Following on from Friday’s entry, the list concludes with the top five disappointments of
5. Team Africa
In the first World Cup to be played on African soil, football fans from across the globe waited patiently for the powerful African teams to upset the status quo of Euro-dominance. And, with the notable exception of Ghana, they failed quite spectacularly. One may point at the calibre of opponents the Ivory Coast were drawn against, South Africa’s defeat of imploding France or even the defensive resilience shown by plucky Algeria, but even these minor positives are sub-standard panaceas for the consistently poor performances delivered by the African sides. Three of Africa’s six representatives departed without a win and five of the six failed to progress from the group stage. It would, however, be short-sighted to solely blame the national teams themselves. The funds African countries can spend on football are immeasurably smaller than their European and South American counter-parts. This writer fears that until this discrepancy in inter-continental spending is rectified, the standard of African football shall always fall short of the traditional superpowers, and performances like Ghana’s shall remain rare anomalies.
4. Luis Suarez
In terms of on-field performance, Suarez has had a successful World Cup. His three goals – of which one is a serious contender for goal of the tournament – were instrumental in taking Uruguay to their first semi-final in 40 years. Yet it is not this wonder goal against Korea Republic for which Luis Suarez’s World Cup shall be remembered, neither is it his bullet header against Mexico. Instead, his contribution has been immortalised for an instinctive goal-saving handball in stoppage time against Ghana, an infringement which has left his international reputation in tatters. The almost unilateral media condemnation has largely overshadowed Suarez’s contributions at the other end of the field – he has been vilified by the media and cast as the scapegoat for Ghana’s exit. Such has been the extent of the reaction that FIFA have been asked to consider awarding ‘penalty goals’ in future. Therefore, Suarez earns himself the unwelcome accolade of number four in this list, for inadvertently orchestrating Uruguay’s transition from fan favourites to media villains.
On Saturday 6th March, football fans everywhere let out a communal sigh when FIFA released a statement detailing their decision not to implement goal-line technology into the upcoming World Cup. For fans of Mexico and England, it was to be a pivotal moment, one which would have drastic ramifications upon their respective World Cup campaigns. However, it is not just FIFA’s unfathomable rejection of integrating technology into football that earns them a position on this list. Kulula Airlines, a low-cost South African airline renowned for their quirky advertisements were banned from using the words ‘South Africa’ on their planes, along with images of footballs and vuvuzelas. A combination of poor decisions and harsh sanctions against local businesses lead this writer to assert that FIFA themselves are one of the main failures of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
2. World Superstars
Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Fernando Torres, Nicolas Anelka, John Terry – the list of internationally renowned footballers who have failed to deliver at the biggest stage of all goes on. Fatigue has been cited, the rigours of long unbroken seasons have shouldered much of the blame for an inexplicable series of poor performances from the talented, talismanic individuals of Europe’s premier sides. Whether or not that is the case is a debate for another day, what is unavoidable however is that the highest-paid players in world football have underperformed in South Africa. Have fame and fortune festered complacency? Is the difference in personnel between club and country so insurmountable? These questions and more will surely be asked of these individuals in the coming weeks. What isn’t in doubt is that the poster-boys of the tournament have flattered to deceive. Messrs Rooney, Ronaldo and Messi now face increased media pressure to re-discover their club form in the upcoming season and exorcise the demons of an individually forgettable World Cup.
1. Patrice Evra
Manchester United’s marauding left-back went into this World Cup on the back of yet another successful season, earning him the coveted captain’s armband of Les Bleus. What followed is arguably the most shocking fall from grace in World Cup history, one that saw Evra refuse to train, feud with the Coach and lose the captaincy. Domenech is far from blameless. The enigmatic keen astrologer has a 2006 World Cup final appearance to thank for keeping him in a job after four years of embarrassment for French football. Nevertheless, he is still the Coach, and as such deserves the respect and obedience of his players. Evra’s complicity in the players protest and subsequent refusal to train have led to calls from prominent former professionals for Evra to be permanently banned from the national team. “I demanded that the players be harshly punished and that Evra never returns to the France squad,” said World Cup winner Lilian Thuram, a sentiment echoed by his 1998 team-mate Marcel Desailly – Evra may well soon have far greater problems than his heading this list.