WORLD CUP JULY 12, 2010
Best Goal: Fabio Quagliarella's superb chip against Slovakia. Such coolness! Such precision! Such class! Under such pressure!
Runner-up: Sebastian Abreu's penalty in the shoot-out against Ghana. Audacious and nerveless in equal measure. Reminiscent of Panenka vs. West Germany in the 1976 European Championships.
Tournament Hero: Luis Suarez. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Cunning and lithe in attack, Suarez also excelled in defense. His handball in the last minute of extra-time against Ghana gave his country a glimmer of a chance. What more could any player do in such circumstances? Vilified unfairly in the English press (who conveniently forget Jack Charton's deliberate handball in the 1966 semi-final) Suarez helped create the space for Diego Forlan's superb tournament. Uruguay needed them both. Suarez is a cocky nightmare for defenders; a move to Serie A seems likely.
Heartwarming Story of the Tournament: As you can tell, I've a lot of time for Uruguay. The Tiny Giant has awoken. If their young side make it through the marathon South American qualifying and if Diego Forlan can make it to another WCF at the age of 35 (not impossible) then they won't be under-estimated in 2014.
Tedious Cliche That Might, Nonetheless, Have Been Accurate: Ghana are "playing for Africa."
Unsung Heroes: New Zealand. The only undefeated side in the tournament. If only, Kiwis will think, their rugby team could go through a World Cup unbeaten...
Funniest Moment: Frank Lampard's Reverse-66 "goal" against Germany. You'd need a heart of stone not to laugh.
Biggest Disappointment: Not France since we knew they'd be rubbish, but Italy. Good for 20 minutes against Paraguay and, patchily, for 30 against Slovakia; terrible the rest of the time.
Worst Manager: Marcello Lippi. See above. Raymond Domenech was disqualified from this category on grounds of fairness.
Biggest Managerial Mistake: Diego Maradona's baffling decision not to play Sebastian Veron against Germany.
Biggest Surprise That Should Not Be A Surprise: People - that is, the British media—complaining that passing the ball is now boring. Better, clearly, to make soccer a game for hoofers because that's, um, exciting. Boring Spain with all their neat and tidy and boring passes! Spain, apparently, are the new Germany. No wonder they won.
Tournament Villain: Delighted though I was to see Holland knock-out Brazil, they were a hard side to warm to. This was not, despite the talent on show, the Holland of yesteryear. And by yesteryear, I mean ten years ago, not to mention the great 1988 side. Against Spain one had the impression that the Dutch had persuaded themselves they could not win the game before going on to the park to demonstrate the wisdom of their initial analysis.
Most Welcome Trend: Attacking football with, much of the time, three up front. Uruguay and Chile weren't the only sides to play with three forwards. The 4-2-3-1 formation, when used as an attacking framework, could also push three or even four men forward.
Worst Country in World Cup History: Still, alas, Scotland. Even though we weren't there this time. No other country has taken part so often without getting to the second round at least once. Mexico, Leon, are pretty good by comparison.