In a World Cup that European nations prevailed in, Spain concluded the tournament by winning the trophy. The favourites from the beginning, Spain’s possession football prevailed as they gave their opponents few opportunities throughout the tournament. And they got better as the tournament went on. Just like in Euro 2008, Spain go another tournament without conceding a goal during the knock out stages.
The first time European nations have won back-to-back World Cup’s since Italy done it themselves between 1934 and 1938. For the fifteenth time in nineteen World Cups, a European nation has finished third. An exciting glorified friendly saw Germany come from behind to beat Uruguay 3-2 on Saturday night. Thomas Muller wrapped up his young player of the tournament award with his fifth goal of the tournament. Miroslav Klose’s back ache prevented him from tying Ronaldo’s all time record 15 goals in the World Cup.
Earlier in the tournament we had the disappointments from France, Italy and England, but Europe pulled through, finishing with the top three nations in back-to-back World Cup’s after Italy, France and Germany lead the way 4 years ago.
This World Cup had very little to offer in terms of classic matches, but rather the colours and noise of the vuvuzela will have to be remembered from this World Cup. For me, I will remember it as the most profitable tournament in my life in terms of gambling. To date anyway. Prior to the Netherlands’ victory over Brazil in the quarter final, bet after bet was coming off. Generally, it turned out to be a very predictable tournament, for me anyway.
France’s limp performance saw the runners up from 4 years ago finish bottom of Group A. A group that also saw the hosts failing to progress from the initial group stage for the first time in the history of the World Cup. All as predicted in our Group A preview.
The most unpredictable team of the tournament and the one that cost me the most money was New Zealand. They picked up 3 more points than I expected too, costing me a 0 points bet as early as their first game. Holding their own against Italy and Paraguay stumped me too, but nothing too serious.
The biggest winners for me in this World Cup were Germany. From their opening game against Australia, Germany were overvalued for all of their games, except their second game against Serbia when the odds plummeted. Victories over Australia, Ghana, England and Argentina were all at fantastic prices, as well as them winning Group D, as they did.
My money was on Spain and Brazil from the get go and while Spain started slowly and the Brazilians shot themselves in the foot against Netherlands, it turned out to be a good call in the end. Going against the many punters I met backing Argentina, Netherlands and even England.
A brief summary of the nations in the order they finished is as follows:
Spain: The first European nation to win the World Cup outside of Europe, Spain were the deserved winners, especially in the final. They came into this tournament as favourites and didn’t disappoint. Also the first nation to win the World Cup after losing their opening game.
Netherlands: A great effort in reaching the final, especially as their solo striker Robin van Persie only scored 1 goal in 7 games. Three finals and three times runners up now.
Germany: Expectation has been set for the future after a successful World Cup from a predominantly young team. Handing record World Cup defeats to Australia and England, they were one of the masters of the 4-2-3-1 formation and excellent on the counter attack.
Uruguay: The country half the population of London gave a good go at winning their third World Cup, reaching the semi finals before going down to an in-form Netherlands team. Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez have been two of the highlights, but a hard working midfield and solid defence was key to their run.
Argentina: Were never serious contenders for the World Cup in my eyes. They had all the flair and fire power, as was proven against the likes of South Korea and Mexico. But the first time they faced a tactically solid and disciplined unit in this World Cup, Germany rolled them over.
Brazil: Dunga’s safeguard approach backfired as Brazil failed to provide any ammunition up front when they needed it against the Netherlands in the quarter finals. A second successive World Cup elimination in the last eight, this Brazil side looked headed for glory before a defensive meltdown in what turned out to be their final game.
Ghana: With the whole continents support behind them as they were the only African nation to qualify from the group, Ghana were involved in a lot of the tournaments highlights and ultimately heartbreaks. Asamoah Gyan’s missed extra time stoppage time penalty will live long in the archives, but Ghana return home as national heroes.
Paraguay: Providing one of the best defensive performances from South America, Paraguay kept 3 clean sheets in their 5 games, but an Oscar Cardozo missed spot kick against Spain in the quarter final lead to their exit.
Japan: A technically gifted unit that benefited from hosting the competition in 2002, Japan surprised some people in the World Cup by making it out of the group stage. An unlucky goal conceded against the Netherlands was their only defeat, with comfortable victories over Cameroon and Denmark. The first of two unfortunate nations to be eliminated on penalties.
Chile: An exciting side to watch, Chile’s attacking nature caught up with them when they were comfortably beaten by Brazil in the second round. They don’t like losing either and that’s when their tempers started to flare.
USA: Proud Group C winners, even if half of their own country didn’t know what was going on. Fortunate for an equaliser against England, fortunate stoppage time winner over Algeria. Luck caught up with the USA in the knock out stages as Ghana eliminated them in the second round.
Portugal: A very defensive-minded system that saw Portugal progress from their group with 3 clean sheets. Despite scoring 7 goals against North Korea, they failed to score in their other 3 matches. Their goalkeeper was solid, but they under utilised their outfield talent that included Cristiano Ronaldo.
England: The nations worst performance since 1958 at a World Cup. The team looked pathetic and uninterested in playing in the biggest tournament of most of their careers. Not many nations can say they played without pride in 2010, but England can. Wayne Rooney is still without a World Cup goal to his name, and Emile Heskey remains one behind goalkeepers Jose Luis Chilavert and Rene Higuita in terms of goals at international level. There’s problems that need to be addressed throughout the ranks before England can live up to their tag as serious contenders for any future tournaments.
Mexico: Regular qualifiers, but it always ends their. Happy with their victory over France that all-but-saw them through to the knockout stage, Mexico never looked like standing up to Argentina when they went out in the second round.
South Korea: Beneficial of hosting the tournament 8 years ago, South Korea are a strong footballing nation. Good at set pieces and technically sound, South Korea struggled against the South Americans but are a country looking to break in amongst the top nations in future years.
Slovakia: Another over achiever in this World Cup, after drawing their opening game with New Zealand, Slovakia saved their best until their last group game when a huge 3-2 victory over Italy saw them finish as group runners up. They were lifeless against the Netherlands, but Robert Vittek’s penalty with the last kick of that game meant he came away with more goals than both England and France from this World Cup.
Ivory Coast: High expectations, but failing to beat Portugal in their opening game cost Sven-Goran Eriksson and his Ivory Coast from progressing out of the group stage. Two clean sheets from three games makes their defence look stronger than their attack which includes Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou.
Slovenia: Eliminated by Landon Donovan’s stoppage time winner against Algeria, Slovenia were made to pay for throwing away a 2-0 lead against USA and then being the only nation to lose to England in this World Cup. A good effort in qualifying, but they fell short once they reached South Africa.
Switzerland: Beating Spain in your opening game and breaking Dino Zoff and Italy’s record for most minutes without conceding at the World Cup. Switzerland started well but failed to even make it out the group stage after they self-destructed against Chile and then failed to beat lowly Honduras.
South Africa: After a 3-0 defeat to Uruguay in their second game, but a spirited victory over France in their final group game gave them something to go home with. The biggest result in their history, South Africa have been fine hosts even if most of Europe can’t stand vuvuzelas.
Australia: I wasn’t expecting much of Australia with a weak unit in a tough group. After a hammering to Germany in their opening game they bounced back with a solid point against Ghana before beating Serbia to no avail as they went out at the group stage.
New Zealand: The only unbeaten nation at this year’s World Cup. They surprised many people, especially me.
Serbia: After qualifying well, Serbia were confident of causing a few surprises this year. However, it panned out just the same as 4 years ago when they didn’t show up this time. A surprise victory over Germany came in between defeats to Ghana and Australia as Serbia disappointed once again.
Denmark: Failing to make it out of the group stage for the first time, Denmark’s national team needs a few star players if they’re to come back strong in 4 years time. Defensively suicidal at times during the tournament, this was their worst showing at a World Cup.
Greece: Frustrating to watch, Greece seemingly wanted to play for a 0-0 in every game, even when they fell behind. Fortunately, Dimitrios Salpingidis broke the trend as he scored Greece’s first ever World Cup goal against 10 man Nigeria. Otto Rehhagel resigned after his unexplainable tactics of holding for what they had when trailing to Argentina.
Italy: Despite entering the tournament out-of-form and with a lack of goals, Italy were my biggest disappointment in the World Cup. Predicting them to be eliminated in round two, Italy managed to finish bottom of a group that included Slovakia and New Zealand. It’s time for fresh, young players to break through in the coming years.
Nigeria: Disappointing from the start, many people thought Nigeria would be Africa’s strongest nation at this World Cup. Nigeria proved them wrong with poor discipline and wasteful in front of goal. Things were so bad, president Goodluck Jonathan wants them suspended for 2 years.
Algeria: Fortunate to come up against a woeful England, Algeria offered limited in the way of excitement in this World Cup as they went 3 games without scoring a goal. Their other two results were 1-0 losses which makes them the dullest team in the tournament in my mind, despite receiving 2 red cards.
France: A woeful time for the French, saw arguments in the camp during the tournament. Far from the team they were in 2006, lead by Zinedine Zidane, this French nation will undergo a rebuilding under Laurent Blanc. He may be the right man for the job.
Honduras: The second nation to go through the World Cup without a goal, Honduras were one of the weakest nations as expected. A wasteful Chile made their goal difference more respectable, while their unlikely point came against a disappointing Switzerland.
Cameroon: One of two nations finishing with 0 points this year, Cameroon were slow to start, looking unprepared and disorganised. Despite having the fire power of Samuel Eto’o up front, this nation has fallen along way since the days of Roger Milla and the quarter finals in Italia 90.
North Korea: Little was expected in a group that saw them beat by Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast, North Korea ended up where many people expected them to, as the worst nation in the 2010 World Cup.