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?
With the group stages over, the sextodecimal matches played, and the quarterfinals about to begin, what kind of a World Cup has it been so far? It has been good for South Africa, with large, happy crowds and none of the violence that pessimists predicted, altogether nothing worse than the horrible vuvuzela. The home nation were eliminated, but not before a glorious victory over France, who scuttled home in disgrace, as did the Italians, and then the English. No, it hasn’t been a good year for Europe, even with Germany, Spain and Holland in the last eight.
Pele, the greatest footballer ever, has proved a notoriously dreadful analyst since his retirement. But perhaps none of his pronouncements has been so widely mocked as his suggestion, before Brazil and England met in the 2002 World Cup, that the best player at the tournament so far had been the English defensive midfielder Nicky Butt. Even the jingoistic Daily Mail couldn't get behind that one. Nicky Butt was the greatest case of social promotion in modern football.