There are so many great memories of this World Cup which just concluded this past Sunday in Johannesburg. Unfortunately the World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands made my list of 10 Things To Remember, but for all of the wrong reasons.
Before moving on to the list, I'd like to recognize South Africa for being a magnificent host. Many people said this nation could not get it done, but South Africa proved them wrong. Their stadiums were magnificent, as were their fans, who stayed loyal throughout the tournament even when their team did not get past the Group Stage.
The following is not a top ten list, nor is it in any particular order. I’m writing this after 17 hours in the air, while the memories are still fresh.
Here’s what I will remember about this World Cup:
1. The Vuvuzela
No one knew what that was until we heard it at the 2009 Confederations Cup. To be honest, I got used to it, and it didn’t bother me at all. Having said that, I surely won’t miss it though when I’m back calling MLS games.
2. The Jabulani Ball
Yes, it was juiced and everyone complained about it, but the biggest gaffe (England’s Robert Green) occurred early in the tournament. Teams got used to the ball.
3. The USA Wins Their Group
While most people picked the U.S. to finish second in group C, then lose to Germany in the round of 16, the Americans were group winners for the first time. It wasn’t always pretty or easy, but this team worked very hard throughout the tournament.
4. Landon Donovan
Did you know that Donovan, with three goals, had more goals than Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Fernando Torres, and Didier Drogba ... COMBINED.
5. Switzerland’s Upset of Spain
In hindsight, this was a wakeup call for the eventual World Cup champions. While there were other upsets in the tournament, to me this was the biggest when you factor everything into the equation.
6. Surprising Uruguay
Who would have picked Uruguay to finish 4th in this World Cup? Raise your hand if you did. I don’t see any hands up, including mine. Diego Forlan was brilliant in this tournament, certainly deserving of his Golden Ball trophy.
7. Frank Lampard’s Goal vs Germany
Or the goal that really wasn’t a goal, but it really was. You know what I mean. Lampard’s strike will be remembered forever if it brings video technology to the game in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
8. Controversial Calls
The Lampard goal was not the only controversial play in this World Cup. In fact, the errors in this tournament are far too many to mention. From goals that should have been called back, to goals that were not counted that should have (USA vs Slovenia), we had far too much controversy.
You have to love FIFA though, saying the day before the final that their officials got the calls correct 96% of the time. Does anyone other than FIFA really believe that? I’m not one to bash officials, so let’s find a way to help them more.
The game is faster today, played by more skillful players. The stakes are higher because of the money that’s involved. So let’s find a system that helps the officials. Let’s use the video technology that we have to make this a better game.
9. Early Exits
I am lumping three teams into this category, but for different reasons.
Italy - Yes they were an older team, and yes Gianluigi Buffon was injured, but surely they should have had enough to get through the Group Stage. A healthy Andrea Pirlo would have helped, but this team never looked good.
France - They disgraced themselves, their country and the tournament. All anyone needs to know is that the team actually refused to train one day in support of Nicolas Anelka who had been sent home for disciplinary reasons.
Brazil - While they never looked like the Brazil we have come to love and admire, surely they had enough to get to the final vs Spain. Losing in the quarterfinals is horrible for them.
10. Finally, the FINAL
We surely expected better from the two best teams in this tournament. While we will all remember a nice game winning goal by Andres Iniesta, we will also remember a record 14 yellow cards, one red card, plus all of the fouls.
At the end of the day, I think the better team won. Spain has been the world’s best team probably for at least two good years now. Their roster of 23 was the best in this tournament. When you can have a Cesc Fabregas coming off the bench, you are a deep team.
Happy to be back
Hope you enjoyed the World Cup as much as I did. I am happy to be back in the states, ready to work again in MLS.
Looking forward to my Seattle at DC game on ESPN2 this Thursday at 8:00pm, and my Philadelphia vs Toronto game on Saturday at PPL Park. I’ve only seen PPL Park on television. Saturday, I get to work there.
I'll have a preview of the Philly vs Toronto game later this week.