Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Lack of star quality made South Africa's World Cup one to forget

Goodbye South Africa 2010. Hello Brazil 2014. Another four years of planning, expectancy and hope for the football fans who relish what they call the greatest sporting show on earth.

How will the tournament which ended last night at Soccer City, Johannesburg rate? Not too high football-wise in the record books.

It was mundane, only infrequently appeared to get off the ground with some absorbing games in the first and second phases. Nor did it produce any outstanding players in the category of Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Platini or Eusebio of yesteryear.

Major powers France, Brazil, Argentina, Italy and a squabbling England were eliminated in ignominy, while megastars from which so much was expected proved big let downs — Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldo, Kaka, Franck Ribery, Fabio Cannavaro, to name but a few.

The lack-lustre atmosphere in the opening round was brightened only by Landon Donovan’s USA, Ghana, bidding to become the top team of the African nations, and the powerful German machine, inspired by the playmaker Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Miroslav Klose. They finished third but I’ve no doubt this squad, under coach Joachim Low, will be a force if not in the next European Championships, certainly in Brazil.

This was a World Cup of collective performances rather than dazzling individualism with Spain, Holland and the Germans managing to combine the two qualities. A World Cup with a shortage of goals, a Jabulani ball whose trajectory goalkeepers found difficult to predict, and some astonishing refereeing decisions with the disallowing of Frank Lampard’s goal top of the cock-up list. It underlined the necessity for goal-line technology to be introduced.

This was also a series which saw carnage among managers with no fewer than 10 of them departing on returning to base — but not England’s £6m-a-year man Fabio Capello who has promised to make sweeping changes and introduce new blood. Where does he find it? No doubt the old guard will be back for Euro 2012.

When FIFA president Sepp Blatter pressurised for South Africa to be host nation I, like so many others, voiced scepticism of their ability to provide the infrastructure and sort out the endemic crime problem. Wrong on both counts. Under Danny Jordan, who had a dream at the FIFA Congress Chicago that South Africa could be the venue one day, has dropped into place, one of the most successful and significant events since the ending of apartheid. Now his sights are on the Olympic Games. South Africa, with its feelgood factor, has certainly made an optimistic mark.

Yes, South Africa were winners but just what legacy and benefits will locals obtain once the FIFA bandwagon leaves town, the stadiums become empty and the World Cup is but a memory.

The South Africa Confederation has promised help for all levels of the game and so should FIFA whose turnover will be astronomical.

Blatter and the hierarchy must make a close examination of the World Cup set-up with questions asked on when the tournament should be staged or if there are their too many teams in the finals.

Finally, players who have impressed — the entire Spanish side, particularly David Villa, Ozil, Muller and Schweinsteiger (Germany), Forlan (Uruguay), Sneijder and Robben (Holland), Asamoah Gyan (Ghana).

Worst manager: Raymond Domenech (France); Best: Vicente Del Bosque (Spain), and Bert Van Marwijk (Holland). Most memorable goal: Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s screamer against Uruguay in the semi-final.

It’s over for another four years. Off on the road to Rio.

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