Top 10 World Cup Disappointments – Part One
The line between success and failure is never so blurred as it is during a World Cup. As we approach the final of this summer’s tournament, this writer takes a look at the aspects of the world cup that have failed to live up to the pre-tournament hype, whether they be players, coaches or behind-the-scenes issues.
10. Fabio Capello
Just a month ago, the Italian tactician was being lauded as Sir Alf Ramsey’s natural successor. His unforgiving, disciplinarian style and his promise to pick only fit, in-form players - regardless of reputation - seemed to be the perfect tonic for the cult of individualism that is the England squad. With an impressive qualification record and a bumper new contract, the stage was set for Capello to lead the third favourites to World Cup glory. One month, one unfit Gareth Barry, one out-of-form Matthew Upson and two goal-shy strikers later, and Capello’s unenviable transition from hero to Mclaren has been as swift as it was unexpected. Capello may have won the support of the FA, but after such a dismal World Cup showing, far more tangible victories will be hastily required to restore national faith in the England manager.
9. Reaction to the Vuvuzela
Football, FIFA are eager to declaim, is not just a sport, it is a way of bringing together socially disparate cultures. As such, the almost universal condemnation of the vuvuzela, a staple of the South African game, has been a disappointment. Yes, it is loud, yes it is repetitive, but it is an integral part of African football culture, something the first African World Cup is presumably aimed towards celebrating - not condemning. Should England win the bid to host the 2018 competition, it will be interesting to see whether different cultures show the same tolerance of topless overweight Geordies as ours has towards the vuvuzela.
8. Felipe Melo
After securing a €25 million transfer to Juventus, Felipe Melo was expected to bring some much-needed steel to the Bianconeri’s midfield. The temperamental Brazilian endured an inauspicious opening season for the Old Lady, a campaign in which Melo succeeded in further blighting an already questionable disciplinary record. Cue a World Cup starting berth for the five-time champions, where he was to play a pivotal role in their quarter final exit. Melo’s defence-splitting assist looked set to send a businessman-like Brazilian side through to the semi-finals, before the midfield enforcer’s indiscipline reared its ugly, persistent head. His own goal was slightly unfortunate, but his sending off was completely unprofessional. Melo’s violent stamp on Arjen Robben was indefensible and sufficient to warrant his inclusion as the eighth member of this list.
Ever since Jimmy Hill headed a panel of former internationals in the 1970 World Cup, the prevalence of football punditry has been on an endless upwards spiral, increasing exponentially with each World Cup. Let us hope the spiral finally terminates with this tournament, where the level of punditry has sunk to previously unimaginable depths. From Adrian Chiles’ xenophobic preview of the England - U.S.A. match to Emmanuel Adebayor’s on-air phone calls, the panels on both the BBC and ITV have been decidedly poor. For all their knowledge of the Spanish superstars and the Brazilian household names, it will be the unashamed lack of both knowledge and interest in the ‘lesser’ teams which this writer will remember the 2010 World Cup pundits, culminating in an admission by Alan Shearer prior to the Slovenia - Algeria match that "Our knowledge of these two teams is limited." World Cup pundits have the straight-talking Mick McCarthy to thank, for they would otherwise find themselves far higher in the list.
Not many people expected the World Champions to repeat their heroics of four years ago. The Italian media were very critical of the team prior to the tournament, one lambasting them as the worst squad of players to ever defend the famous trophy. Nevertheless, no-one expected the reigning champions to limp out at the Group stage, having failed to see off a trio of unfancied opponents. The Italian backline was fragile, conceding five times in three matches, while their forwards were impotent in front of goal. Lippi was quick to assume full responsibility for their ignominious showing, but the blame must surely be levied at the senior players, Iaquinta looked average, Montolivio was a poor replacement for Pirlo and even Cannavaro lacked his typical composure at the back. With the Italian squad currently in a transitional phase, the future is far from bleak for Italy, they must now hope Prandelli can revitalise the national side.
Part Two to follow shortly...