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Thoughts on the World Cup

It's come and gone for another four years. A look back at the tournament while we wait for the decision on 2022 and Brazil 2014.

First, the winners, Spain. The eighth country to win it and the first new winner since France in 1998. The first team to lose their first game and win the tournament. The first team in a long time to hold the European and World trophies simultaneously. The first European team to win outside of Europe. On the whole, Spain deserved their win and their #1 world ranking. Particularly because they have a very technical, skilful and positive way of playing that they basically managed to stick to regardless of their opponent. Thank goodness a negative, defensive or low-skill team did not win.

South American teams did very well in the group stages. If you were tipping them, you'd have scored well. Unfortunately I didn't. Until now, South American teams (ie. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay) were the only countries to win outside of their home continent. Spain have, of course, changed this, but this was perhaps no surprise given the history of the tournament. South American teams made up half of the quarter-finalists, but only one, Uruguay, made it to the semi-finals.

African teams struggled a little. Ghana proved to be the exception making it the quarter-finals before being controversially eliminated. However, I think they over-achieved. If a 10-man Australia had taken just one of their chances, Ghana could have failed to make it past the group stage.

Asian teams did pretty well. Both South Korea and Japan made it to the round of 16 and were unlucky not to progress further.

Injuries prior to the tournament robbed us of some of the world's best players. It does seem that the long professional seasons mean many will miss out. There is some argument that a mid-season rest for professional leagues over Christmas would help. Countries that have this (eg. Germany) seemed to benefit.

The ball caused the usual stir before the tournament. It certainly caused some issues, but perhaps not in the areas first predicted. Goalkeepers were concerned about the swerve, but while there were some howlers, the ball seemed reasonably true, or at least, didn't swerve much more than any other ball. Where it was an issue was on the long pass and from the dead ball. Throughout the tournament, if a long pass was allowed to bounce, it invariably bounced too high for the intended recipient and went out. Most players struggled to keep the ball down from the dead ball. There were some notable exceptions though. South Korea, Japan and Uruguay seemed to handle it ok. It's beyond belief that countries don't make use of the ball long before the tournament. Yes there are sponsorship deals in place, but deal with it. Some countries manage it.

The referees were, on the whole, pretty good. Every team will have something to complain about of course, but there were only a few clangers. England's disallowed goal against Germany was the worst one, but it was probably quite hard for the referee to judge. The assistant could have perhaps been better positioned.

The vuvuzelas were a disaster. They completely ruined any sense of atmosphere and were just annoying on the TV.

Australia's performance will probably have to be judged a failure. Based on the other teams in our group we should have progressed to the round of 16. It all came unstuck in our first game and I think Verbeek has to take most of the responsibility for this. His talk before the match about how good Germany were is disappointing to say the least. There was none of this against Brazil last time. Why didn't we simply have a go? His change of personnel and tactics beggars belief. We've basically had one strategy during his reign. One can only assume he blinked. Cahill's red card was unjustified and cruelled any chance of a comeback. We should have shut up shop at that point and lost 0-2. That would have been ok in the end.

Our performance in the next two matches was much better. Kewell's red card against Ghana was tough, but probably fair. Ghana were very lucky to escape a red-card which would have evened things up. We battled very well to earn a 1-1 draw. We needed a win though and Wilkshire will be haunted by his miss. The result against Serbia was superb. But again, why did Verbeek wait so long to unleash the shackles. Was he relying on a win by Ghana over Germany? Another mistake perhaps.

On the whole, we finished off the tournament very well. But the shadow of the disaster against Germany was long and left a sour after-taste. It doesn't matter that England and Argentina suffered similar results against Germany. We should have and could have done better.

Oh well, the long wait for Brazil 2014 has begun. We've got the decision on 2018/2022 to look forward to in December. And the Asian Cup Finals and the decision on 2015 to come in January.