World Cup 2010 – Awards for Forlan and…..Rooney?

No, IBWM doesn't know what to do with itself either.  Best hand out some awards.  Your host for this evening; Jeff Livingstone.

That’s that then.  Another four years till the next one.  All the hype, all the years of build up and now it’s gone, over.

But then, this was hardly a fantastic World Cup.  There were stand-out moments, but they were few and far between, and most of the football on offer was low on quality. How many memorable games were there?  I’ve got two, maybe three; by and large South Africa 2010 was, in football terms at least, very poor.

That’s no detraction from South Africa though; IBWM wasn’t there so can’t really pass comment, but praise has been heaped on the rainbow nation for the whole shebang, organisation and stadiums etc.  South Africa can’t be blamed if teams and players just never turned up.  We’ve all now been officially told that 4-5-1 is the future and that two defensive midfielders are key.  Gulp.  If that’s the way things are heading, then we’re going to have some pretty dull games ahead of us.  Maybe 3 points for a win needs to be looked at again.  Could we consider points awarded to teams for artistic merit perhaps?  Football to learn from figure-skating?

Ultimately the best international team in world football - Spain - won, but not really in the style that many had hoped for.  IBWM tipped the Spanish on the grounds that they simply had the best players, and that turned out to be the case.  Spain won not through tantalising attack play, but by keeping the ball and just wearing opponents down and out, before, bang, delivering that critical blow.

How do we describe Spain’s’ style then? counter-attacking? not really; defensive? no containing? yes, that’s the word.  Spain virtually imprison teams so that they have nowhere to go.  The Spanish players retain their energy by letting the ball do the work, wearing opposition players out.  With all this stored energy, if the ball is lost, there is no team faster or more aggressive in challenging to win it back. This is where the ‘high tempo closing down’ phrase comes in.  It’s never haphazard though; all very zonal and always two players charging down the player in possession.  Watch Spain again in any game at South Africa 2010 and you’ll see what I mean; it’s always two.

So well done to Spain, but did anyone else emerge from the tournament with any credit?

For my money Germany and Uruguay can both be very proud of the way they played.  Holland would have been in this group too had they not resorted to downright thuggery in the final, which was almost obscene for a nation with such a fantastic reputation for beautiful football.

Try to imagine a beautiful flower bed; a shrine to Cryuff, Neeskens, Rep, lovingly preserved for nigh on forty years.  Then imagine Marc Van Bommel coming in and stamping on all the plants, Nigel de Jong building a concrete block on it and John Hetinga pissing on the walls.  You get the picture.

Before the tournament, many fans and correspondents were concerned about the risk of being attacked in South Africa.  As it turned out, the streets were relatively safe compared with the pitch at Soccer City on World Cup final day.

So as we reflect and look back on 2010, IBWM - just like everyone other Tom, Dick and Harry - is handing out it’s awards:

Player of the tournament - Diego Forlan (Uruguay)

No doubt about this one and I’m pleased to see FIFA agree with IBWM.  Diego Forlan was peerless.  Once mocked in England for a bad case of donkey posterior/banjo syndrome, Forlan was quite simply fantastic at South Africa 2010.  He scored goals, looked dangerous throughout and really stood up to lead his nation.

Notable mention - Thomas Muller.  A revelation for Germany and a new world star.  His absence in the semi-final against Spain left a real ‘what if’ feeling to the last week of the tournament.

Best match - Urugay v Ghana

Not a huge selection to choose from and nothing of any real merit before the quarters, but the Ghana v Uruguay game edges it for this correspondent.  There may not have been a huge number of goals but the game was nothing less than exciting throughout with the last 10 minutes as controversial yet enthralling as any you will see.

Notable mention - Germany v Argentina.  Germany’s complete annihilation of Argentina in the quarters, and that would also get a best performance award should I be offering that one, which I’m not.  Sorry Germany.

Biggest disappointment - Wayne Rooney (England)

Sorry Manchester United fans, but your boy had a mare of biblical proportions.  I'll happily accept that he was injured or just completely worn out, but more than that; the spark was gone.  Before the tournament, many pundits were concerned about Rooney's temper and those fifty yard runs and full blooded tackles he makes to win a ball back when the red mist descends.  But most England followers would have given anything to see that passion this time.  There was nothing there.

Notable mention - France.  Pampered.  Lose your temper with your boss by all means, but how many World Cups do you get to play in a lifetime.  This one will haunt many for the rest of their lives.

The IBWM team of the tournament

Iker Casillas (Spain)

Number 1, as he has been for many a year now. Vital to Spain saving when he needed, his handling was also the best of any goalkeeper in the tournament.

Arne Friederich (Germany)

Played every minute of every game for Germany at South Africa 2010.  I noted more interventions and more moves started by Friederich than for any other defender.

Carles Puyol (Spain)

I thought the Barcelona defender may be starting to look a little leggy, but not a bit of it on show here.  A colossus throughout.

Maicon (Brazil)

Disappointing campaign ultimately, but has no equal in world football.  Fast and furious whether defending or attacking.

Xavi Hernandez (Spain)

Passed.  And then passed some more.  Just does all the simple things perfectly.  If there is a central cog in what Spain do, then Xavi is it.

Wesley Sneijder (Holland)

Nothing short of dominant in every dutch performance he played in right up to the final when he just vanished.  Very nearly player of the tournament had he not been so well shackled by Spain’s' Busquets in the final.

Thomas Muller (Germany)

Someone always emerges as a star and Muller did in spectacular fashion.  Clinching the golden boot was an amazing achievement, but what might have happened if he had faced Spain in the Semi Final?

Bastien Schweinsteiger (Germany)

Playing deeper for his country than before, Schweinsteiger prompted and dictated Germany's play in every game.  Has developed into one of the best midfielders on the planet.

Diego Forlan (Uruguay)

Fourth place will still be reflected on as an amazing achievement for Uruguay, but this was Forlan's tournament.

Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)

Not just a poacher, Gyan had defenders on the back foot throughout Ghana's campaign.  Terrified the life out of Serbia's normally resolute back four.  Brave enough to tuck his second penalty away only moments after missing one that would have put Ghana into Semi Finals.

David Villa (Spain)

The best striker on the planet and was ruthless when he need to be.  Villa has no weaknesses whatsoever and now joins a team in Barcelona where he could become a legend.

Final Verdict

The tournament is just too long.  I’d watch football all day, every day, but with 32 teams the World Cup is just an endurance event, and it’s really starting to show.  Will FIFA change?  Not when there are votes to be gleaned by it’s presidency.

The European Championships have always produced good football due to their being less teams.  But even they have been increased in size now just to put a spanner in the spokes of quality again.

On behalf of IBWM, I feel particularly short changed by South Africa 2010.  We were all told that Rooney, Kaka and Ronaldo would stand out at this World Cup, but when I look back in years to come all I will recall are Jabulani’s, Vuvuzela’s and Paul the psychic octopus.

Roll on 2014.