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Thursday, 30 December 2010

2010 - A memorable year of sport (Part 3 - Football)

England fans look away now!

Maybe not as successful for England as cricket or golf but still a memorable footballing year. We had the World Cup, Premier League, Champions League and even the slightly controversial 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.

The World Cup was built up as it always is. The greatest players on the planet fighting it out to win the most coveted prize in world sport on the biggest stage.

If I'm honest, I was bitterly disappointed with the standard of football on show and thought some games were dire, it was like watching somebody watch paint dry. I actually felt very let down by players such as Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney, who all failed to live up to expectations.

For one reason or another I still have my wall chart from the tournament, it just reminds me of the pain and torture England put me through every single time.

The competition was, for the first time, to be played in Africa. To be more specific South Africa. The build-up was all about whether the continent was ready to host such a major event. But in fairness they did a great job despite the vuvuzelas.

Most the grounds were full and the atmosphere created was better then expected. The South African fans brought their own style to the World Cup and the team was a prime example to England, and others, of how to play with spirit and desire.

 The South African fans generated a noisy atmosphere during the World Cup.

As per usual, we England fans got our hopes up and thought victory would be a formality, forgetting that there are at least eight other teams that have a just as good a chance as we did.

My pre-tournament prediction was for Holland to come out winners, beating England (who else) in the final. I wasn't far off.

The much-loved hosts South Africa kicked things off with a draw against Mexcio before England opened their campaign in a eagerly awaited clash with the USA.

I don't think anyone who watched that game will forget what happened, especially Rob Green. It was heart-breaking to say the least. Still, a 1-1 draw wasn't a bad result. 

Remaining confident of finishing top of Group C, rampant England next faced the mighty Algeria in one of the greatest games ever played.

Of course I'm joking, it was the complete opposite. Never before have I seen a game lacking such quality and attacking threat. I and many other fans were left shocked and appalled by the lack of passion and emotion displayed from their team.

They still had the chance to qualify, though, and that they did with a sublime performance to hammer the always tricky Slovenia 1-0. Well compared to their last game, anyway. 

However the lack of a second goal was to prove ever so costly as the USA scored a last-ghasp winner to defeat Algeria and therefore top the group, leaving England to face Germany in the second round.

At least fans could console themselves in the fact that they weren't France, or Italy for that matter. Both teams had wretched tournaments. France self-imploded to finish bottom of their supposedly easy group while Italy failed to get out of their group that contained New Zealend, Slovakia and Paraguay. 

Now to the knock-out stages and, following the fine win over Slovenia, England fans were hopeful of upsetting Germany and advancing to the quarter-finals. 

It's fair to say that England were not at their best as they were ripped to shreds by an impressive and young German side. It could have been so different had the officials gone to specsavers but it was not to be. England's dream was over for another four years at least.

Oh well at least we'll be hosting the tournament in 2018... never mind.


There were no major upsets in the other second round games as Spain overcame Portugal and Brazil beat Chili to set up a mouth-watering clash with Holland.

Also through were many England fans new favourites Ghana, the only African representative left. Unsurprisingly, then, they went out in the next round, albeit controversially, to Uruguay. Luis Suarez becoming the world's most hated man when preventing a certain goal in the dying stages of extra-time by the use of a deliberate hand. But Gyan, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, blazing it onto the bar to give Uruguay a lifeline, which they duly took after penalties.

Elsewhere, Holland upset a below-par Brazil 2-1 while Germany dismantled the Diego Maradonna's much-fancied Argentina side and Spain continued to make steady progress into the semi-finals.

The Dutch were far from their best against Uruguay but still prevailed to make it into the final and meet pre-torunament favourites Spain, after they edged out Germany.

And there was an Englishmen, three of them to be precise, in the final. Howard Webb and his officials were to be in charge of one of the dirtiest World Cup finals ever.

Holland kicked, moaned and forced all the way through but Webb refused to send anyone off. Meanwhile, Spain kept cool and remained in control. Having said that, Arjen Robben missed a golden chance to give his side a 1-0 lead midway through the second-half, something he's probably thinking about right now.

The Spanish remained as cool as a cucumber, biding their time for that one chance and boy did they take it. Andres Iniesta's goal four minutes from time meant that for the first time in history Spain became World Champions.

It was a great achievement from a nation has always been perceived as underachievers but this victory added to that of two years ago means they no longer have that tag.

As for England, so much went wrong. It was the age old problem of players not being able to perform for England as they do for their clubs. Players like Gerard, Lampard and Rooney. All wonderful, world class in the premier league but when it comes to their country, it's not nearly the same.

The passion, the desire and the will to win and succeed for your country should be enough to get anyone to play at your best for your nation. Just wearing the England shirt should be mean a lot but it doesn't matter to these multi-millionaires. It may be quite some time until we even get close to lifting a major trophy once again.

Back in out domestic season, Chelsea edged out Manchester United to win the Premier League for the first time in four years. The Londoners also lifted the FA Cup after beating Portsmouth in one of the most one-sided 1-0 games ever seen. United had the consolation of winning the Carling Cup for the second year running while Inter Milan and Jose Mourinho were Champions League winners with a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich.

We also found that it would be the footballing giants of Russia and Qatar, who would be hosting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. England failed again, but this time people were impressed with our efforts and genuinely thought we were going to win it. Ultimately, though, it came down to 22 greedy men who decided that England, a country that hosts the biggest and best players week in week out at the best stadiums in the world, would not be right to host the greatest show on earth.

Lionel Messi was once again at his brilliant best despite being far from his best at the World Cup. He scored an incredible 62 goals from 67 games in 2010 and there's no reason why he won't keep going. Cristiano Ronaldo also had another very successful year while the likes of Didier Drogba, Luis Nani and Rafael Van Der Vaart shone back in England.

Whatever way you look at it, 2010 has been another memorable year of football action and although England fans will be disappointed, many new stars have been born.

1 comment:

  1. 'slightly controversial world cup bids' - yes, I think you probably could say that