So that’s it for another four years. And after a month of infighting, dancing, tears of joy and sorrow, the time has come to choose my team of the tournament. Too often, these types of teams are picked in a lop-sided manner (I’m looking at you Gareth Crooks), with pundits filling the side with attacking players and forgetting that defending in a rather important component of the game. Others attempt to pick obscure players in an attempt to seem more observant than their peers, usually ignoring the fact that their selections have not been very good. Anyway, this is my choice for the best eleven from South Africa 2010, lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation:
The quarter-finals in World Cup 2010 brought four unique types of drama. All four venues hosted matches that each provided their own types of intrigue and excitement. It ranged from the collapse of the favourites in Nelson Mandela Bay, to heartbreak in Soccer City for Africa’s last hope of glory. Green Point then hosted a shocking chapter in Maradona’s turbulent World Cup history and finally rugby stadium Ellis Park witnessed two missed penalties within three minutes. Armchair fans around the globe are glad of the two subsequent rest days that follow before the semi-finals after such a tumultuous round of games, in order to get their collective breath back.
World Cups always throw up images that get ingrained into the history of football. Whether it be Pele and Bobby Moore swapping shirts, Marco Tardelli’s manic celebration, or Paul Gascogine blubbering, each edition of the tournament provides iconic moments that will be forever remembered and for the most part cherished. So far in South Africa 2010, we are yet to witness anything quite as stirring as the three aforementioned examples. On the pitch at least. But the image of the French fitness coach, Robert Duverne, hurling his stopwatch across an empty training ground is a snapshot of the biggest non-vuvuzela related controversy of this World Cup. A controversy than has finally given the Irish something to smile about.
Over the past few weeks, the anticipation is reaching unprecedented levels as the 2010 World Cup edges ever closer. Unfortunately, there have been an unusually high number of injuries to numerous high profile stars. The African teams have been particularly hit with Chelsea duo Michael Essien and Jon Obi Mikel absent for Ghana and Nigeria respectively, and Ivory Coast talisman Didier Drogba struggling with a suspected broken elbow. Injuries are common place in football, which is still, despite the attempts of many referees, a contact sport. However some players will be missing the marquee event in rather different, and in some cases, tragic circumstances.
When someone mentions the RDS, my mind immediately wanders to a sport that rarely enters my thoughts. The mercurial world of show-jumping. After all, the initials RDS stand for Royal Dublin Showgrounds. Where better to see the legendary Eddie Macken steer an immaculately groomed mare around a litany of fences and various water hazards in the quickest possible time? More recently, it has been home to the ever-expanding rugby bandwagon Leinster for their Magner’s League and European Cup matches. Last week, Ireland’s footballers arrived at the Ballsbridge venue, in the shadow of their future home and gave manager Giovanni Trapattoni plenty to ponder over the summer months.
It’s so close we can almost smell it. The 2010 World Cup is just weeks away and football junkies the world over may rejoice. 64 games crammed into a 32 day schedule and the best players on the planet strutting their stuff on the grandest stage of all. But it is not only the Messis and Cristiano Ronaldos of this world who get the chance to display their talents. There is an opportunity for certain individuals to re-ignite a career that has somewhat stagnated at club level. Football Digest will take a look at five players who are marginalised at their clubs, only to be vital to their countries relative hopes in South Africa this summer.
The morning after the night before. Time seemed to be passing slower than normal. I kept looking at the clock on the bottom right hand corner of my screen. It was almost 11am. ‘What’s bloody taking them so long?’ I pondered. My Microsoft Outlook was in a state of constant refreshment. But, alas finally, they arrived. The first batch of Thierry Henry related e-mails landed in my inbox. After John Terry’s Moscow misery in May of 2008, there were a bucket-full of mails jeering Terry’s misfortune at 8:15am the following morning. Whatever the reason for the delay, we all chuckled heartily at the various images of Henry with giant hands, no hands, and his Wikipedia page being ‘updated’. However the reality was, Ireland were out of the World Cup. Or were they?
At approximately 14: 07 CET on Monday afternoon, there was a collective sigh around the country. The Republic of Ireland were drawn against France in the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Play-off. ”Feck it anyway” we muttered. But of the 4 potential opponents in the draw for Ireland, 3 of them would have provoked a similar reaction. Having avoided facing the freezing cold of an away leg on a plastic pitch in Russia, and sidestepped the now strangely likeable Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, now we must turn our attentions to the French and analyse the dangers posed by Raymond Domenech’s mismanaged side.
As age catches up with us, cynicism is a number of unwanted traits we acquire. Suddenly, scanning through the history of our lives, we focus on memories of our younger years. We scoff at our previous pastimes, hobbies, favoured television programmes, fashion sense and cringe at times when we embarrassed ourselves through the folly of our youth. It seems like a different life. However, this transformation into a cynic can bring us to realise that certain things we were enthralled by at this early stage in our lives were not all they were cracked up to be. Like the Republic of Ireland under Jack Charlton.
It was the sort of goal that you would expect the team leading 2-1, rather than those chasing the game at the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline, to get. Catching the opposition out on the break with a swift counter-attack in the 90th minute to put the gloss on a convincing 3-1 triumph. However, this is Ireland we are discussing here, and for the old habit of magically turning wins into draws has again reared its ugly head. But from the slick move that resulted in Vincenzo Iaquinta setting up Alberto Gilardino for Italy’s equaliser, there are valuable lessons to be learned. And one’s that Giovanni Trapattoni must teach his players before next month’s play-offs.