Top-ranked Spain takes home the hardware at first FIFA World Cup on African soil
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa will be remembered as much for its surprises and controversy as it will be for its unique, vuvuzela-induced buzzing drone and Spanish dominance.
Beginning with various upsets in the initial group stages of the competition, including the shock eliminations of 2006 World Cup champions Italy and the shambolic and much-maligned French team, the early talking points of the tournament centered on the ever-present buzz around South African stadiums as the vuvuzela provided the soundtrack to all 48 group stage matches. The plastic horn, popular in South African sports culture, would continue to divide public opinion throughout the tournament, coming under criticism from coaches, players and network TV broadcasters concerned the noise was not only hindering communication on the field of play but preventing clear, audible TV broadcasting.
As the Group Stages came to a close, with the USA, Paraguay and Uruguay each unexpectedly finishing top of their respective groups, the Round of 16 stage of the tournament offered an assortment of team match-ups that few would have predicted.
Team USA faltered in extra time to an inspired Ghana team who would eventually succumb to Uruguay in an epic and enthralling quarterfinal match being decided in a penalty shootout.
Traditional rivals England and Germany squared off in what was to prove a highly controversial match in which Germany would eventually go on to win, 4-1. At 2-1 down in the first half, England's Frank Lampard scored what should have been an England equalizer, as his 20-yard strike crossed the German goalline before being quickly collected by German keeper Manuel Neuer. Referees were ill-positioned to see what TV cameras were broadcasting all over the world.
The incident rekindled the old debate on the use of video technology in football and the clear advantages it holds for assisting referees with key decisions during important matches. FIFA was also to come under criticism for its continual refusal to allow technology to become part of the sport.
Germany would continue their impressive form into the quarterfinal stages, outclassing Argentina with an emphatic 4-0 victory and setting up a show down with Spain in the semifinals.
The Netherlands — who had outclassed Slovakia, 2-1, in the Round of 16 — shocked Brazil in the quarterfinals, winning 2-1 after being 1-0 down at halftime. Dutch midfield general Wesley Sneijder was once again the team's architect and creator, using his exemplary passing ability to create havoc behind the Brazilian back four.
Against a gallant Uruguay team in the semi-finals, Dutch captain Geovanni Van Bronckhorst opened the scoring with an exquisite, 35-yard shot that rifled in off the post, earning goal of the tournament accolades as well as helping the Netherlands to an historic 3-2 victory and a place in the World Cup final for the first time since 1978.
In the other semifinal match, the Spanish would have Carlos Puyol to thank for their first-ever World Cup final berth, after his second-half header was enough to see off an in-form Germany who had scored 13 goals in 5 games.
After four exciting weeks of competition, Spain ran out worthy winners after a 1-0 victory in a physical, and at times ugly, World Cup final against the much-fancied Netherlands. It is the first time in World Cup history (1930) that Spain has won the game's most coveted prize, and made Spain the first team to win the World Cup after having lost a group stage match.
As the dust settles on South Africa 2010 and the last buzz of a vuvuzela echoes around Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium, the world turns its attention to Brazil, host country of the 2014 World Cup.
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