Would the last one out of South Africa please turn out the lights? The 2010 World Cup party is over. This is the worst time in the international soccer calleneder, as we are as far from the next World Cup game as you can get(1400+ days).
For perspective, this time four years ago, the U og L Cardinal football team had never played in or won an Orange Bowl, a fact the Bobby Petrino lead team would change at the end of the 2006 football season.
Top 5 memorable moments for me:
5. The Iniesta Cup winner in Sunday's final. Just when I had surrendered hope for an open play deciding goal, and started milling around the living room in anticipation of a shoot-out, Van der Vaart makes a poor clearence right to Fabergas, follows it up by playing Iniesta onside, then Iniesta rips in the game-winner. Nice to see it decided by an open play goal rather than the shootout.
4. Lampard's goal that wasn't. In the end, Germany proved much too much for England. At the time, Lampard's glorious strike from distance would have tied the contest. It was infuriating that it was missed. In a World Cup (like any I suppose) where referee calls were constantly questioned, this was the most obvious and damaging miss. I wanted to include a referee gaffe, and while an official's questionable judgement cost the US a possible 3 points, an official's mistake cost England a halftime tie.
3. Donovan lead comeback over Slovenia. Something very primal about the way Donovan ripped that 52nd minute goal straight into the top of the net. Had us jumping from our chairs here in the newsroom. Then Bradley runs onto that ball and knocks it in, THEN Edu finishes the comeba . . .wait... well it was a great tie and a fun game to watch.
2. Suarez handball and ensuing PK madness. Of all the dramatics. I mean come ... on! Game expiring, a mad scramble, stop on the goalline, an unstoppable shot (legally) a moment of cheating that only delays the inevitable. Wait, it has cancelled the inevitable! A dramatic shootout. Wow. Then the reactions, the emotions from Suarez and Gyan, the humanity of it all. I could watch that last 25 minutes of that telecast over and over again.
1. USA! USA! USA! Yet it still doesn't hold a candle to the number one moment in the tournament. This wasn't just the best memory of the tournament, this is my personal top sporting memory of all time as well. It had everything. Massive stakes riding on the result. A massive build up of angst and frustrations over 90+ minutes of the game. A quick build up of the winning attack. A save on the intitial shot, hearts broken again? and a fabuolous follow and finish.
Tears well up as I remember that day even now. My son: smiling, waving that flag, flirting with the little girl next to us. The goal, the celebration with a roomful of strangers. The Youtube videos of others. Wow. Wouldn't it be something if the USA plays for even higher stakes into the future?
Any wonder my two favorite blogs of the tournament were written after my two favorite memories? Feel free to look back at any and all of those blogs over the past month at the whas11.com sports blog.
Now for the WHAS 11 World Cup Fan Blog 2010 World Cup Awards:
Golden Ball: (Basically tournament MVP).It is hard to argue with the selection of Forlon. His team progressed deep into the tournament. He tied for the tournament lead in goals scored. I award Tomas Muller from Germany, even with his youth (20). His 5 goals and 3 assists lead the tournament in combined total. His team progressed and defeated Forlon's team for third, and he was suspended for the game that kocked his team out.
Also in consideration: Wesley Sneijder, Iker Casillas.
Lead ball: (My award for player who most disappointed/held his team down). Wayne Rooney, England. This guy was so heavily counted on for England, and delivered nothing. in a tournament that saw many of it's supposed superstars fall flat, Rooney was the flattest.
Also in consideration: Lionel Messi, Argentina (0 goals, but was active). Ronaldo (1 goal, his team held scoreless in all but one game)
Golden Boot: Tomas Muller, Germany. No debate, this award is non subjective, the tournament's leading scorer gets it.
Golden Hand: (My award given to player who best used his hands.) I would never give this award to a keeper, but even if keepers could be considered, was there any player who more wisely used his hands in this tournament than Luis Suarez? He single-handedly (OK double, he used both hands) kept Ghana from defeating his Uraguay team. Praised in Uruguay, vilified around the world, he gets the golden hand.
Also in consideration: Luis Fabiano, Brazil, who scored a goal he handled not once, but twice in a group stage win over Ivory Coast.
Best Keeper: Vincent Enyema, Nigeria. Casillas deserves it from FIFA. 0 goals against in the knockout stage for the champion? Fugghedaboudit. Enyema though kept Nigeria competitive in all three group stage games in a very competitive group. In fact, he faced 3 MORE shots than Casillas faced, despite four less games. He was wonderful and I fear forgotten, in all that was the horrid Nigeria World Cup.
Best Young Player: c'mon Muller, still 20.
Best old Player: Again, probably a better keeper category. Despite Forlon being just a year younger, I'm going with Puyol, Spain. Anchored the top defense in the tournament, and scored a timely (would a Spainiard score any other way?)
A few notes before I leave you World Cup.
-Donovan dserves stong consideration for the tournament all-star team.
-The further we got from England's Robert Green's gaffe goal against the USA in the opener, the larger it loomed. Let's say Green does not put the ball in the net for Dempsey and every other thing in the World Cup happens exactly the same. Here's what would be different:
England cruises to win the group. They play Ghana, who, while capable, was not the meatgrinder Germany was. Maybe they win, then they get Uruguay, maybe they win again? What a difference a semi-final appearence could have made to their collective national psyche, despite lackluster play. Ah well, you know the English would still wallow.
The USA would absolute tie Slovenia, making the disallowed Edu goal into the goal that could cost the team advancement (pending a coin flip). Even if they win, they would be looking at Germany.
-Truly the USA will never have an easier group.