geographically located in South America, played in North America's confederation, CONCACAF, so they wouldn't be destroyed by the competition) played two matches against each team for a total of 18 matches. Brazil, Chile and Paraguay qualified easily.
Argentina had performed very poorly during the early stages of qualification. They won their first three matches, but were defeated 2-1 at Colombia (which they blamed on the altitude, 2,640 m/8,661 ft). They tied 2006 qualifiers Ecuador, Brazil and Paraguay, and then played to a 1-1 draw against lowly Peru, which drew lots of criticism. They once again blamed this on the altitude, over 5,000 feet (over 1,524 m). They won two of their next three matches (they did lose to eventual qualifier Chile), and they went into La Paz, Bolivia with a record of four wins, two losses and four ties. Once again, Argentina had to play at a high-altitude stadium. Estadio Hernando Siles was at 11,932 feet (3,637 meters). The altitude proved to be the downfall for the Argentinians, who were destroyed by a mediocre Bolivian team, 6-1. After defeating Colombia, they lost their next two matches to Ecuador and Brazil, the latter of which came in front of the home fans in Rosario. They were then defeated in Paraguay. Elevation was not the cause (the stadium was less than 50 feet above sea level), the team simply played poorly. The Argentinians did recover, defeating Peru at home and shocking Uruguay in Montevideo, 1-0 to advance to South Africa without having to play a playoff against Costa Rica. After their win over Uruguay, manager Diego Maradona lashed out at the media for criticizing his coaching.
Qualification wrapped up for the 2010 FIFA World Cup on November 14 and 18 of 2009. Africa and Europe finished their matches within their own continents on these dates. Teams from the other four continents played against teams from outside their confederation to advance.
Bahrain, fifth place in Asia, played the top team from Oceania, New Zealand. In 2006, Bahrain was defeated in a playoff by Trinidad and Tobago. New Zealand had only qualified once, in 1982. On October 10th in the city of Riffa, Bahrain, the teams played to a 0-0 draw. On November 14th, in Wellington, New Zealand, Rory Fallon scored a goal in the final minute of the first half and New Zealand's All Whites won, 1-0 to advance to the World Cup for the first time in 28 years.
Costa Rica, fourth place in North America, took on Uruguay, fifth place in South America. Costa Rica had qualified in 2006, but Uruguay was put in a two-game playoff against Australia. The teams were tied, 1-1 after two games, and Australia qualified on penalty kicks. In San Jose, Costa Rica, Diego Lugano scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for Uruguay. In the 70th minute in Montevideo, Sebastian Abreu scored a controversial goal for Uruguay. Costa Rica scored a few minutes later, but Uruguay won the series.
|Uruguay||Surprise Team||New Zealand|
|Diego Forlan (URU)||Best Player||Iker Casillas (ESP)|
In the 64 matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, there were:
- 145 goals, for an average of 2.27 per match
- 16 draws
- 9 penalty kick goals on 12 penalty kick shots
- 2 own goals
- 4 matches in extra time
- 2 penalty kick shootouts
- 261 yellow cards
- 19 red cards
- Argentina and Portugal tied for the most goals in group play, with 7.
- Algeria and Honduras were the only teams to score 0 goals.
- Uruguay and Portugal were the only teams to allow 0 goals in group play.
- North Korea conceded 12 goals in group play, the most of any team.
- Portugal had the best goal differential in group play, +7.
- New Zealand was the only team to go undefeated in the World Cup, tying in all three of their matches.
- Serbia and Slovakia made their first World Cup appearances as independent nations. Serbia had competed as part of Yugoslavia, and Slovakia had competed as Czechoslovakia.
Group play breakdown by record (wins-draws-losses):
- 3-0-0: 2 teams (Argentina, Netherlands)
- 2-1-0: 2 teams (Brazil, Uruguay)
- 2-0-1: 4 teams (Chile, Germany, Japan, Spain)
- 1-2-0: 4 teams (England, Paraguay, Portugal, United States)
- 1-1-1: 9 teams (Australia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland)
- 1-0-2: 3 teams (Denmark, Greece, Serbia)
- 0-3-0: 1 team (New Zealand)
- 0-2-1: 1 team (Italy)
- 0-1-2: 4 teams (Algeria, France, Honduras, Nigeria)
- 0-0-3: 2 teams (Cameroon, North Korea)
In Group A, there were:
- 11 goals
- 2 draws
- 2 penalty kick goals on 2 penalty kick shots
- 23 yellow cards
- 3 red cards
Group A was formed by host nation, South Africa, México, France, and Uruguay. Now let’s take a closer look at these teams. This group was one of the toughest groups in the competition, including the host nation; a top-20 country, CONCACAF potency and the country with the 5th-most World Cup appearances; a two-time champion; and the 2006 runner-up.
Being the host nation, South Africa had to live up to really big standards. Standards that have accompanied the host nations since 1930. Except that in South Africa’s case, they were a little bit lower, not expecting them to win the cup, but rather to advance on to the next round on a difficult group. South Africa was not a very soccer-enthusiastic country, rather focusing on Rugby, but in their WC tuneups, they showed us they could also play soccer. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see a lot of that in the actual tournament.
South Africa started the WC against Mexico, with a 1-1 tie that left them feeling like they could have performed a bit better, but they were lucky enough to get a point.
For their second match, they played Uruguay, losing 3-0 and leaving a lot of questions about the team functionality. Their biggest gaffe was when goalie Itumeleng Khune was given a red card in the 76th minute, leading to a penalty kick goal for Uruguay.
South Africa was playing their last cards when they beat France 2-1.
South Africa played very well against France, and they pulled even with Mexico in the standings. However, the 3-0 loss to Uruguay affected their Goal Differential, and Mexico advanced thanks to that tiebreaker instead of Bafana Bafana.
France showed us that they are no longer a soccer potency. They had to cheat to get into the World Cup. They had inner problems. People hated their coach. Players had problems. The team didn’t work at all, and that was easily seen at their performance. Their boiling point came when Anelka was expelled from the team, and the players went on a “strike”, refusing to train. They wanted the title, but they were very far from getting it.
They started against Uruguay,with a 0-0 draw that was neither good, neither bad for them.
Next, they faced Mexico, where they got an unexpected 2-0 loss, which caused great controversy in France, questioning the abilities of their team, and specifically of their manager, Raymond Domenech. Fans claimed that he was very superstitious, and that he didn’t line up more than 3 players with the same Zodiac sign.
Their last hopes were beating South Africa, and that Uruguay or Mexico lost by a wide margin. Thanks to a strike by the players and dismissal of Thierry Henry and Nicholas Anelka, they lost 2-1, eliminating them from the tournament.
France's World Cup run was a major disappointment, bigger than 2002, when they were the defending champs. They also finished with just one point that year, including a loss to Senegal, but this year, the team completely fell apart.
Ok, I will try to be the least biased as possible. Or not…
As you can read in the qualification section, Mexico was in the border of not qualifying, and at the same time, we were very close from ending first. But that is another story.
Mexico had lost the last 4 World Cups in the Round of 16, so the objective was to reach the next round. And, if possible, get even further.
Now let me tell you something curious. The support for the Mexican soccer team is very varying, especially from the press, and that is something that may hurt animically the players.
Despite having what was likely the longest training camp in the history of soccer, Mexico encountered many problems in the 4-year period after the 2006 World Cup. First of all, and what was the most criticized by us, Mexicans, was the fact that they took their time to film commercials. Not one, but MANY of them. The most popular was the “Make Sandwich!” one, which lead to critics and insults, especially the now-famous “Make Goals, not sandwiches”.
Another huge mistake was cutting out Jonathan Dos Santos during the European Tour, which not only caused the anger from Mexican fans, but it also caused the rage of his dad, Zizinho, and it affected his brother, Giovanni.
What was questioned the most during this process was Aguirre’s line-up. The Mexican coach was seen as a savior after the failures that occurred with Sven Göran-Eriksson and Hugo Sanchez. However, his polemic declarations about Mexico greatly decreased the faith in him. But, as I said, the lineup was full of surprises. We were all surprised when he called Adolfo “El Bofo” Bautista, a player who hadn’t played many minutes with his team during the season and who is hated by all Mexico. The fact that he left out players of great abilities, such as Zinha, just because he didn’t like his style. The fact that he didn’t put the now World Famous “Chicharito” in the starting eleven. The fact that he called Cuauhtemoc Blanco, a 37-year old veteran who can’t play half a game. The fact that he gave the Goalie position to Oscar Perez, “El Conejo”, who is 37, instead of giving it to Michel, or Ochoa. The fact that he kept lining up “El Guille” despite the fact that he failed in all the games. The fact that he didn’t use midfielder Andres Guardado, despite his great speed and passing ability. But, even though he did all those mistakes, many people trusted in him. We trusted his weirdness, we trusted his methods, we trusted him, we trusted the 23 people who were supposed to put Mexico’s name in high, to re-write history, to be a surprise, but they failed us. They failed us as they have done in most World Cups, they failed us when we had faith in them, people sacrificed their jobs, changed appointments, trips, etc. Kids didn’t attend school. Government stopped the work. The country paralyzed just to see Mexico’s matches. 80,000 people gathered around a huge screen in Mexico City, an unprecedented number that approached the number of fans at Soccer City, people were rushing to buy Mexico’s shirts, no matter what the price were, or what they had to do, for 90 minutes, we were not the country that suffered with the daily problems, no one cared about poverty, rains, oil spills, elections, NO ONE. Why? Because we were seeing 11 warriors representing us in the biggest sporting event. For 90 minutes, we were one. For 90 minutes, no one cared about religion, politic parties, economical status, gender, etc. For 90 minutes, the important business man was the same as the construction worker. For 90 minutes, we could just focus on one thing. For 90 minutes, even criminals would stop to watch Mexico. One wish this could happen every day, but sadly it happens each four years. But, despite all I mentioned, we weren’t able to celebrate in the Angel de la Independencia as we wanted. Because, again, we fell short. Again, we were victim of our own mistakes. Again we showed the world that we can’t battle with the big countries. Not even our huge heart helped us. In South Africa you could see people that hadn’t got a place where to sleep, they hadn’t got a house, they hadn’t got a job, but they sold everything they could, to root for our nation. We had hoped that the Peru 2005 story could be repeated, where we beat Brazil in the U-17 World Cup to be named World Champions.
In the European tour, we lost against England and Holland, but we accomplished something historic, we beat Italy. We beat the champion. We dented their crown. We laid a fatal blow upon them…
Ok, that took longer than I expected…. Now to the matches.
We opened against South Africa. We were opening the World Cup again! Just as we did in 1930, 1954, 1970 and 1986. The whole world's eyes were upon us. And so the game started.
A goal from South Africa reduced our hopes, but Rafa Marquez came as savior and gave us the tie. A tie that disappointed, because we thought, how will we beat France and Uruguay when we tied to South Africa? But, curiously, for one day, Mexico was tied for first place in the entire World Cup.
The second match was against France. A 2-0 victory lifted our hopes, putting us practically into the next round. Now, the objective was to beat Uruguay, in order to avoid Argentina at the next round. Cuauhtemoc scored a goal in this match, converting him in the first player to score in 3 World Cups, scoring in 1998, 2002, and 2010. Chicharito scored the other goal. For the time being, there was nothing better to us than our soccer team. We had now beaten France! The last WC finalist! We thought we were capable of anything…
Third match… The decisive one. Any result left us practically in, but we wanted to beat Uruguay in order to end 1st in the Group with 7 points, and avoid Argentina; however, this was not possible, as we lost, 1-0.
Good news, we were in. Bad news, Argentina was waiting for us.
Uruguay, the main favorite to advance in this group alongside France. They had Diego Forlan, one of the best forwards in the tournament, with great skill in long-distance shots. Uruguay wanted to get the old glory that was theirs during past World Cups, they wanted to show the world that they had what it takes to be the World Champion again.
Uruguay started against France in a rather boring match that left much to desire.
Uruguay showed everyone their great offensive power in the next match against South Africa, Forlan scored twice. Uruguay was technically into the next round, but, like Mexico, they needed to avoid Argentina.
Unbeaten, Uruguay got to the third match against Mexico, which would eventually decide who ended first in the group. Forlan scored again and gave Uruguay a 1-0 victory that placed them as first place in Group A.
Looming ahead was Group B runner-up, South Korea.
In Group B, there were:
- 17 goals
- 1 draw
- 1 hat trick
- 1 penalty kick goal on 1 penalty kick shot
- 1 own goal
- 18 yellow cards
- 1 red card
This group featured Argentina, a team picked by many to win the World Cup, Greece, a team expected to go 0-3, and Nigeria and South Korea, two teams that were expected to compete for second place in the group. This group featured four teams from four different continents. The battles in Group B were expected to be very close.
Clearly, with Lionel Messi and a fairly easy draw, this team was expected to finish first in their group, despite their poor performance in qualifying. Argentina finished fourth of ten teams in CONMEBOL, and they were the last team in the continent to clinch an automatic bid (Uruguay qualified via a playoff). They did end up performing very well, and they were one of only two teams (Netherlands being the other) to go 3-0 in group play. Their path to the top of Group B was a bit more unexpected. Lionel Messi didn't dominate at all. In fact, he was held scoreless in Argentina's five matches. Gonzalo Higuain turned out to be the star, scoring four goals, including a hat trick against South Korea.
Their first match against Nigeria was not exactly a dominant performance on their part. Heinze's sixth-minute goal turned out to be all they got, but it was all they needed. Though the score didn't show a great performance, they did outshoot Nigeria 20-11, and had seven shots on goal to Nigeria' one.
The offense that the team lacked against Nigeria showed up against South Korea in the form of Gonzalo Higuain, whose hat trick led them to a 4-1 win. Their other goal came courtesy of South Korea's Park Chu-Young, who deflected the ball in off of a free kick.
Argentina didn't need to dominate in their match against Greece, needing just a tie to win the group. They didn't play all-out, shown by starting just four of the 11 players from the 4-1 drubbing of South Korea. As the clock ran down, they began to play with a sense of urgency, and Demichelis and Palermo scored in a twelve-minute span to give Argentina their 3-0 record in group play.
Looking back on Argentina's performance in group play, they met expectations, despite Diego Maradona's unorthodox coaching style. Their weakest showing was against Nigeria, and South Korea was easily their best match. The match against Greece turned out to be meaningless, and their efforts weren't fully required, so they ended up playing a bit more of a laid-back game than usual. Going into the knockout round, they looked like a force to be reckoned with.
A team known for winning Euro 2004, Greece had very low expectations entering the 2010 World Cup. They had only qualified once before, in 1994, when they lost all three matches. They did perform fairly well in qualifying, finishing second only behind Switzerland in a challenging group that also included Israel and a surprisingly tough team from Latvia. They then shocked Ukraine with a 1-0 win in Donetsk to advance to South Africa, where they were expected to once again go three and out.
They played as they were expected to against South Korea, losing 2-0. In 1994, they gave up a goal in the second minute of their opening match against Argentina. Greece was able to hold off the South Korean attack for a bit longer-seven minutes. They gave up another goal early in the second half. South Korea took three times more shots, and Greece also was called offsides four times to South Korea's one.
Against Nigeria, fans expected more of the same, and the first 32 minutes of the match showed that. Kalu Uche scored for Nigeria in the 16th minute, but Sani Kaita was given a red card in the 33rd minute for deliberately kicking Vasilis Torosidis. From that point on, it was all Greece. Dimitris Salpigidis scored Greece's first World Cup goal in the 44th minute (they were held scoreless in 1994), and Torosidis scored the winner in the 71st minute for Greece's first World Cup win. A win against Argentina, the favorite in the group, would most likely advance them to the second round.
From the get-go, Greece was expected to be blown out by Argentina. That turned out to be false, as Greece played all-out, while Argentina played a casual game, needing just a tie to advance. Despite sitting many of their regular starters, Argentina outshot Greece 22-7. Eventually, Argentina decided to kick in to high gear, scoring two late goals to win. Nevertheless, it was a decent performance from Greece.
Greece clearly exceeded expectations in South Africa, scoring their first two World Cup goals and allowing just five, a great improvement on their performance in 1994, when they were outscored 10-0 (coincidentally, they were in a group with Argentina and Nigeria in 1994 as well). Though they didn't advance to the knockout round, the team had continued to improve and seems poised for a very promising future.
After missing the 2006 World Cup, Nigeria was again in danger of being eliminated in the final round of qualifying. On November 14, Nigeria began the day trailing Tunisia by two points. Nigeria picked up a 3-2 win at Kenya, and Tunisia lost 1-0 at Mozambique, allowing Nigeria to advance to the World Cup. Despite being placed in a group with Argentina and South Korea, Nigeria had a decent chance of advancing to the knockout round. Those chances became very bleak when John Obi Mikel was injured in May. He underwent surgery, but, due to a knee injury and possible ankle injury, his chances of playing were ruled out on June 5.
In the opener against Argentina, Nigeria's only gaffe came in the sixth minute when Gabriel Heinze scored off a free kick. It was the only goal they would allow, but Argentina dominated possession and territory, and the final was 1-0.
Luckily for Nigeria, their next match was against the team expected to finish last in the group, Greece. For the first 33 minutes, Nigeria was clearly in charge. Kalu Uche scored in the 16th minute, and things were looking up for the Super Eagles. Then, in the 33rd minute, Sani Kaita had a lapse in common sense and intentionally kicked Greece's Vasilis Torosidis, which rightfully earned him a red card. Playing a man down, Nigeria was on the ropes, and Greece began to attack. They scored at the end of the first half to equalize and again with just nineteen minutes left. Nigeria's hopes of advancing were bleak.
Against South Korea, Nigeria would need a win and an Argentina win over Greece, the latter of which was expected. Because the matches were played at the same time, Nigeria didn't know if they had a shot to advance (Argentina did end up defeating Greece, 2-0). South Korea needed only a tie if the favored Argentinians defeated Greece. Kalu Uche scored his second goal of the tournament in the twelfth minute to give Nigeria the early lead. Lee Jung-Soo scored the tying goal late in the first half, and Park Chu-Young gave South Korea the lead early in the second. After missing a golden opportunity in the 66th minute, Nigeria's Yakubu Aiyigbeni was given a penalty kick in the 69th minute, and he slammed it home to tie the game at two. Despite many opportunities, Nigeria couldn't score again, and the final was 2-2.
After a disappointing qualifying run capped off by a dramatic comeback, Nigeria's fans expected a lot out of their team in the 2010 World Cup. Beginning with superstar John Obi Mikel's injury, they were extremely disappointed. Their high expectations and giant letdowns were an example of most of the African teams' woes.
The Taeguk Warriors qualified for their fourth World Cup in a row, finishing first in both of their qualifying groups. A very balanced team, South Korea was put in a challenging group with juggernaut Argentina and Nigeria. Most experts predicted it would be Argentina and either South Korea and Nigeria advancing out of the group stage. If South Korea was to advance, it would be the first time since they co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with Japan, when they advanced to the semifinals.
South Korea opened against Greece, perceived by many as the weakling in the group. South Korea came in to Port Elizabeth as a very confident team, and they scored seven minutes in to take an early lead. In the second half, they scored another early goal to win 2-0. The team seemed a little jumpy, and missed a few more opportunities that could've turned the game into a whitewash.
Though South Korea wasn't expected to beat Argentina, they were at least expected to put up a good showing and keep the match close after their dominating win over Greece. However, the result turned out to be quite the contrary. Gonzalo Higuain scored three times en route to a 4-1 blowout win for Argentina, which added importance to South Korea's showdown against Nigeria.
South Korea needed either a win or a tie against Nigeria and an Argentina win over Greece to move on. Because the matches were played at the same time, South Korea didn't know what sort of effort was required of them. After conceding an early goal, they scored late in the first half to equalize and again early in the second half to take the lead, but a penalty in the box allowed Nigeria's Yakubu Aiyigbeni to equalize on a penalty kick. The match ended in a 2-2 tie, and South Korea advanced to the knockout round thanks to Argentina's win over Greece.
South Korea's group play performance wasn't spectacular, but it was enough to carry the team to the second round. Though the team was not as dominant as they were when they reached the semifinals in 2002, their performance was much better than it was in 2006, when they didn't make it out of the group stage.
In Group C, there were:
- 9 goals
- 3 draws
- 28 yellow cards
- 2 red cards
England couldn't help but grin when they saw a group that looked like an easy 3-0. The USA also expected to make it out of the first round after their disappointing run in 2006, and, though the matches against Algeria and Slovenia would be just as important, looked forward to facing England in Rustenburg.
Les Fennecs, or the Desert Foxes, entered South Africa following a thrilling qualifying run that concluded with a 1-0 victory in a one-game playoff over Egypt behind brilliant goaltending from Faouzi Chaouchi. This team, made mostly of French Algerians, hoped their defensive style could carry them through to the second round.
The offense couldn't get their engine started against Slovenia in a game that would define the dark horse in the group, and, for the moment, first place. Though Faouzi Chaouchi bailed out his team time and time again, he became flustered throughout the match and resorted to yelling at his teammates. Substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal was red-carded after a hand ball, and the man advantage gave Slovenia's Robert Koren the opportunity to score a late goal.
Though Algeria knew the Slovenia match would be the one that determined their chances of advancing, they still gave it their all against England. Rather than starting a hotheaded Chaouchi in goal, they went to Rais M'Bolhi instead. Algeria played another slow match like they did against Slovenia (which worked until Ghezzal's red card), and, from an Algerian standpoint, the 0-0 tie was a success. They still had a slim chance to advance, but they would need to beat the USA and have Slovenia beat England.
Algeria's offense once again failed to take charge, and the Americans took shot after shot on Rais M'Bolhi, who took the role of team MVP from the man he replaced, Faouzi Chaouchi. Algeria's only decent chance came very early on, and it deflected off the crossbar. An American goal was disallowed in the first half on a poor offsides call, and Rais M'Bolhi took advantage of this, stopping all eight of the American shots he faced in the first 90 minutes. In the first minute of stoppage time, he denied another chance, this one on a rush by Clint Dempsey. However, he couldn't cover the ball up, and Landon Donovan scored on the rebound to give the US a 1-0 win.
Though Algeria allowed just two goals, tied for least in the group, they couldn't score any to help their cause. They could certainly emerge as a dark horse again in 2014.
After missing Euro 2008, English fans were hungry for redemption in South Africa. A relatively easy draw made advancing past the Group Stage look like a breeze.
In the opening match, England took on the United States. Steven Gerrard's early goal sent English fans into a frenzy, but the fans will remember the match for a different reason: the "Hand of Clod". In the 40th minute, keeper Robert Green tried to scoop up a weak shot by American forward Clint Dempsey, but the ball bounced off his hands and into the net. The final score was 1-1.
The next match was even more disappointing for the English. In what was possibly the most boring game of the tournament, they tied Algeria, 0-0.
Against Slovenia, an early goal by Jermain Defoe turned out to be all the English would get. It was also all they would need.
Despite finishing even with the United States on goal differential, England had scored one fewer goal than the Americans, so they finished second in the group after three unremarkable matches.
Slovenia, the smallest country in the World Cup (population of 2 million), finished only behind Slovakia in a tough qualifying group that also included 2006 qualifiers Czech Republic and Poland. They then proceeded to upset Russia to advance to the World Cup, where they were expected to compete with Algeria for third place in Group C.
Slovenia's match against Algeria started as a very slow and dull one, but after Algeria's Abdelkader Ghezzal was red-carded, Robert Koren found an opening in the tight Algerian defense, and he scored the first and only goal of the game. Slovenia won, 1-0.
Slovenia next faced the United States in one of the most interesting matches of the tournament. First-half goals by Valter Birsa and Zlatan Ljubijankic, who found themselves wide-open thanks to poor USA defense, gave Slovenia an unexpected 2-0 halftime lead. In the second half, all the momentum that Slovenia had early on began to slip away. A pretty goal by Landon Donovan early in the second half brought America within one, and Jozy Altidore found a wide-open Michael Bradley with a pass, and Bradley tied the game with eight minutes to go. Following a Donovan free kick, Clint Dempsey scored what appeared to be the winning goal, but referee Koman Coulibaly, of Mali, disallowed the goal by calling a foul. He did not specify the player he called the foul on. Slovenia escaped Ellis Park Stadium with a 2-2 tie.
Against England, Slovenia needed just a tie to advance, but a goal by Jermain Defoe eliminated the Slovenians from the tournament.
Slovenia's run was promising, but they fell just short of advancing to the second round. Fun fact: Slovenia was the only team in the World Cup media guide without a nickname listed.
Unlike some countries in the 2010 World Cup, soccer isn't the most popular sport in America. It wasn't even the second, like it was in South Korea and Japan, where baseball is the main sport. It is fifth, behind football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. One of the main reasons soccer isn't very popular in America is the way the game is played. It is very un-American to play for a tie, or to give up before the game ends. That is why baseball is popular. Hockey has even gained some ground because of the never-say-die mentality, shown by teams removing their goalie in favor of an extra attacker late in a game when facing a deficit. Fans also dislike the low-scoring nature of the sport, where scoring just one goal is seen as a success. The biggest fault, though, was the officiating. Even baseball had introduced instant replay. Why couldn't soccer? In a tennis match, a player can challenge if a ball went out or stayed in, and, thanks to new cutting-edge technology, they can find within seconds whether the call should be overturned. Why can't soccer do that for goals or offsides calls? Throughout their coverage of the tournament, ESPN would show a line on the screen to determine whether an offsides call was correct. Fans also poked fun at the yellow card/red card system and the fact that players were called for fouls for merely bumping an opponent. Still, despite these flaws, fans began to tune in again to watch their nation compete against the rest of the world. While fans weren't crowding city squares like they did in cities like Madrid and Rome, some cities showed the games on screens and small crowds gathered to watch, most notably in Kansas City. Fans also crowded pubs at early hours. Fans on the east coast watched two 10 am matches, while fans on the west coast woke up at 7 am to watch their team take on Slovenia and Algeria.
After their extremely disappointing run in 2006, in which they lost to the Czech Republic 3-0, tied Italy thanks to an Italian own goal, and lost to Ghana, the Americans were ready to advance out of the group round in 2010. Through their qualifying run, they encountered only a few bumps, including defeats by Costa Rica and Mexico, but the Americans finished first in CONCACAF, and they sent Costa Rica to a playoff against Uruguay, which Uruguay ended up winning, thanks to a stoppage-time goal by Jonathan Bornstein in a meaningless match for the Yanks. For the first time in a long time, they were in a group that it looked like they could advance out of. Like the hockey team did in the Winter Olympics, they faced two seemingly easy opponents (Slovenia and Algeria, while the hockey team faced Norway and Switzerland), and one powerhouse (England in this case, the hockey team faced Canada). The hockey team won all three of their games, including a shocking 5-3 win over Canada. The USA advanced to the gold-medal game, in which they trailed 2-0, but tied the game before Sidney Crosby won it for Canada in overtime. Goalie Ryan Miller was the star of the team. Could Tim Howard do the same in South Africa?
Against England, the Americans' biggest flaw was exposed. They took too long to wake up. Before they could get their feet wet, David Gerrard found his way past the American defenders, stayed onsides, and put the ball past Tim Howard to give England the lead in the fourth minute. Here we go again. After another few minutes, the Americans woke up and began peppering Robert Green with shots. Some of these were great chances that either went just wide or were narrowly saved by the English keeper. In the 40th minute, a shot by Clint Dempsey that didn't have much effort in it bounced off Green and into the net. Suddenly, fans in pubs across the country cheered. The game was tied. In the last few minutes, the Americans seemed to give up, and England could have won. Nevertheless, Howard played well, and the final was 1-1.
The Americans expected a win against Slovenia, but things didn't seem to go so well. The team fell asleep and allowed a 13th-minute goal by Birsa, giving Slovenia a 1-0 lead. Despite Slovenia's defense being throttled by the Americans for most of the first half, the Americans made another error, leaving Ljubijankic open. He scored to give Slovenia a 2-0 lead at halftime. Coach Bob Bradley was in shock. Could the USA, with a population 150 times larger than Slovenia, actually be losing 2-0? Whatever Bradley did at halftime seemed to work. In the 48th minute, Landon Donovan ran with the ball along the end line, and took a shot that went over keeper Samir Handanovic and into the top of the net to cut the deficit to one. The USA continued to attack, and in minute 82, Jozy Altidore's pass let Maurice Edu score the tying goal. A few minutes later, Landon Donovan's free kick went to Clint Dempsey, who beat Handanovic to score the go-ahead goal. The comeback was complete...or so we thought. Referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed the goal, calling a foul on no player in particular. Replays showed that if anything, a foul should have been called on the Slovenian player who tried to perform a (American) football tackle on Landon Donovan. After that, the Americans decided to settle for a draw, angering fans.
Against Algeria, the USA nearly slipped up at the start again, but the crossbar got in the way of Algeria's attempt to take a 1-0 lead. Clint Dempsey's goal was disallowed by a terrible offsides call, and the first 90 minutes were scoreless. Despite what they had done in previous matches, Americans began to play like the minutemen of the Revolutionary War, gaining a never-say-die mentality. They weren't fighting England, they were fighting the world, a world that believed America couldn't play soccer. A shot by Clint Dempsey was denied by Algerian goalie Rais M'Bolhi, who made his ninth save of the game, but the ball bounced to Landon Donovan. Call it luck, call it destiny, call it fate. Whatever it was, it led to an American goal, setting off celebrations in pubs and bars across the nation. On a wing and a prayer, America had survived. They were going to the knockout round.
The Americans had made it out of the group stage for the first time in eight years. Not only that, it was only the second time they had ever won the group. The only other time was in the inaugural World Cup, in 1930. Despite hardships along the road, the USA was in the final 16.
In Group D, there were:
- 12 goals
- 1 draw
- 2 penalty kick goals on 3 penalty kick shots
- 31 yellow cards
- 4 red cards
Group D was a very interesting one in that all four teams had a legitimate chance to finish in the top two. Germany was expected finish in first.
After Australia made it to the Round of 16 in 2006, they expected another strong performance this time around. Though manager Guus Hiddink wasn't around this time, another Dutchman was the manger, Pim Verbeek. Veteran Tim Cahill led the offense through an easy qualifying campaign in which they finished first, in front of Japan.
In the first 30 minutes of their match against Germany, the Socceroos squandered two first-half goals, and Tim Cahill was given a red card early in the second half. They then allowed another pair of goals, and lost, 4-0.
Against Ghana, Brett Holman's 11th-minute goal gave Australia a 1-0 lead, but veteran Harry Kewell was given a red card for a foul inside the box in the 24th minute. Asamoah Gyan converted a penalty kick, and the final was 1-1. Because Germany was defeated by Serbia, Australia could still advance if they won and Germany lost.
Cahill and Holman scored second-half goals against Serbia, and they held off a late Serbian comeback to win 2-1. However, they finished tied in the standings with Ghana, and, because of a weaker goal differential, mainly caused by the 4-0 loss to Germany, the Socceroos were eliminated.
Australia's loss to Germany was clearly a fluke, but they couldn't overcome that bump in the road to advance past the group stage.
After an easy qualifying run, Germany was ready to make another run at the World Cup trophy. Although they didn't have their captain, Michael Ballack, players like Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose were expected to lead the team to great things.
In the opener against Australia, Podolski and Klose scored early first-half goals, and after a red card to Australia's Tim Cahill, Thomas Muller and Cacau added goals to add insult to injury, and the final was 4-0.
Against Serbia, Lukas Podolski missed an early penalty kick after a Serbian hand ball, and Miroslav Klose was given a red card late in the first half after his second yellow card. Jovanovic quickly scored for Serbia, and Germany was defeated, 1-0. They would have to beat Ghana to advance.
Germany and Ghana both played very well, but Mesut Ozil's second-half goal gave Germany the win and first place in the group.
After losing to Serbia, Germany shook off the naysayers and proceeded to win the group. An exciting match against England loomed ahead.
After dominating in qualifying, Ghana's hopes were greatly reduced when their two best players, Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari, were injured. Fans began to doubt that they would advance to the second round, as they did in 2006. Still, they hoped to represent Africa well at the World Cup.
In a thrilling match against Serbia, both teams were given lots of opportunities to score, but the goalies, including Ghana's own Richard Kingson, stopped every shot. Late in the game, Serbia's Zdravko Kuzmanovic was called for a hand ball in the box, and Asamoah Gyan was given a penalty kick. He scored, sending fans across Africa into a frenzy. Ghana won, 1-0.
Against Australia, Ghana allowed an early goal, but Gyan converted another penalty kick after Harry Kewell was red-carded, and the final score was 1-1.
In their final match of group play, Ghana lost to Germany, 1-0, but they finished ahead of Australia thanks to goal differential, and they advanced to the elimination round.
Despite many bumps on the road, Ghana finished second in their group. As it would turn out, they were the only African team to advance past the group stage.
After a disappointing run in 2006, Serbia and Montenegro's soccer team was disbanded when Montenegro declared independence. Both countries now have their own teams. Serbians began to bond, as the team was now free of Montenegrin players, and they won their qualifying group, finishing ahead of France. Entering they were expected to be a dark horse.
Against Ghana, neither offense was able to score until Zdravko Kuzmanovic was called for a hand ball. Asamoah Gyan scored on a penalty kick, and Serbia lost, 1-0.
Serbia next faced a red-hot German team. After an early foul inside the box, Lukas Podolski was given a penalty kick, but he was stopped by Valdimir Stojkovic. Jovanovic scored for Serbia after Miroslav Klose was given two yellow cards, and Serbia upset the mighty Germans.
After the upset win over Germany, Serbia needed to beat Australia, the last-place team in the group, to advance. After a quiet first half, Australia took the White Eagles by storm, scoring two quick goals to take a 2-0 lead. Marko Pantelic scored with six minutes remaining, but Serbia couldn't complete the comeback.
Serbia came extremely close to advancing to the round of 16. They hope to perform well in Brazil in 2014.
In Group E, there were:
- 14 goals
- 0 draws
- 1 penalty kick goal on 1 penalty kick shot
- 1 own goal
- 20 yellow cards
This group consisted of a European power, the Netherlands, one of Africa's most storied teams, Cameroon, Denmark, a team that had made it to the knockout round in every World Cup they had ever played in, and Japan, a team that had played very well when they co-hosted the World Cup in 2002.
A couple weeks before the World Cup started, Roger Milla, the team's hero in the 1990 tournament, criticized their new star, Samuel Eto'o. Eto'o nearly dropped out of the tournament as a result. However, the team seemed ready to forget the controversy and make it out of the group round.
Cameroon opened against Japan, in a match they were expected to win easily. Keisuke Honda scored for Japan late in the first half, and Cameroon was unable to equalize. It was the first time the team had lost their opening match in a World Cup.
Against Denmark, Samuel Eto'o scored an early goal, but Bendtner tied the game for the Danes later in the first half. Denmark took the lead in the second half, and Cameroon was defeated, 2-1. Because the Netherlands beat Japan, their chances of advancing to the knockout stage were gone.
In a meaningless match against the Netherlands, Van Persie scored an early goal for the Dutch, but Eto'o tied the game on a second-half penalty kick. With seven minutes left, the Dutch scored, and Cameroon finished 0-3.
This World Cup may have been Cameroon's most disappointing. For the first time in team history, they went 0-3. Cameroon wasn't the only African team to fail to meet expectations, though.
Olsen's Eleven, nicknamed so because of their manager, Morten Olsen, who starred for Denmark in the 1980s, was poised to make yet another run to the second round. They were in a group with three other teams that would put many obstacles in their path, however.
Against the Netherlands, Daniel Agger deflected a Dutch shot into his own net early in the second half, and Dirk Kuyt added a late goal for the Dutch, who defeated Denmark, 2-0.
Against Cameroon, Denmark fell behind again, 1-0, on a tenth-minute goal by Samuel Eto'O. However, the Danish recovered. Nicklas Bendtner scored in the 33rd minute to tie the match, and Dennis Rommedahl scored in the 61st minute. Olsen's Eleven won, 2-1.
Denmark was tied with Japan in the standings, so the winner of their match would move on to the knockout round. If the teams tied, Japan would advance on goal differential. Keisuke Honda scored on a free kick in the 17th minute to give Japan the lead, and Yasuhito Endo scored another goal on a direct free kick just 13 minutes later. Endo had an opportunity to make it 3-0 before the end of the half, but Thomas Sorensen was able to deflect the ball away, and it hit the goalpost and bounced out. Late in the second half, Denmark began to show signs of life. Jon Dahl Tomasson scored on his own rebound with nine minutes left, but Japan scored again for a 3-1 win.
2010's World Cup was the first one in which Denmark did not finish in the top two in their group. Though they did play well, it wasn't enough to top Japan or the Netherlands.
The Blue Samurai qualified with ease, but they didn't play well in their World Cup tuneups. The team was doubted by fans and critics, and was expected to finish last in Group E.
Japan opened against Cameroon, a team that had never lost their opening match. Keisuke Honda's goal towards the end of the first half gave Japan the lead, and that was all they needed to top the Indomitable Lions. It was Japan's first World Cup win on foreign soil.
Japan next faced the Netherlands, and Wesley Sneijder scored eight minutes in the second half to give the Dutch a 1-0 win. Luckily for Japan, all they needed to do to advance was either tie or defeat Denmark.
Only one goal had been scored in the first 38 matches of the World Cup off of direct free kicks, but Japan did so twice within the first half against Denmark. Keisuke Honda and Yasuhito Endo scored in the first 30 minutes of the match, and, despite a Danish goal with nine minutes remaining, Japan was able to silence any signs of a comeback, thanks to a late goal by Shinji Okazaki.
Despite all the doubts about the team, Japan ended up finishing in second, ahead of a surprisingly weak Cameroonian team and a tough squad from Denmark. They would take on Paraguay in the knockout round.
One of only two teams in Europe to go undefeated in qualifying, the Dutch won all eight of their qualifying matches against Scotland, Norway, Macedonia, and Iceland, outscoring their opponents 17-2 along the way. One of their most well-known veterans, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, was left off the team, and fans began to doubt the Dutch offense.
Against Denmark, in the first minute of the second half, a shot taken by one of the Dutch players deflected off Denmark's Daniel Agger and into the net for an own goal. Dirk Kuyt scored with five minutes remaining, and Oranje won, 2-0. The win guaranteed the Dutch a top two spot in the group.
Wesley Sneijder scored the lone goal in the Dutch win over Japan. His goal came eight minutes into the second half.
In a meaningless match against Cameroon, Robin Van Persie scored an early goal, but Samuel Eto'o tied the game for Cameroon in the second half on a penalty kick. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored with seven minutes remaining, and Oranje won, 2-1.
The Dutch were one of only two teams (Argentina being the other) to go 3-0. They were the only team to win all their qualifying matches and all their group play matches. They hoped to carry this momentum with them into the knockout round.
In Group F, there were:
- 13 goals
- 4 draws
- 1 penalty kick goal on 1 penalty kick shot
- 24 yellow cards
Group F was formed by then-World Champion, Italy; newcomer Slovakia; underdog New Zealand; and Cabañas-less Paraguay. This group appeared easy for Italy, who was planning to finish first.
Biggest fiasco in the World Cup. Marcelo Lippi’s team was aiming to reach the championship, as they did in 2006, but they encountered trouble down the road. Italy was heavily criticized for being an “old” team which caused the anger of the captain, Fabio Cannavaro. As a piece of trivia, 21 of the 23 players in the Italian team played on an Italian club, none in the Internazionale.
Italy’s first game was against Paraguay. After this 1-1 tie, Italy noticed that Paraguay would be a tough competitor in the group, but they still thought they were going to make it to the next round, at least as second.
Next, they played New Zealand. Everyone thought that Italy was going to win easily this game, and by a very wide margin. They were mistaken. An early goal by Shane Smeltz started to preoccupy the Italians. At the 27th minute, Iaquinta tied the game on a penalty kick, and Italy’s hopes of winning the game were back. But as the final whistle blew, the scoreboard read 1-1, and thus the match became one of the biggest surprises of the World Cup.
With their pride hurt, Italy faced Slovakia in a situation they never imagined, they needed to win, and get some help from Paraguay. By the 73rd minute, Italy were losing 2-0, but they managed to get a goal in the next few minutes. When it looked like Italy could tie the game, Slovakia scored again. In the 95th minute, Italy scored again, but it wasn't enough, and they were left out of the knockout round.
Italy's performance was extremely disappointing. This team of veterans couldn't keep up with the speedy young Paraguayans or Slovakians. Maybe leaving Giuseppe Rossi off the roster made a big difference. In any case, the Azzuri will look for a much better performance in 2014.
A rugby nation seen by some as the weakest team in the tournament, the Kiwis showed us that they can also play soccer. Playing just their second WC, New Zealand’s goal was not exactly to qualify, but to leave a good impression.
New Zealand started with a 1-1 tie with Slovakia that gave some confidence to the team thanks to a stoppage-time goal.
Then, they faced Italy, amazingly tying 1-1, a victory that tasted like glory to the New Zealand team.
They closed the round with another tie, this one against Paraguay.
From my standpoint, New Zealand did a great job. They went undefeated, finishing above the defending champions. They also claimed the role of the only undefeated team in the tournament.
After their star forward, Salvador Cabañas, was shot in the head in a bar in Mexico City, Paraguay was worried about their offense, but they managed to get a great offense going. Actually, this incident motivated the Paraguayans to push even harder to honor Cabañas.
Paraguay started against Italy, in a game that ended with a 1-1 tie, which motivated them even more. Now that they tied with Italy, they thought they could end first in the group.
Paraguay showed their great power in the next match against Slovakia in a 2-0 win, which left them practically qualified, as their next match would be against New Zealand.
To continue with this group’s surprises, Paraguay tied with New Zealand 0-0.
They had clearly impressed their fans once again. A tricky matchup with Japan would be their next test.
Playing their first World Cup as independent country, Slovakia wants to show that they still had the power that Czechoslovakia (I had to copy the name) had. They are the opposite of Italy, as just 2 of their players play in the Slovakian league.
Slovakia started against New Zealand, tying 1-1 in a game that brought nothing. Things looked promising for the Fighting Jondas, but they conceded a stoppage-time goal that allowed the All Whites to salvage a draw.
Paraguay came next for Slovakia, and so did a 2-0 loss which all but eliminated the Slovakians from the competition, barring a miracle against Italy.
For their last game in Group Round, Slovakia faced Italy, where they desperately needed a win, and, stunningly, they got it, beating the world champion 3-2, and thus advancing to the next round.
Though they are from a country dominated by hockey stars like Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara, Slovakia proved to the world that they can play soccer. An orange giant awaited them in their next game, though.
In Group F, there were:
- 17 goals
- 2 draws
- 20 yellow cards
- 1 red card
This group consisted of Brazil, the 5-time champion and the only country to have attended every World Cup; Portugal, 2006 World Cup Semifinalist; Côte d'Ivoire, one of the strongest African teams; and North Korea, likely the weakest team in the tournament.
As always, Brazil’s goal was to win the tournament. Some people have criticized that the “Jogo Bonito” that characterized Brazil has disappeared, and now is just a team that plays to win. Curiously, coach Dunga didn’t call Ronaldinho, for the surprise of some. Now let’s see how Brazil did.
Brazil started with a 2-1 win against North Korea, which left many questions, because, how would the 5-time champion fare against stronger teams if they nearly tied the weakest team in the tournament?
For their second match, Brazil played against Côte d'Ivoire, beating them 3-1, but the downside was that they lost Kaka with a red card, and he wouldn’t be able to play against Portugal on the last match, significantly weakening Brazil’s midfield.
Perhaps the most interesting match in the first round, Brazil-Portugal closed Brazil’s performance on the first round. And the game disappointed the fans, ending in a boring 0-0 tie, but the tie served both teams well, and it qualified Brazil to the next round.
While Brazil wasn't spectacular in group play, it was clearly enough for them to make it to the second round.
The African team started the world cup with the terrible news that their star, Didier Drogba, was injured and wouldn’t be able to play. However, the injury was not as grave as it appeared, and he was able to play some games. The coach, Sven Göran Eriksson, praised the team, saying it was great, and even better than Mexico, the team he unsuccessfully coached
Côte d'Ivoire started against Portugal, a really tough match for both, both having balanced teams, and in the end, no one could prevail, and the game ended 0-0.
Next for Côte d'Ivoire was the toughest match, Brazil, they got a 3-1 loss, which greatly narrowed their hopes of getting to the next round.
In a relatively easy match, Côte d'Ivoire played against North Korea beating them 3-0 which wouldn’t be enough for them to qualify, leaving them out, and adding another country to Africa’s disastrous World Cup.
Despite having Africa's icon, Didier Drogba, the Elephants couldn't make it out of the "Group of Death".
The weakest team in the tournament. They didn’t really have hopes to advance, being placed in the most difficult group. North Korea had only qualified to the 1966 World Cup, where they beat Italy 1-0 in the first round, and advanced to the second round, where they lost to Portugal. They were looking forward to do the same in their first game against Brazil.
They started off the match trailing 2-0, but they managed to score a last minute goal to end 2-1.
Next, they faced Portugal, in a match that did nothing but humiliate them, and prove their lack of soccer skills, losing with a stunning 7-0. This match, their worst showing in the World Cup, was the first match Kim Jong-Il allowed broadcast to North Korean fans.
Already disqualified, they faced Côte d'Ivoire for the honor, and to try not to end last place overall, but it didn’t quite work as they expected, and they lost 3-0, leaving them humiliated in last place overall, with 0 points, and a -11 goal difference.
This weak team, which advanced to the World Cup thanks to a weak qualifying group and a poor performance by Saudi Arabia, didn't prove they were ready to take on the world. Fun fact: Because North Korean citizens aren't allowed out of the country, their "fans" were actually paid Chinese actors. The actors were told what to chant during the matches rather than cheer on the team freely.
Portugal, the dark horse of the last World Cup, reaching semifinals, wanted to repeat that and take them to the glory. One of the biggest questions was will Crisitiano Ronaldo shine as he does in Real Madrid? Or will he disappoint as he does quite often with Portugal? Well, it was the latter, going practically unnoticed, except for scoring one goal in a drubbing of North Korea.
Portugal started against Côte d'Ivoire, ending with a 0-0 tie that worried them.
Then, they went against Korea DPR, where they practically destroyed them with a stunning 7-0 win, which also was the biggest win margin in the World Cup.
With a comfortable +7 goal difference, Portugal went against Brazil, in a disappointing game for fans, that ended 0-0, but which eventually qualified both teams to the next round.
Though they only scored in one match, it was enough to advance to the second round. They were one of only two teams (the other was Uruguay) to finish group play without conceding a goal.
In Group H, there were:
- 8 goals
- 1 draw
- 26 yellow cards
- 2 red cards
Group H was formed by European champion and favorite, Spain; Switzerland; Chile; and Honduras. This group looked easy for Spain, whose goal was to win their first World Cup.
Commanded by the “Loco” Bielsa (Crazy), Chile became a very surprising team, even playing 2 friendlies on the same day. Days before the WC started, they were worried because their star, Humberto Suazo, “El Chupete” was injuried and may miss the WC, fortunately for them, he recovered.
Chile faced Honduras first, where they got a 1-0 win, with a goal by Jean Beausejour.
Then, they faced Switzerland, in what was likely the game that would decide who would go on to the next round with Spain. Chile won 1-0.
Practically qualified, Chile faced Spain, but what mattered most about this game was the fact that the winner would take first place in the group. Chile did a good job, but lost nevertheless 2-1.
Despite a devastating earthquake just a few months earlier, Chile had found their way into the second round.
Another weak team, with not many hopes for this World Cup, despite their great performance in the first round of the CONCACAF qualification. They would have had to face Uruguay in a playoff, but, thanks to a USA goal in the final minute of stoppage time against Costa Rica, ensuring a 2-2 draw, they advanced directly to South Africa.
Honduras started with a 1-0 loss against Chile, narrowing their chances of winning a game.
Next, they faced juggernaut Spain, where they lost 2-0, which ended their chances of advancing to a knockout round.
With nothing to lose, they faced Switzerland, where they managed to get a point in the 0-0 tie.
What I liked about the Honduras team, is that, despite their results, they were happy, they enjoyed it, and that is what the World Cup is about, enjoying it!
After having a perfect qualifying run (10 wins in 10 games against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Belgium, Estonia, and Armenia), Spain wanted to go for the title, having a fearsome team, the best goalie in the world, one of the bests offensives, a solid defense and midfield. Vicente del Bosque definitely did a great job managing this team, making it the most solid team, and a very offensive and effective one. Spain style is, as I said, offensive and fast, passing the ball, and that worked perfectly for them.
Spain started with a surprising 1-0 loss against Switzerland that demoralized the country, but they still had chances of advancing.
Next, Spain faced Honduras, where they had to win to erase the memories of their unsuccessful debut, and they won 2-0.
Spain’s last game in the first round was against Chile, a game that would decide who won the group, and it was Spain, who beat Chile 2-1 to finish in first place.
Despite an early setback, the Red Fury was still able to win Group H.
The team of Joseph Blatter, they thought their group was going to be easy for them to advance, underestimating Chile. Switzerland is a very voluble team, as one moment they lose to Luxemburg, and the next moment they beat Spain.
As I mentioned above, in their first match, they beat Spain 1-0, this victory raised Switzerland’s hopes to advance to the next round, and they even thought the group was going to be easier for them.
Next, was Chile. The Swiss underestimated Chile, and were overconfident, which is the worst enemy in a tourney this big, and that caused a 1-0 loss.
In need of a win, Switzerland faced Honduras, a really weak team, and, yet again, they were overconfident, and they tied, which eliminated them.
Though Switzerland looked like a contender early on, they underestimated both Chile and Honduras, and couldn't score in their final two matches.
Round of 16
Uruguay 2-1 South Korea
At Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the city of Port Elizabeth, two teams that were playing better than expected met in the first elimination match. Uruguay had won Group A, and South Korea was the runner-up in Group B. In the eighth minute, a low cross by Diego Forlan went straight past the Korean defense, and Luis Suarez scored an easy goal. The game turned into a battle for possession, and South Korea finally equalized in the 68th minute, after an hour of trailing, 1-0. Lee Chung-yong headed in a free kick to tie the match at one apiece. With ten minutes remaining, Luis Suarez scored again for Uruguay on a shot from 18 feet out that hit the inside of the post and caromed in. Clearly, it was one of the best goals of the tournament. South Korea couldn't score in the final nine minutes plus stoppage time, and Uruguay advanced to the quarterfinals. The stats were generally even aside from one, the most important one of all: the score.
USA 1-2 Ghana (a.e.t.)
Both teams came into Rustenburg after interesting group play runs. Each team won just one match in group play, but the USA finished atop Group C. They hoped to shed memories of allowing early goals and hoped to move on to the quarterfinals for just the third time in team history (the others being 1930 and 2002). Ghana, on the other hand, was the only African team left. They had never reached the quarterfinals.
15 days prior to the match against Ghana, the USA tied England, 1-1, also in Royal Bafokeng Stadium. They had allowed a goal 4 minutes in, but tied the game on a lucky bounce late in the first half. They held off Ghana for the first four minutes, but American midfielder Ricardo Clark lost the ball in the fifth minute, resulting in a chance for Ghana's Kevin-Prince Boateng, who beat Tim Howard to give the Black Stars a 1-0 lead. The score remained 1-0 for the next 57 minutes, but Jonathan Mensah fouled Clint Dempsey in the box, and Landon Donovan's penalty kick went behind Richard Kingson and into the net. Though the entire right side of the net was open, the ball almost hit the post. The Americans continued to press for most of the half, but they decided to allow the match to go to extra time, stopping their attack in the final minutes of regulation, not wanting to slip up and allow Ghana a chance to score the winning goal.
Extra time opened just like regulation time did. Asamoah Gyan chested down a high ball in the 93rd minute, ran past two American defenders, and scored to give Ghana the lead. This time, America didn't get a penalty kick. With three minutes left, they simply gave up, abandoning the American way of fighting until the final whistle. They had been eliminated. Ghana, the only African team remaining, survived.
Germany 4-1 England
Many were disappointed that these two teams faced each other so quickly, especially when some thought this could be the final match, but one had to be eliminated. This was the match of some of the best teams in the world, England with their very dangerous aerial game, and Germany with the power that is typical of them.
With a young team, Germany could beat their long-time rivals 4-1, with a great show. But again, polemic appeared, when a goal of the English was nullified because it supposedly hadn’t entered the goal, but the replay clearly showed it had, some considered this “karma” for the Ghost Goal in Wembley Stadium in the 1966 World Cup, which gave England the title.
Argentina 3-1 Mexico
Note: If you are Argentinean, or otherwise root for this country, I heavily recommend you skip this.
Second place of Group A, Mexico, against old-time rival Argentina. After being eliminated in the 2006 World Cup, in this same stage, and also against Argentina, in what was one of the greatest games in the history of the World Cup, a 2-1 loss in Overtime, and we wanted our revenge. Especially after the racist scandal in the 2009 Copa Libertadores, where Argentinean teams heavily discriminated Mexicans because of the H1N1 Virus, which led to a bigger problem, causing Mexico to break all links with the CONMEBOL, the problem was solved, but the harm had been done.
Before the game, there were several polemics including Mexico’s former coach, Ricardo LaVolpe (who is Argentinean) declarations against Maradona, which led to a verbal fight.
For this game, the main task was to nullify Argentina’s offensive power, especially the not-very-useful Messi, which was done successfully. Aguirre’s strategy was questioned a lot, especially including “El Bofo” in the starting 11, who did nothing and was subbed. Another big mistake was putting Franco in, instead of a faster player. But, to compensate those mistakes, he did what Mexico wanted, putting Chicharito and Guardado in the starting 11.
The game starting with a dominating Mexico, but, in the 26th minute, Argentina scored a goal that was clearly an offside, but the referees said it was good. The Argentineans knew it wasn’t, the referees knew it wasn’t, the world knew it wasn’t, the replay was shown in the stadium, which caused the uproar of the Mexican team, which went to complain, and just when the referee was about to change the call, the Argentineans, who like to influence the referee to make the calls that favor them, went to complain, and eventually intimidated the referee as only they know, being the cheaters they are, and the call stayed.
This basically broke Mexico’s balance, screwing up the tactic, which could be seen instantly after the goal, because that is one of our problems, after a bad call, we get really angry and can’t focus properly. This probably lead to another mistake, this time of our own defender, Ricardo Osorio, passed the ball to Higuain, who didn’t forgive and scored. As a comedian said, our anthem had foretelled that “Mas si Osorio un extraño en enemigo” XD bad pun, let’s continue.
Midtime came and finally “El Bofo” was subbed out by Barrera. But in the minute 52, Tevez scored the 3-0, more changes came, as Guardado was subbed out by Franco. Huge mistake.
Despite this, Chicharito managed to score to make it 3-1, which would be insufficient, and would leave us out of the World Cup in the same stage the 5th time in a row, ending in a disappointment for everyone, as we didn’t reach the long-wanted 5th match. And again we said, perhaps next time…
Netherlands 2-1 Slovakia
Slovakia, who hung on against Italy by the skin of their teeth, met the Netherlands, the only undefeated team still playing (New Zealand tied all three matches, but didn't make it out of the first round. Argentina was blown out by Germany!). Arjen Robben scored in the 18th minute to give Oranje the lead on a shot from 25 yards. Wesley Sneijder put the game away with a goal in the 84th minute. Robert Vittek scored on a penalty kick in the fourth minute of stoppage time. The goal didn't affect the outcome of the game, but it did allow Vittek to become the top scorer in Slovakian history, with 23 goals.
Though the Dutch did win, fans were surprised by Robin Van Persie's reaction to being taken out by coach Bert Van Marjwik.
Brazil 3-0 Chile
After Chile played surprisingly well in Group H, they had to take down a giant, Brazil, to advance to the quarterfinals. An unmarked Juan scored in the 35th minute off a Maicon penalty kick, and Luis Fabiano scored a second goal just three minutes later. This goal was set up by some good passes by Brazil's Kaka and Robinho. Robinho scored in the 59th minute after a breakaway with Ramires. The final was 3-0, and Chile was eliminated.
Paraguay 0-0 Japan (5-3 PK)
An interesting game, of 2 not very common teams to see in this phase, and that promised a great game.
Both teams had a couple of clear opportunities to score, the clearest of them was of Roque Santa Cruz’s, in the 29th minute, but his hesitation to shoot didn’t help him.
For this game, 120 minutes were not enough to decide the winner, so it went into Penalties Shoot Outs, everything was leveled until Yuichi Komano missed his penalty, and that gave Paraguay the win, and it became the first time they advanced to the quarterfinals.
Spain 1-0 Portugal
Battle against 2 Iberian teams, which really lived up expectations. Both teams appeared with a streak, Spain having won 29 of their last 31 matches, and Portugal had a 19-match undefeated streak.
The goalkeepes shined in this match, Eduardo stopping a shoot from “El Niño” Torres, and Casillas, being captain for the 51st time, and getting in the head of the list of most times being captain, stopped a free kick from Cristiano Ronaldo.
The goal that marked the difference came in the 63rd minute, courtesy of David Villa. But before that, Sergio Ramos missed a chance just by inches.
Crisitiano went unnoticed again during this World Cup, being a major disappointment, and “La Furia Roja” advanced firmly to the next round.
Netherlands 2-1 Brazil
Two of the world's top teams met in Port Elizabeth on July 2nd in the first quarterfinal. Brazil, wearing blue jerseys for the first time in the tournament, took on the orange-clad Netherlands. In the tenth minute, Brazil's Robinho took advantage of a poor play by Andre Ooijer (who replaced an injured Joris Mathijsen) and John Heitinga, and Robinho scored after a long pass from Felipe Melo. Brazil led 1-0 at halftime, and things were looking good for Selecao. They would have been leading by more if it weren't for some good saves by Maarten Stekelenburg. Eight minutes into the second half, the Dutch scored. It was initially called an own goal scored by Felipe Melo, but FIFA eventually gave the goal to Wesley Sneijder. Sneijder struck again 15 minutes later. Arjen Robben took a corner kick, and Dirk Kuyt took the ball and flicked it to Sneijder, who scored on a header. Fans in Amsterdam began to celebrate, and the Dutch defense stopped Brazil for the final 22 minutes. Oranje was going to the semifinals, and Brazil was defeated in the quarterfinals for the second World Cup in a row.
Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (4-2 PK)
Throughout the first half, Uruguay dominated, but Diego Lugano, their captain, was hurt just before halftime. In the second minute of first-half stoppage time, Ghana's Sulley Muntari, who had missed their first match due to injury and came on as a substitute in the next three, was left alone by Uruguay's defense, and he scored from 45 yards out to give Ghana the lead. Fans rejoiced from Accra all the way to Johannesburg, where a mainly pro-Ghana crowd began to cheer and blow on their vuvuzelas. In the 55th minute, Diego Forlan tied the game on a direct free kick. The score remained deadlocked for the next 35 minutes, and the match went to overtime. In the 120th minute, Ghana had a chance off a corner kick. Their first shot was stopped by Muslera, Uruguay's keeper, but the ball bounced to Dominic Adiyiah. He took a high shot at an open net. Ghana was going to win...or so it seemed. Luis Suarez of Uruguay stuck his arm up to knock the ball away and keep Uruguay's hopes alive for at least a few more seconds. He was given a red card for the hand ball, and, to end extra time, Asamoah Gyan, Ghana's hero, the hero of Africa, would take a penalty kick with the opportunity to win the game. Fans across Africa, whether they were watching in Arabic, French, English, Swahili, or some other language, held their breath. Fans in Montevideo watched in shock, praying Muslera would make the save. Gyan approached the ball in front of 84,017 fans, nearly all of them supporting Ghana, and he took a shot that was destined to go into the net...but it hit the crossbar. Uruguay was alive for a few more minutes. The match went to a shootout.
Diego Forlan shot first for Uruguay. His shot went into the corner of the net. Asamoah Gyan also scored, a little redemption for the man who could've won the game just minutes earlier. Mauricio Victorino shot next for Uruguay. Though Richard Kingson guessed correctly and dove to his left, Victorino shot it high enough to go over Kingson and give Uruguay a 2-1 lead. Steven Appiah shot next for Ghana, and, though Fernando Muslera dove to the right, his shot went around the keeper and in to tie the shootout, 2-2. Kingson tried to dive and stop Andres Scotti's shot, and he nearly kicked it away, but the shot went right down the middle and into the net. John Mensah was up next for Ghana. He shot to the right side, and Muslera dove to it and stopped it. The fans cheered in Montevideo, and an eerie silence came over the fans at Soccer City. Maxi Pereira went next for Uruguay with a chance to take a 4-2 lead, but his shot sailed high and into the seats. The score remained 3-2. Dominic Adiyiah came next for Ghana. He shot to the right, but Muslera guessed correctly and made another easy save. Sebastian Abreu was Uruguay's next shooter, with a chance to win it for La Celeste. He had been their hero in qualifying, scoring the decisive goal against Costa Rica. Kingson dove to the right, and Abreu paused just before the shot, waiting for Kingson to guess, and he chipped the ball in, then ran to celebrate with his teammates in front of the small group of Uruguayan fans. As for Ghana, and Africa, it was the end of their run. This time, it would not be for Africa. Asamoah Gyan, who had a chance to win it for Ghana and put them in the semifinals, began to weep on the field.
Argentina 0-4 Germany
Another 2006-revenge game. In said World Cup, Germany beat Argentina in a penalty shootout in this very stage. And, as all big games, before the game were some polemic, because Schweinsteiger said the truth about Argentinean players, that they were bad losers, cheaters, and that they tried to influence the referee, just the way they did in the Mexico’s game.
Germany had a perfect game, superb, and it was shown on the score, beating Argentina by a 4-0! Germany was constant, and the Argentineans tried to go for the long shots, but they failed.
At the end of the game, Maradona was crying, a very happy sight, and that advanced Germany to the semifinals, where they looked like the most powerful team.
Paraguay 0-1 Spain
Both teams faced each other in a thrilling game, wanting to reach the semifinals for their first time.
The climax of the match was when Cardozo got a penalty that would mean the lead for Paraguay, but Casillas saved it superbly. Minutes later, Spain also got their chance with a PK, and Xabi Alonso scored, but the referee said it had to be retaken for an encroachment, and this time Vilar saved it.
When it seemed like we would have overtime, David Villa scored, thus sending Spain to semifinals for the first time in their history, where they would face Germany.
Uruguay 2-3 Netherlands
In the first semifinal, Uruguay met the Netherlands in Cape Town. Uruguay played tight defense early on, but Giovanni Van Bronckhorst put the ball in the top of the net in the 18th minute to give Oranje a 1-0 lead. Dutch fans began to rejoice, but the fans in Montevideo got their chance to party 23 minutes later on a goal by Diego Forlan from 25 yards out. The teams went to halftime tied 1-1, and the second half promised to be just as exciting. Wesley Sneijder took a shot in the 70th minute that hit a Uruguayan defender, bounced off the goalpost, and into the net. Three minutes later, Arjen Robben headed in a cross from Dirk Kuyt, and the fans began to light fireworks in Amsterdam. In the 2nd minute of stoppage time, Maxi Pereira scored to make it 3-2, but, despite Uruguay doing everything in their power to tie the game, the Dutch held on to advance to their third World Cup final.
Germany 0-1 Spain
A very interesting match, with high expectations, facing perhaps the 2 strongest teams in the World Cup. It was going to be practically a game where Spain’s offensive game would battle against Germany’s balanced team, but Spain’s speed and effective passing game would help them a lot. But it also was Germany’s experience, this being their 12th semifinal against Spain’s first semifinal.
Germany’s defense couldn’t deal with Villa, which was a great advantage for the Spanish. Also, Casillas wasn’t required until the 30th minute.
Spain kept the pressure, until they got a corner in the 73rd minute, and defender Carles Puyol scored with a header, leading Spain to their first World Cup final.
Whatever the outcome was, two things were sure: Spain had made history, and there would be a new champion.
Uruguay 2-3 Germany
Germany, being the proud team they are, didn’t care much about this game, and that could be seen in Klose not playing, using the substitute goalie, or sending Podolski to the bench. However, for Uruguay, getting here was already a huge accomplishment.
This game was really exciting, with many goals. Muller's 19th-minute goal gave Germany a 1-0 lead, but Cavani tied the score just nine minutes later. In the 51st minute, Diego Forlan scored an exciting goal on a volley to give Uruguay the lead, but Marcell Jansen tied it for Germany five minutes later. In the 82nd minute, Sami Khedira headed home the winning goal off a corner from Mesut Ozil. (Both these players have Turkish ancestors.) Uruguay had a free kick with seconds remaining, but Forlan's 92nd-minute free kick hit the crossbar, and Germany hung on for the win.
Netherlands 0-1 Spain
31 days, 63 matches, 30 teams eliminated, 144 goals, more than 3million total attendants, 1 hat trick, 9 scored penalties, 6 missed, 8 correct guesses for Paul the Octopus, 5 clean sheets for Spain, 2100th goal in the WC history scored (Chicharito) as well as the 2200th (Robben), 2 performances of Waka Waka, 135db per game caused by the Vuvuzelas, a 37-year scorer (Cuau), as well as a 20-year old (Müller), 2 countries received apologies from Sepp Blatter, 10 venues in 9 cities, many surprises, one host country who has suffered a lot, 4 countries “eliminated” by Mick Jagger, 84,490 people watching the game in Soccer City, and another 700 million watching it by TV, 6 games played these teams before getting here, the final, the dream of every country, of every kid who plays soccer on the street, to lift the FIFA World Cup. All the eyes of the world were centered upon Soccer City for 120 minutes, to see who would raise as the new champion of the FIFA World Cup.
And now, the game. Before the match, a colorful closing ceremony for the tournament was performed. Nelson Mandela took a lap of honor around the field before leaving to watch the match on his TV (it was very cold at the stadium), and Shakira performed the anthem, "This Time for Africa". Cannavaro takes the World Cup to the field, as the captain of the last champion. The referees enter after the FIFA flag, as the FIFA anthem can be heard, the Jobulani is grabbed by Howard Webb, who is followed by the two finalist teams who put in line, as Sepp Blatter, Jacob Zuma, and other persons greeted them. Then, the anthems. Oh, but before this, a fan tried to put a hat on the cup. He was strangled. Netherlands in orange, the “RED Fury” in blue. Queen Sofia and Queen Beatrix seating close to each other. And the whistle sounds. Spain’s starting 11 were all players of the Spanish League.
The game was like a rollercoaster. Spain dominated, then the game equilibrated, then Netherlands dominated, and so on. But what it was, it was DIRTY, REALLY DIRTY. Especially from the Netherlands. 14 yellow cards, one red, beating Mexico’s 1986 final record. 47 fouls committed.
The first dangerous play came when Sergio Ramos headed towards the goal, but it was stopped by Stekelenburg.
During the game, there were 3 one-on-ones with the Goalie, which should have been easy goals, but all of them were failed. Casillas showed all his power, which eventually earned him the Golden Glove as best Goalkeeper.
With some bad referee decisions, the first 90 minutes passed, and the World Cup wasn't going to end for another 30 majestic minutes.
Everyone was tense in the game. The players, the fans, the coaches, everyone. You could see it on their faces. No one smiled until then. Vuvuzelas were quieted (the only other times they stopped were the five goals South Africa allowed), flags didn’t wave like they used to, people didn’t jump in their seats, because as the game was going, anything could happen.
As for the yellow cards, both teams knew that a red card would unbalance the game against them, that is what impulse Netherlands to sub out 2 yellow-carded players. But, Netherlands ended up losing defenseman John Heitinga in the 105th minute.
At this time, the ghost of the 1978 World Cup haunted Netherlands, when they lost 1-0 in extra time to Germany.
The first 15 extra minutes went on without any goals, but, 4 minutes away from the Penalty Kicks, when no one expected it, when everyone thought this cup would end defined from the 11 meters as the last one, Andrés Iniesta took a hard shot that beat Stekelenburg. Spain bursted into joy. Iniesta took off his jersey, revealing an undershirt that rad, "Dani Jarque, siempre con nosotros" (Dani Jarque, always with us). They knew the cup was theirs, Casillas was crying at that moment, the Queen burst into happiness, Del Bosque smirked, Madrid was already celebrating, and the red shirts with the newly-acquired star were already being produced in Adidas factories around the world.
And the final whistle blew, Spain was the new champion! Spain became the 9th country to lift the cup!!!
The referees received their medals and were heavily booed, then Netherlands went on to receive their second place medals, and, after that, the champion, Spain. They received their medal one by one, ending with Casillas, and then they walked onto the left side of the stage, where they made a path for Joseph Blatter to give the World Cup to Casillas, who was shaking even before he received it. Casillas takes the cup. He lifts it. Confetti flies. And the stadium goes crazy.
Now, there is something that I will like to note, after receiving their medals, they walked down to the field, and there, the Netherlands team made a path for them, a true act of sportsmanship. After that, the Olympic Lap with the trophy, Waka Waka and Tik Tok playing on the stadium, fireworks, and the Spanish team bursts with happiness. The players hugging each other, and a sight you wouldn’t see otherwise, Real Madrid players hugging Barcelona ones. From Zaragoza to Sevilla, everyone was celebrating, 300,000 people celebrating in Madrid’s Paseo de los Recolones, other 200,000 in the Fan Fest. What is next for them? To face Mexico August 11th in a match commemorating the 200 years of the Mexican Independence.
España, Campeón del Mundo.