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South Africa 2010 roundup

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 Match (es) of the tournament

 Argentina 0-4 Germany

Joachim Loew’s young guns comprehensively outthought, outfought and outmaneuvered their supposedly more superior opponents. Germany’s defended resolutely, bossed the midfield and attacked with precision and vigor. Their fourth goal was a class apart. The icing on the cake was that it finally put paid to the overhyping of Argentina and convinced everyone what they already knew, that Maradona as a coach is quite useless.

Italy 2-3 Slovakia

Again, for pure entertainment, nothing beat Slovakia’s renouncement of Italy. End-to-end football and an absolutely topsy-turvy encounter. You did not know it was over till it was over. It had all the elements of great drama as well; the slaying of a giant by an underdog.

Player (s) of the tournament

 In descending order:

Xavi Hernandez: With all due respect, Spain would not have won the World Cup with any other player in that position. Ran more yards and made more passes than any other player in the competition. Absolutely imperious. Without Xavi, neither Spain nor Barcelona would be the best teams in the world.

Diego Forlan: In a tournament crying out for an individual hero, Forlan was the closest thing resembling. An absolute titan for Uruguay, and a deserving winner of the Golden Ball. His goal against Germany was a class apart.

Bastian Schweinsteiger: Germany’s Xavi. Louis van Gaal has reinvented Schweinsteiger as a holding midfielder, and he performs the role to excellence. Schweinsteiger was particularly impressive in Germany’s routs of England and Argentina. His tally of passes and yards run was second only to, you guessed it, Xavi. Doesn’t hurt that his WAG is quite stunning!

Goal (s) of the tournament

Fabio Quagliarella’s feather chip against Slovakia. In a game full of highlights, the stunning strike from the Udinese forward took your breath away. Personally, I jumped off my seat, head in hands.

Diego Forlan’s side volley against Germany. Hans-Jorg Butt had no chance, he just watched it crash in. Awesome technique, particularly since everyone else had been complaining about the ball.

Gio van Bronckhorst’s belter in the semifinal. Out of nowhere, from the player you least expected it from. The surprise factor trumps the beauty of the strike.

Biggest disappointment (s)

Fabio Capello. The England manager is a highly-rated tactician and one of the best managers in the world today. His struggles with England show just how much catching up the Three Lions have to do. But that still does not excuse Capello’s insistence to use the 4-4-2, a formation long scrapped to the bin of yesteryear.

Fernando Torres. The Spaniard shows he is more of a club player. Struggled spectacularly and according to statistics was slower than even Gareth Barry. Injury cannot be the only excuse. He also failed to score a single goal in qualifying.

FIFA’s no to technology, or even extra referees. England’s disallowed goal was abysmal.

Personal highlight (s)

Germany’s thrashing of Argentina was a lesson on how to play football and how not to play football.

Larissa Riquelme’s constant promises to strip naked almost had me gunning for Paraguay

My team of the World Cup

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Coach: Joachim Loew

 (GK) Iker Casillas : His save off Robben in the final alone warrants nomination

(RB) Phillip Lahm: For me, second only to Maicon in this position

(LB) Fabio Coentrao: The most impressive Portuguese player on show

(CB) Gerard Pique: He does not draw comparisons with the Kaiser for nothing

(CB) Diego Lugano: An absolute rock for Uruguay at the back; good at set-pieces

(CM) Bastian Schweinsteiger: Germany’s best player in the finals and a revelation at CM

(CM) Xavi: Few better players in world football; his passing is phenomenal

(LW) David Villa: His best games were out on the left playing off a target man

(CAM) Andres Iniesta: Fleet of foot, quick of thought and Wayne Rooney’s favourite

(RW) Thomas Mueller: Golden Boot winner, playing as a non-striker. Only 20 years old

(ST) Diego Forlan: An absolute titan. Fabulous throughout


Written by quazi zulquarnain

July 13, 2010 at 11:12 am

Best & Worst of South Africa 2010

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So since the quarterfinals have now given us some room to breathe, a dissection of the World Cup is in order. So without further ado, here goes.

Most attractive teams:

Germany & Argentina. The two are set to partake in what, on paper atleast, looks to be a feast of football. Both teams have been inconsistent, but if the Argentineans can play as well as they did against South Korea and Greece and if the Germans can replicate the form of Australia and England, this will be a quarterfinal with enduring memory.

Honorable mention to Chile for regaling us with a brand of fiesty attractive, but if somewhat futile football. Long live Bielsa’s naivety.

Most insipid teams:

Portugal & England. For sides boasting the talents of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, both England and Portugal were poor for the length of the tournament. Both men struggled to impose themselves and while Portugal still covered their goalscoring failings by being rock solid at the back, England managed to flunk that department as well. Cue a ‘root & branch’ analysis.

Most dangerous team:

Brazil. They are your old school axe-murderers. One blow and it is all over. Unlike Spain who consistently probe and look for gaps, Brazil spend most of the game passing patiently, keeping possession. They are solid and impermeable at the back, but they counter-attack at a hundred miles an hour. Superb from set-pieces and not lacking in individual quality, the Selecao will take some stopping.

Match of the tournament:

For pure unadulterated drama, Slovakia v Italy. Topsy-turvy encounter, end-to-end football, and like every great game, you never knew it was over, till it was over. Fabio Quagliarella’s sublime strike was the icing on the cake.

Worst match of the tournament:

I think this will be unanimous. Portugal v Brazil. Woeful match by both sides content with a draw. More brawn than beauty on show. Magnificent let-down.

Biggest controversies:

Frank Lampard’s ghost goal & Carlos Tevez’s offside header. Germany and Argentina both received huge slices of luck. In Germany’s case a disallowed goal for England showed the necessity for goalline technology. In Argentina’s case a clear offside missed by officials was the beginning of the end for Mexico.

Biggest WAG controversy:

Despite the likes of Abigail Clancy staying away, the WAGs still managed to permeate the World Cup. Sara Carbonero of Spain and Iker Casillas’ significant other risked the ire of the Spanish press by … just doing her job. Most were upset that she was so close to Casillas during the game, alleging that it made him lose his concentration.

Biggest letdown

The refereeing has been abysmal. Kaka’s sending off against Ivory Coast a case in point. Fifa’s reluctance to embrace technology or extra referees, also shocking.

Biggest surprise

Ghana has long been identified as Africa’s best side. But here they showed they can mix it with the best. Tactically perhaps the most accomplished side in the tournament, Ghana is a team full of players who know what they have to do. The match with a similar Uruguay will be exciting.

Story of the World Cup so far

Two words. Diego Maradona. Crass, brilliant and superstition all rolled into one. Is there a bigger superstar in world football than Diego Maradona? (and a worse role model?)

The “omg, this guy is good” player

I won’t say Mesut Oezil, because I have been following him closely for a while now. Nor Thomas Mueller because he just played the Champions League final. My pick is Matias Fernandez. The Chilean playmaker from Sporting, is the straw that stirs the Chilean drink. Cool on the ball, with vision and passing, his importance to the side is illustrated by the fact that Chile lost the only two games he did not play, due to an eerie decision by Marcelo Bielsa.

Best-looking fan

Last World Cup we had Heidi Klum. This time, Larissa Riquelme takes the cake. Who is betting on a Paraguayan triumph?

World Cup XI

Important to note is that this team was selected on the basis of a formation; 4-2-3-1 in the parlance of the time. So please consider this as the best players for the particular positions as regards their performance in the World Cup, rather than just holistically the best players overall.


Eduardo: Portugal conceded a single goal all tournament and much of this was down to the brilliance of this 27 year old. Was solid all tournament and made some exceptional saves in the game against Spain.


Fabio Coentrao: It was a toss-up between Michel Bastos and the Portuguese, but Coentrao gets the nod because of his impeccable performances so far. The Benfica player has been a standout so far and provides the Portuguese with tactical mobility.


Gerard Pique: Calmness personified at the back, almost Kaiser-ish in his forays into midfield and attack.  Very solid in all the games so far despite the blip against Switzerland. The exception who proves the Nike ad ‘epic fail’ rule.

Lucio: Lucio has had some lapses of concentration and he faced stiff competition from Antonin Alcaraz of Paraguay. But Lucio adds much to Brazil’s game with his languid runs from the back.


Maicon: Again, a toss-up between him and Phillip Lahm and the Brazilian is in, by virtue of his quite stunning goal against North Korea. Patrols the right on his own and has done his burgeoning reputation no harm in this World Cup.

Central midfield:

Bastian Schweinsteiger: The German has reinvented himself in a new role, and has become the heartbeat of the side. Steady in possession and his distribution has been impeccable. He has made the most number of passes of any player in the World Cup so far.

Javier Mascherano: Did not have the best end of the season at Liverpool but the midfield hardman has shone as Argentinean captain and is one of the key reason that Argentina can play their expansive shape. There have been better players than him this World Cup, but hardly anyone better in this destructor role.

Attacking midfield:

Lionel Messi: Despite not having scored a single goal so far, although he has had the most shots on target, Messi is increasingly the straw that stirs the drink for the Albiceleste. Not much more needs to be said about the best player in the world. He also edges out Mesut Oezil in this role, although the German has been a revelation so far


Andres Iniesta: Whenever Iniesta is fit, Spain have played better. He is full of running, intelligent movement and creativity. Even fit well into his shuttled role on the right-wing. Wayne Rooney called him, ‘the best player in the world.’


Thomas Mueller: His coach calls him cheeky, Maradona called him a ball-boy. But with three goals and three assists Mueller has been directly involved in more goals than any other player in the World Cup. Hard to believe, just last year, he was playing the German third division.


David Villa: Has been outshining his more illustrious teammate Fernando Torres in the World Cup and for much of the period before it. Four goals and is a fair bet to finish top scorer.

Written by quazi zulquarnain

July 1, 2010 at 4:07 pm