I was going to write a lengthy article summing up this tournament as a whole, but then I sat there and thought… there will be hundreds of people all doing the same thing. Two things finally put me off the idea. Firstly, I couldn’t be bothered. I have a million, trillion things to write for this blog, and I don’t really have the time. Secondly, everyone else is going to be doing the same thing. Now, that hasn’t stopped me for the last few weeks or so, you might well think, but I think that the point is to make it clear that there have been winners and losers both on and off the pitch over the last few weeks.
Italy – Obviously. Watch Italy’s performances again and you’ll see that this wasn’t some dour, drab, ground out World Cup win. Their defensive play was superb, granted, but they also managed the frankly remarkable achievement of ten different goalscorers over their seven matches. In the face of remarkable adversity at home, the players pulled together into a tightly knit unit. An outstanding performance.
Germany – Not just the team, who overturned all expectations to play some brilliantly high-tempo attacking football, but also their supporters, who were a credit to their country and even their police, who organised vast numbers of people in a mature way and minimised trouble when there were many potential flashpoints.
Ghana – Hard done by in losing 3-0 to Brazil, Ghana could well be back in South Africa in four years time. Their attacking play was excellent – as good as Germany’s – and it was onlt naive defending against Brazil that cost them. Knocking out the Czechs in the first round was also an enormous achievement.
Simon Brotherton & Steve Wilson – The BBC’s ‘B’ team both had excellent tournaments. Insightful and authorative, the BBC should take heed of the widespread praise that they have received and kit these two out as their main men.
Honorable Mentions: Australia, Martin O’Neill, Spain, Jon Champion.
Brazil – They turned up playing as if all they had to was be on the pitch, and got their just desserts against a well-organised French team in the quarter-finals. Ronaldinho never got going and Ronaldo was simply out of shape. He scored a few, but against the sort of defences that Ghana and Japan put forward, I think I could have scored three or four myself.
Zinedine Zidane – A brilliant player for the whole of his career, but he let himself, his team and his country down with a sickening act of violence in the final. It’s not far short of a tragedy for the game that he is likely now to be remembered for this than for the acts of genius that have littered his career.
Angola – Okay, well it wasn’t just them, but the smaller nations that turned up and refused to play football, deciding instead keep eleven players behind the ball and hope that they could squeeze through the first round with three goalless draws. Fortunately, they were all found out in the end.
Graham Poll – An error in the Australia-Croatia match of staggering proportions – giving three yellow cards to one player before sending him off may not have had any consequences for Australia, but this was an error of judgement to rank alongsides Clive Thomas’ infamous “goal that never was” in 1978.
Honorable Mentions: The USA, The Czechs, England, ITV.