As we all know, everyone in Europe loves football. However, during the World Cup everyone in America has been more interested in where James LeBron (the brother of Duran Duran frontman Simon) is going to be hitting home runs next year, and as such, they missed most of the tournament.

For those of you in that crowd, here’s a team-by-team look at the nineteenth World Cup, so that if you bump into any weird European types you’ll be able to talk to them…


Algeria contributed very little to this World Cup. They failed to score a single goal, got voted the ugliest team at the tournament by the website beautifulpeople.com, and lost to Slovenia and the USA.

However, they did contribute something: the most boring game of football ever played. In their Group C match against England they managed a 0-0 draw notable for its complete lack of incident— the game was so devoid of action that a bird spent a period of the game perched peacefully on top of Algeria’s goal.


What the Argentines brought to the World Cup was sheer comedy value and one of the most surprising comebacks in football history.

In 1986 Diego Maradona was a World Cup winner and had eclipsed Pele as the greatest player of all time. Later on he became a cocaine addict… and then he became really fat… and in 2006 he almost died of a heart condition. For some reason he was then given the job of managing Argentina.

Argentina did well, but Maradona was the star of their World Cup— watch his eyes, and never, ever question his sexuality


They won their last game, apparently.


Brazil were pretty disappointing; they abandoned their traditional attacking style for something more defensive. They only got as far as the quarter finals and most of their goals were pretty unspectacular. The only really highlight of their World Cup was the goal scored by Maicon in their opening game against North Korea.


In 1990 Cameroon were the first ever African side to reach the quarterfinals. In 2010 they were the first team to be knocked out. There were literally no highlights— three defeats and only two goals.


Somehow, despite winning two games, Chile didn’t really leave much of an impression. They got to the second round, but then lost to Brazil.


Denmark won one game— against Cameroon. They lost to both the Netherlands and Japan. This means their highlight is either beating Cameroon or the hilarious own goal they conceded against the Netherlands…


It was all pretty bad for the English— beginning with an embarrassing 1-1 defeat to the USA and ending in an actual defeat to the Germans.


France came to the tournament hated by everyone because they cheated to get to the World Cup. They were then rocked by the revelation that star player Frank Ribery had slept with a prostitute— not just any old prostitute, but an underage prostitute.

In a move guaranteed to amplify his robust authority, the manager, Raymond Domenech, announced he was quitting after the World Cup.  He then sent Nicolas Anelka home following an argument, and the rest of the team refused to train. In the last game, several players, including the captain, refused to play.

Every moment of the French World Cup was a highlight.


Germany were pretty much the only side to play with any real attacking flair. They were a joy to watch, and introduced many exciting players onto the world stage— players such as Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller.

There were many highlights for the Germans, and they ultimately won the third-place playoff against Uruguay.  They notched up impressive wins over Argentina, England and Australia, scoring four goals in each. Their best performance was against Maradona’s Argentina, although the victory against England was perhaps the most resounding and most satisfying.


Ghana’s defining moment was when they became the first African nation to reach the World Cup semifinals. Well, that should have been their defining moment, were it not for the disgraceful actions of Luis Suarez, who stopped the ball going in with his hands.

Against Uruguay Ghana were the last African team in the tournament and had the whole of Africa—and most of the world— behind them. They were very, very impressive; they beat a good USA side and really, really should have beaten Uruguay.

That should have been their highlight, but I’m giving it to the victory over the USA instead— a glorious achievement and a joyous moment for Africa.


Greece were unremarkable— other than beating Nigeria, 2-1, they were essentially making up the numbers.


Their real highlight was just making it to the tournament proper. Only a few of their players are professionals, and it showed.


For only the second time in history the reigning champions failed to get past the group stage. They didn’t really deserve to win the World Cup in 2006 and they were shockingly bad in South Africa. They fucked over almost every single person who’d bet on the World Cup by failing to beat New Zealand, Paraguay and Slovakia.


The Ivory Coast had a disappointing tournament. Their only real highlight was their victory over North Korea—or, if you’re reading this in North Korea, their humiliating defeat to the glorious footballing nation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


They got to the second round, so I imagine they probably won at least one game…


Mexico were quite good. They also had strikers with rhyming names in Franco and Blanco. They beat France, ruined the opening game for the host nation and reached the second round.

However, the true highlight of their World Cup was the revelation that their thirty-eight year old striker, Blanco, was going out with the eighteen year old Miss Mexico. Ay carumba.


The Dutch won every game in qualifying, in their group, and every game up until the final itself.

None of this matters; the 2010 Dutch team will forever be remembered for karate-kicking a Spanish player and pretty much getting away with it. In 1974 the Netherlands invented ‘total football’ which was a beautiful attacking style. They got to two successive World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978. They lost both, and presumably it was because of this that they decided to play like Leyton Orient on a waterlogged Wednesday night league game against Barnsley.


Like Honduras, many of New Zealand’s players were semi-professional. One of their players actually had to ask for time off from the bank where he worked in order to play. I love the thought of him telling his manager that he needed to go to South Africa for ‘anytime between two to four weeks. It probably won’t be four weeks…’

New Zealand were glorious. They drew with Paraguay, Italy and Slovakia. They failed to make it out of the group, but they were the only team to go unbeaten at the World Cup.

Although their result against Italy is probably the most impressive, I think their highlight was the draw with Slovakia due to the late and dramatic manner in which they got the result.


It didn’t matter what Nigeria did in this World Cup, they were always going to  be remembered for this incredible display of incompetence…

It didn’t get much better for them either…


They lost all of their games—they lost to Portugal 7-0. However, they did score against Brazil—they lost, but they scored against bloody Brazil! Kim Jong-Il was so impressed he decided not to kill any of the players or their families. Seriously.


The fact that they got to the quarterfinals says more about the quality of this tournament than two thousand lighthearted, humorous words ever could. Succeeding through a couple of draws, a narrow win and a shootout victory after a goal-free 120 minutes, they finally got knocked out by Spain.

Their highlight? Not letting their astounding mediocrity get in the way of their attempt to ruin the World Cup for everyone else.


It didn’t get much better than the 7-0 win over North Korea. In fact that was the only game they actually won or scored in. They drew both of their other games, 0-0.


They beat Germany thanks to some awful refereeing. It wasn’t a surprise, because Paul the Pyschic Octopus predicted it would happen. Other than that it wasn’t great to be a Serbia fan during this World Cup.


Does it get any better than beating the reigning World Champions with a thrilling last minute goal? I mean, for a country that has absolutely no chance of getting beyond the second round…


Beating Algeria was about as good as it got, and even that wasn’t very good.


Unfortunately their highlight was probably Tshabalala’s goal in the opening game of the tournament. They drew that game and went out at the group stage. However, their lasting impression will probably be the way they came out of the tunnel—singing loudly and joyously.


‘Highlight’ is probably too strong a word to describe their second goal against Greece. It would be harsh to label them as unmemorable, but it would be accurate.


They lost to Switzerland, and didn’t exactly set the tournament on fire. I was one of the few people who found their stupid little passes incredibly irritating and frustrating to watch.

They won every game in the knock-out stage, 1-0.

This does of course mean that they won the World Cup. This would be their defining moment—in the only World Cup in which they’ve gone beyond the quarterfinals.


The best moment of Switzerland’s World Cup was beating the Spanish in their opening game. It would be unfair to say it all went downhill from there, but it was the only goal they managed in the entire tournament.


The small South American nation punched well above its weight and had their best tournament since the two that they won in the 1930 and 1950.

Much of the success goes to Diego Forlan, voted the player of the tournament. Everyone loved Forlan, and everyone loved Uruguay—that is, right up until the point Luis Suarez robbed Ghana of their place in history. Even more annoyingly, Suarez then openly celebrated when Ghana missed the resulting penalty.


The U.S. had a fantastic World Cup; they were unfortunate not to beat Ghana in the second round, and they demonstrated what those of us who watched the Confederations Cup last year already knew: America are a footballing force to be reckoned with.

The draw with England was impressive, but for sheer drama the highlight has to be Landon Donavon’s stoppage time goal against Algeria.

All I can do as a European is apologise and promise that usually football is much, much more exciting than this. Honest.

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James D. Irwin is a British writer based in the Hampshire countryside. His work has appeared online, in print, and on stage. He can be contacted at [email protected]

76 responses to “After the Vuvuzelas Fall Silent: A Team-By-Team Look at the 2010 World Cup”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    Great to see you back on here, Jedi.

    And as one of the Simon LeBron watchers, I’m grateful for your recap.

    I did try to watch a few games…er, matches, but there was an irritating buzzing noise that sounded like a swarm of insects that instantly gave me a headache, so I stopped. The vuvuzela is an instrument of torture, period.

    I also watched some of the Brazil-Portugal match with my friends, who all care about soccer…er, football. I said, “This will end nil-nil.” I was right. Like that octopus.

    As I type this, I’m not even sure if the Cup is over, or who won. Spain, right?

    • On the one hand I hate the vuvuzela with a passion. On the other though it was good to see a tournament characterised by something unique. I just wish it didn’t have to be so bloody annoying…

      All of Portugal’s games were awful. Most of the group games were in general— the lowest scoring first round in World Cup history, I believe…

      It is, mercifully, all over. Spain beat Holland a few hours ago in an awful, awful game.

  2. Laura says:

    What a great re-cap of the Cup and all the teams. I know for sure you are a football expert and from now on will go to you with all questions on players, refs, teams.

    One question: We know who won…but which is the best team that SHOULD have won?!

    • I know far too much about football. Even my parents said so as my brother and I started discussing the Holland v Portugal game at the last World Cup…

      Germany should have won. They played the best football— Spain would have been worthy winners if they’d played the way they did leading up to the World Cup…

      • Laura says:

        I know, you know, I agree with you, and I don’t know a tenth of football like you do…But yes, they were the most exciting to watch, with the best passes, and plays, and the best looking guys IMO! (Which is always important to a woman watching the World Cup!)

        • I say Germany without any bias. Although I openly love the Germans, they really did play the most attractive football. Along with Argentina they were the only teams with really enjoyable to watch forward play— the difference between the two being that the Germans are experts in defence as well. They also had the youngest team at the tournament, and you just know that they’re going to go along way in the next five or six years…

          The best looking team? I wouldn’t know…

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Germany should have won.

  3. Riley Fox says:

    My conclusion regarding the vuvuzela is that it was like the Rush of musical instruments: often derided as confusing and obnoxious (“Why does this game/singer sound like a beehive/woman?”), despite a core base of borderline ridiculously dedicated mega-fans.

    The only difference is that the vuvuzela will get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame first.


    • I quite like the vuvuzela when everyone gets it right and rather than just buzzing they do short sharp bursts during exciting periods of play.

      I also like the comparison. At least a vuvuzela only lasts 90 minutes though, Rush just go on…and on and on…

  4. Zara Potts says:

    Yay! A James Irwin post!!
    And it mentions New Zealand! Brilliant!

    • It had to really.

      Had no idea they’d qualified until the tournament started. Apparently it’s because Australia now qualify in the Asian qualifiers leaving New Zealand pretty much a free pass past Papa New Guinea to get to the finals…

  5. I must admit, James, I was born slightly deficient of the sports gene. That said, I truly love all the thought and work that you put into this post. So far, you and Reno are my two fav sports writers on TNB.

    • I’ve been trying to write a football post for weeks, despite knowing that many TNBers aren’t great sports fans— and fewer still fans of that weird cheerleader-less version of football that we have in Europe.

      Up until last week I was writing a pretty serious essay on Diego Maradona. This was influenced by Reno’s last few round-ups of the NFL season— an honour to mentioned in the same sentence. Cheers.

  6. Gloria says:

    Irwin!! Irwin!! Woo!!

    That is all.

    (Sorry, I wish I had something intelligent to say about the content. But it all sounds like hieroglyphics spoken aloud. I’m sports retarded.)

  7. How many times have I heard the phrase: “It would be harsh to label them as _________, but it would be accurate,” when describing Korea…?

    Interesting take on the World Cup. I keep meaning to write down my own thoughts, but never get around to it.

    Last night was interesting, if not exactly a classic game. It was more like WWE meets UFC. A lot violence and a lot of fake injuries.

    • I can’t help but feel that one sole post on the World Cup is probably a bit disappointing for someone who runs a sports blog… ah well, I like to think I’m the opposite of Klose in respect to my output during internationals and the domestic season…

      It was like an Old Firm derby last night, but with a lot more effeminacy.

      • Haha, the World Cup saps our energy as spectators.

        • Truth be told I was too busy play-fighting with foam bats inbetween games.

          Also, it’s almost impossible to compete with the pace of so called professional sports journalism.

          Also, I couldn’t really be arsed. But I’m really, really taking it seriously come August 7th.

          I recently e-mailed Claus Lundekvam as well…

  8. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Yes, the French somehow managed to make this year more memorable than 1998. The word that seemed to get used often around here summing up their performance was “tragi-comédie.”

    For me though the highlight of this tournament (speaking as something of a socc…er football newbie) was the Netherlands-Brazil quarterfinal game, due to the intensity of play from both sides and the minor upset that ended it.

    Thanks for this nice recap.

    • France have produced entertainment since 1998— an impressive win, a dismal exit, zidane’s red card final and now… this…

      Brazil-Holland wasn’t great as a football game, but it was one of the more exciting ones. I thought it was a minor upset, but the Netherlands were on a 25 game winning run. The final was the only game they lost in the World Cup including the qualifying stage…

      The 1998 World Cup was one of the all-time great tournaments. I had high hopes for South Africa, and whilst SA were excellent hosts the teams failed to deliver the excitement and the goals thay ’98 offered…

  9. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Oh dude! Dude! Where do I start?! First of all, wicked intro.

    That bird on the Algerian goal as hilarious. Even more so the fact that the world feed kept zooming back to the bird as if to throw up and admit “this might be the worst 90 minutes of video ever shot, we might as well go Attenborough for a mo'”.

    Maradonna having eclipsed Pele as player? Fighting words, man. Though I must admit that 1986 was the most dominating performance by a singe player ever, I think over the full spans of respective careers, Pele is well ahead. But Maradonna is quick to point out that his mother thinks he’s best, so I guess that counts for something 🙂

    Re: Aussie, I have to point out Kewell’s chicken-wing red-card handball which Suarez studied over and over in video so he could shine properly when his own moment came.

    Amazing how Brazil looked utterly unstoppable, until *one* fluky goal completely unbuttoned them.

    Cameroon may not have had a highlight, but their first two players were low-lit by a complete lack of application by the players, including Eto’o. As far as African teams they were the anti-Ghana (not Algeria because at least Cameron has latent skill).

    England: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Were the supporters chanting “Two World Wars, one World Cup” at the end of that game?

    France: BUNHUNHUNHUNHUNHUNHUNHUNHUNHUNH! Comedy! Drama! Farce! Farcedy!

    Germany: Donnerwetter! Ist das wirklich die Mannschaft?! I barely recognized them, but they rocked the pitch right until the moment that they decided to cower away from Spain.

    Ghana: Really?! really?! beating USA is a highlight for Africa?! Anyway, Ghana and Germany were the most exciting sides in the cup. Get that in a bottle and sprinkle it round the other 30 dodos.


    CIV had an impossible task, but I think they could have at least gone out blazing by taking it to Brazil and Portugal. Sometimes European coaches take the life out of African players, and that twat Eriksson could take the life out of anything.

    Don’t forget Japan scored the dead ball goals of the group stages, especially Honda’s. Just at the height of everyone bleating “it’s impossible to control this Jabulani ball” the Japanese stepped up like “Oh yeah?! Watch this!” Nippoooon! Of course again those crafty Uruguayans were watching, and Forlan wasted no time picking up the trick once the Japanese were ousted (unfortunately) by plodding Paraguay.

    Mexico were better than I expected, I must admit, but meh…

    I’m afraid you described Neds in the final perfectly. But I still feel compelled to say “Hup! Hup! Hup! Oranje”

    New Zillund were awesome! Probably the team with least professional honors, and they never looked out of place in the big show. Bright future for All Whites, I think! Of course it doesn’t hurt them that qualifiers come against Cook Islands, Tonga and Southern Smallpoxia.

    Nigeria…grumblegrumble…selfish gits…grumblegrumble…overpaid primmadonnas…grumblegrumble…deserved the embarrassment of the worst mist ever.

    The highlight for Nigerians I think was President Goodluck Jonathan’s summary dissolution of the Nigerian team for two years, after that disgrace.

    Man, I would LOL at Kim Jong-Il/North Korea if that didn’t have the ghastly ring of truth!

    Paraguay should have just stacked their players in the goal-mouth like a pyramid and called it a game.

    Slovakia are my new best fwends for sending home gli Azzurri.

    South Africa at least lit up the tournament in their opening game, but they never stood a chance.

    South Korea demonstrated what it means to have great technique and no soul.

    Spain: All I care to say is “Hooray! Fabregas won a World Cup! I hope that settles you down because you have a few more years at The Arsenal before defecting to Barcelona, you Catalan mama’s boy!”

    Uruguay I was fully ready to vilify, but then everyone else was vilifying them on crunk, and overdoing it, I think. I actually think they deserve credit for their enterprising play, and for playing almost every game “away.” The Suarez incident was terrible, but to be fair, it’s FIFA’s fault that such an incident is not just counted as a goal.

    USA: We keep dreaming this country is an emerging football power because we dominate the CONCACAF (Panama, T&T, Jamaica, Canada…HA!)

    Love the work and fun that went into this.

    • A contender for longest TNB comment of all time? Quite possibly. Frankly honoured that someone would respond at such length and in such depth. Cheers Uche.

      To business:

      That bird was a fantastic lasting image for England’s failure at this World Cup… Satisfying to see Italy aka the least deserving world champions in the history of any sport crash out. They screwed up for the same reason as England— a reliance on big names past their best…

      I had no idea Sven had gone to the Ivory Coast until their first game. It was a strange sight, it has to be said: a skinny white man surrounded huge African giants. I like the Cote d’Ivoire. Even Drogba. I hated him for his performance after the Champions League semi-final against Barca and generally thought of him as a cheat. But I read an interview with him last season where he came across as a genuinely good guy, and it can’t be denied that he is one of the best strikers in the world right now. Unfortunately.

      I was suporting the Netherlands, and hopelessly trying to defend them in the face of brutal tackle after brutal tackle. It didn’t help that Spain are full of players particularly prone to go down and I couldn’t help but notice that it always seemed to be Iniesta rolling around on the floor. Still, worth it all to see Torres continue to squander his talent and then pull a hamstring— which apparently healed itself with nothing more than a World Cup win…

      Goodluck Jonathon was great. I love that FIFA reacted by telling them if they carried out the suspension then they’d… uh… be suspended from international football. Glad Jonathon changed his mind though…

      Uruguay were great, and it’s a shame that they tarnished it with Suarez handball. Like Holland they lost out on bieng the ‘lovable losers’ because of one game.

      The USA are getting better and better. I’d say Team USA are in better shape than England right now. All the US really need to compete at the next level are a few quality defenders and a creative player like Germany’s Ozil… I’m not saying they’re going to win the World Cup any time soon, but they are slowly and surely getting stronger…

      Already looking forward to the European Championships and Brazil 2014. And of course the new domestic season and Champions League— complete with Tottenham Hotspur!

      Oh, and Maradona is greater than Pele because he acheived at European club level, which has always been a higher standard than the Brazilian league. If I had a choice between going back to watch Pele in 1970 or Maradona in ’86 it’s be tough, but Maradona every time….

      • Matt says:

        “I’d say Team USA are in better shape than England right now.”

        Pretty sure you’re going to get thrown out of the U.K. for saying that. Queen, country, et al.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Yeah, but I don’t care. Most England fans are deluded though. Only somebody blind with patriotism could claim that this World Cup was anything but an utter embarrassment for us.

          As a nation we seem to have a misplaced sense of entitlement because we invented the sport and we won the World Cup once, 44 years ago…

        • Zara Potts says:

          Just like NZ and rugby…

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Zara, we discussed this only recently. I can’t for the life of me remember why, but we did…

        • Simon Smithson says:

          It was all worth it to see Italy go home so soon.


        • James D. Irwin says:

          Haha. I’ve yet to meet anyone who wasn’t glad to see the Italians screw up.

          They RUINED the 2006 tournament…

  10. Joe Daly says:

    Fantastic! Just like a program can be helpful to know what’s going on before the game starts, an epilogue like this is indispensable in understanding what to make of something so protracted, complex, and drama-soaked as a World Cup.

    The story that I’m surprised no one picked up was that Curse of the Nike Commercial. Nike began running their World Cup commercial before the tourney started, and promptly two of the featured players get hit with disaster- Ronaldinho and Drogba. In fact here’s what happened to the superstars of this commercial:

    Ronaldinho- doesn’t even make Brazil’s squad.

    Drogba- breaks arm before first game of tourney

    Rooney- you could take everything he contributed to the world cup and dump it into a gnat’s piss pot, and still have room for the piss

    Ronaldo- superstar with heavy odds for the golden boot scores one crap goal. Against North Korea, no less

    Cannavaro- out in the first round

    Ribery (not featured prominently in commercial, but included as a plot point in the Rooney piece)- gets caught sleeping with an underage prostitute; also out in the first round

    Nike is to the World Cup what Madden Football is to the NFL

    • Joe Daly says:

      Tried to embed the video in the comment, a la Greg Olear, but for some reason it’s not appearing in the post. Here’s the link for those on the planet who haven’t seen it. The four of you.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      I’d heard about the supposed Nike curse… it can’t really be argued with, except Ronaldinho. He didn’t have a good club season and is an attacking player of skill and flair. Dunga is a manager who has built a more solid, defense centered team than previous Brazilian sides. He had little chance of making the squad before the advert was made.

      The rest though, yes, it’s very strange and it it reminds me of the softball episode of the Simpsons where one by one his Major League stars succumb to various misfortunes…

  11. Richard Cox says:

    Although your opening paragraph encapsulates the stereotypical American take on football, as far as I know this was the most-watched World Cup in the U.S. Certainly among my tribe, it was an event unmatched. I will admit to not being a fan of football at all, and still I watched almost the entire final.

    I was left deeply disappointed in a match that was exactly what bores me about football. What’s more telling is the linked video contains about as many highlights (amazing to be sure) as you would see in one weekend of NFL play.

    That being said, I will definitely watch from now on. I’ve been converted. And while the vuvuzelas were immensely annoying, the multi-channel audio presentation of the Word Cup turned my home theater living room into a front row seat. I felt like I was there.

    Lastly, until recently I was so out of touch with football that I named a character in my second novel Landon Donovan, because I thought the name sounded cool, and didn’t realize until after the book was published that he was one of our best players. Ha!

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Dunno, man. I used to be a huge NFL fan. Watched almost every game televised from about 1995 through about 2004. But as I was able to see more and more of the real football on TV, it was a no-brainer that it was the NFL that had to go. It all depends on what you’re looking for, but in football, having the ball in the net is only one of the incredible highlights of games. For me, the drama of midfield pressing, and the counter-attaching breaks, and the chess-match of corners, and the ebb and flow, and all that is far more engrossing than even Prime Time Sanders high stepping into the end zone.

      I think you just have to be bred to it to get it, maybe?

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I like NFL, and have been a fan since around 2007. For me it pales in comparison to the constast action of football (bar the games like the World Cup final that were held up by constant fouls).

        But then I love sitting back for a few hours drinking coke, eating snacks and enjoying the spectacle. And close games are genuinely very, very exciting.

        I’m going to watch the 49ers play the Broncos at Wembley this year, and I’m looking forward to it. It also be interesting to see how it compares to the atmosphere in the stadium during a football match.

      • Richard Cox says:

        Oh, without a doubt I’m missing 90 percent of what’s happening in a typical football game. I mean I’ve watched maybe two games in their entirety. Whereas I’ve been watching and have played American football since I was a kid, so I notice a lot more subtlety than I would in a World Cup game.

        NFL is more than just high stepping touchdowns, just as football is more than balls into the net. It seems to me there are more opportunities for amazing athletes to do amazing things on an American football field, but it’s true that’s probably nothing more than familiarity with the game.

        If the Super Bowl ended with a bruising 7-0 score, I wouldn’t care for that much, really, either.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I totally get your point. I’m the same with football and NFL. My depth of football knowledge is almost worryingly vast and during a game I can easily spot who’s playing well and who should never play for the team again. And often it’s very subtle. Watching NFL I have an laughably low knowledge of the history, of the rosters(?) and all I know during a game is that the team with more points is winning.

          And I guess it can be put down to the fact that I’ve been watching football obsessively since I was eight at almost every level whereas I got into NFL around 2007 and rarely get to see many games aside from the Super Bowl.

          But I think the beauty of football is that it’s far easier to appreciate with a limited knowledge of the game, and I think it goes some way towards its global popularity. Anyone can play football, and it can be played anywhere…

    • James D. Irwin says:

      Haha, Landon Donavon is a pretty cool name. When I wrote a novel last year I named most of the supporting characters after obscure football players from my childhood…

      Anyway, I jest in the opening paragraph really only to set myself up for a lame LeBron joke— whilst not an expert in US sports I do know the basics. Basbeall is the one with pads, right?

      One of my personal highlights of the World Cup has been seeing so many US friends and acquaintances really get into the game I love.

      The final was awful, and it usually always is. The third-place play-off games are usually much better as a spectacle. Glad to see another convert— I’d throroughly recommend domestic football. Not so much the MLS, but the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga. And the Champions League, which is generally much more exciting as it goes to a knock out stage. And the clubs that compete are made up of the top three of four clubs in each of Europe’s major leagues so the quality is a bit higher and more consistent…

      Also, it’s much more satisfying supporting a club side. It’s a truer football experience…

  12. Matt says:

    Ah, Irwin’s back!

    This synopsis was certainly better than the wrap-up ESPN offered yesterday.

    With regards to Holland, I do have to say that, even though it was a dirty move, that kick to the chest was pretty sweet-looking. They would’ve done all right at a martial arts tournament.

  13. Becky Palapala says:

    Is THAT why everyone was talking about South Africa all of a sudden?

    Oy. Talk about publicity-hungry. Its been all downhill for them international-attention-wise since they freed Mandela.

    But Soccer? Soccer?

    (Someone had to maintain proper American ignorance/apathy with regard to all of this.)

  14. Great round-up, James. I simultaneously watched way too much of this world cup and also not nearly enough….Being a supporter of Les Bleus, I have always had a certain enmity for Germany, but oddly, like you, I found myself rooting for them from the beginning. Why? By far the most fluid, exciting, attacking, creative team involved. I also loved that they suddenly look like any bunch of guys you’d round up in a Youth Hostel lobby for a quick match, not much blond in evidence. I agree the final was unforgivably dull. Spain blowing easy chances and the Dutch just being the Dutch. Robben has some nice speed and moves, but he’s one of the worst fakers in the tournament, and his “streak down the sideline, dribble past two defenders, and then feebly give it up to the third who’s just standing there waiting” routine, which he pulled off about a dozen times, bored me to tears. I do think you have to give Japan a bit more credit though. From what I saw from them, I was surprised at the skill and enjoyed their games.

    I’ve been a 49ers fan since the late 80’s….when you see them at Wembley raise a pint to my man Frank Gore.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      Haha. I feel exactly the same. It seems all I’ve done for a month is watch football, and yet missed so much. Apparently Japan offered a lot more than I’ve given them credit for— although I never claimed this was an objective look at 2010…

      I’m part German, and I absolutely loved the country when I went last year. They were a joy to watch, although they always provide quality attacking players… but this side, they were exceptional. I really hope to see them win in 2014— yes, more so than England. England have a lot of work to do before they can even think about challenging for the World Cup…

      Apparently Robben had hamstring trouble all tournament. He’d a be a great player if he stopped cheating and learnt how to use the appendage that hangs off the bottom of his right leg…

      I’ll be supporting the 49ers because I love San Francisco. Alex Smith was a pundit on the BBC’s Super Bowl coverage this year, and he was great. Looking forward to seeing him throw a few touchdowns in October. Gore to is great. Really looking forward to it. I’ve seen the last few Wembley games on TV and the atmosphere looked fantastic…

  15. Simone says:

    James, I don’t have much time to comment at the moment, so I’ll be back later.

    Great post though!

    • Simone says:

      Ok, I’m back.

      You’ve chosen some great highlights and lowlights James, bravo!

      I think besides all the foot ball shenanigans, like Suarez’s handball, De Jong’s karate kick, Forlan’s gracefullness, and Tshabalala’s goal, there were other things that caught my attention. This tournament brought us together as a nation, I can’t explain how or why. I can only tell you that I could feel it.

      There were many pessimistic people around the world who thought we couldn’t pull this off. We’re now basking in the glory of telling them “Yes, we can!” and “Yes, we did!”. Despite Bafana Bafana’s elimination in the first round the gees (spirit) continued throughout.

      The exposure that the World Cup brought to South Africa is priceless. And if we’ve become attention seeking whores in the process, then so be it. I’m proudly South African.

      “Ke Nako” It’s time for Africa!


      • I really wanted to be in South Africa for this tournament, not sp much for the football but the experience and to see what would happen.

        Football is an incredibly powerful thing. I tried to write a post about it and failed. It’s not something that can be easily be explained. In 1998 France was having a lot of problems with white French and the African immigrant French. The 1998 helped significantly in bringing them together— the winning goals in the final being scored by an Algerian immigrant who grew up being spat on and racially abused by his countrymen.

        One of my big big highlights was watching South Africa v France. I predicted they were going to win before they’d come out of the tunnel. The French looked beaten already, and despite having a very slender chance of getting out of the group SA were singing loudly and joyously. Of course they always do.

        I also enjoyed seeing footages of tiny villages that had just got electricity watching the opening game being projected onto a sheet hung at one end of a room. And then when Ghana were the last team left it was great to see African fans of all nations getting behind Ghana.

        A lot of the stuff on the pitch exhibited football at it’s worst, but the stuff off the pitch showed football at it’s best. I’m just a little disappointed that none of the players really rose to the occasion…

        • Simone says:

          I’m not a huge football / soccer fan. Heck I only recently learned the offside rule. This WC has brought not only spirit but life back to our country. James, I know you would’ve loved being here.

          My boyfriend was extremely lucky to get tickets to about 5 of the games, the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the opening concert. He told me it’s the best thing that’s happened to SA in a long time. It was incredible, too awesome for words.

          I think this post of yours on Football is certainly not a failure. Why don’t you revisit the other post and see what you can do with it, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

          Yes, Ghana all the way. You should’ve seen the kitchen staff (at the restaurant I work at)watching the Ghana – Uruguay game. There was a TV propped up on top of one of the dish washers, in between food being served and dishes being washed their eyes were glued to the screen. Every so often you’d hear a Vuvuzela being blown or an *”Eish!” being shouted amongst cries of disappointement.

          *EISH: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=eish

        • The offside rule is actually very, very simple. People always make a big thing about it, but apart from a few years ago where they briefly complicated the rules it’s far easier to understand than almost any rule in rugby…

          I’m hoping to go to Brazil in 2014. It won’t be the same, but I imagine being at the epicentre of world football has got to be a pretty great experience.

          I can only imagine what it was like for South Africa. The concert and the ceremonies looked pretty cool, and getting to see five games is pretty awesome.

          I’m re-jigging my other post about football in an attempt to bring more soccer to TNB… it’s too soon for cricket though… The problem I find with writing about football is that there is too much. I sit down with a clear idea of what to write, but then my brain becomes crowded with twelve years of football related memories…

          I bet the atmosphere in that kitchen was electric. The atmosphere within football crowds is usually always fantastic, but the great thing is that same unity and desire can be re-created with a handful of people and a tv or radio. Sometimes it’s almost better… more intimate and more intense…

  16. Jacqui says:

    James this was fantastic – and thank you for giving New Zealand 3 paragraphs. I feel like we deserved them. Particularly as the NZ coach is paid USD 35,000 to coach the team for the Cup and as you say,there are few professionals.

    For the record (do I sound defensive?) NZ did have to play Bahrain, twice, to qualify and make it to South Africa, and they were much tougher games than the earlier match against Southern Smallpoxia (Uche).

    The NZ public was as surprised as anyone to see the team at the World Cup, but delighted to be on the real world stage again for the first time since the Lord of the Rings – and many waxed lyrical about this momentus achievement finally making some ground against the strangle hold rugby has on the NZ psyche.

    Until the All Blacks skilfully outplayed South Africa on Saturday night.

    • New Zealand definitely deserved three paragraphs, and probably more. They were fantastic!

      Of course it’s easy to mock weaker footballing continents, but at international level there aren’t any easy games. Countries like Bahrain want to get to the World Cup as much as anyone— probably more so in the case of my own country. Although it can’t be denied that Australia moving to the Asian qualifying groups was a huge benefit to the All Whites.

      I read somewhere that there were hopes this World Cup would be a boost to the traditionally rugby fixated South Africans.

      The All Blacks destroying them the other day will probably go some way to help!

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Ha! Should have known I wouldn’t get away with that 🙂

      Then again, as I told Zara, I was behind the All Whites all the way.

  17. Brian Eckert says:

    Being in South Africa for the Confed. Cup and most of 2009, there was a fair amount of anxiety and doubt concerning the nation’s ability to pull the thing off without major gaffes such as omnipresent crime, or hell, even being able to finish all of the stadiums in time.

    But it worked. Great cup, overall.

    In the finals I found myself rooting for Spain. It was inexplicable. They just play such damn beautiful football. They lovingly caress that ball. It’s tender, man. Plus, the Dutch had the honor of founding the modern nation of South Africa. They’ve already had their conquest there as far as I’m concerned.

    • I read somewhere that FIFA had to bail SA out with a bit of cash, but whatever, the stadiums were fantastic.

      Obviously I wasn’t there, but I didn’t hear about much crime. Or rioting actually, at France 1998 England fans destroyed a square. And I don’t think they had to sink to the depths of Mobotu shortly before the Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire i.e. rounding up 1,000 known criminals, imprisoning them under the stadium and then randomly killing one hundred as a warning…

      I grew tired of Spain’s passing. It went from being beautiful to tedious, and almost anti-football. When the opposition barely gets near the ball there isn’t much of a contest. There was also something extremely arrogant about it. Also, having watched the Champions League for the last two seasons I’ve already seen Xavi and Iniesta pass the ball back and forth enough times. 8 of spain’s starting 11 play for Barcelona. Bored of it now.

      They also have a tendency to over do it with the passing. Why shoot when you can pass it another five times?!

      AND, beautiful it may be, but it didn’t work against Switzerland and they only won one game by more than a goal— they only managed to score more than one goal twice. They won every game of the knock out stages 1-0.

      They were not great games. And for all the magic passing the only got to the final thanks to a scrappy header from a corner. They’re wortheir winners than Italy in 2006, but they are severely overrated and actually quite boring to watch…

  18. Simon Smithson says:


    Fucking Kewell.

  19. I’m now working on a list of my favourite 2010 World Cup fans, as seen in South Korea. These include: The guys who wanted to kill me because I laughed when Portugal scored their seventh goal against North Korea; The fat American chick who couldn’t stop screaming “Run Faster, America!” during the USA v Ghana game; And my favourite: the stupid English chick who stood up on a table in front of a room full of Koreans to cheer on Korea… seconds before Uruguay scored their winning goal. She didn’t realise, and kept shouting after everyone fell quiet. It was possibly my favourite football-related moment of all time.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      It’ll probably be the first ever list of World Cup fans that isn’t comprised of busty Brazilians, sultry Italians and sexy spanish girls… that’s what you should do, with the caption of either ‘look at the vuvuzelas on her!’ or, if it’s a fan using a vuvuzela, ‘she can blow me anytime.’

      I should work for The Sun.

      You mentioned the fat American, but the English girl sounds funnier/more stupid. Looking forward to it. I’ve got another football post in the ‘pipeline.’ For the first time ever I actually have pieces on the go. Been working on one all week. Should be up later today…

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