The Pele 1958 to 1970 award (aka player of the tournament): The top 3 (okay 4) players at this version of the World Cup:
- Schweinsteiger: Gold star - Ugh, there I said it...painful for me to admit but the German was the best player in the tournament for me. He might not have scored the most goals or be the center of his
team's offense, however he was the glue that held together a young German side. Without the Bayern Munich midfielder I doubt Germany would have retained their 3rd place crown. He was the engine for Germany - shutting down the opponent's midfield, launching German offense and adding creativity to the game. He completely took Messi out during the 4-0 thumping of Argentina, was a rock against England. While he was overshadowed against Spain, one could argue he did his job since Spain scored on a set piece but could not find the combination to the lock during open play. To me he was the most valuable player to his nation and the best player in the tournament.
- Forlan: Silver star. The Uruguian was voted best player by FIFA. Scoring 5 goals and leading Uruguay to a surprise 4th place finish, the Atletico Madrid
strikerwas clearly the offensive engine for Uruguay and its on field leader. He scored some vital goals - the equalizer against Ghana being the biggest. More importantly he always offered an offensive option for Uruguay and settled nerves when needed.
- Robben: Bronze star. I have the Bayern man over his teammate - Sneijder (who was voted in second place by FIFA). Why? The Dutch winger was the creative catalyst for Oranje. I know Sneijder scored more, however Robben was the player that opponents had to plot on how to stop. This was never more apparent than against Brazil, while Sneijder scored both goals it was Robben that gave Brazil and Bastos in particular absolute fits. The winger's runs on the right forced the Samba boys to defend deeper and took away some of Bastos' marauding runs. Had Robben finished one of the 2 golden chances he had in the finals he would have been #1 on this list.
- Villa: Bronze star II. Until the last two matches he was the entire Spanish offense...well at least the majority. Scoring 5 goals he was the savior of the Spanish on more than one occasion. He was a little silent in the finals, although had a sitter close in that he missed. The new Barcelona
strikerlived up to the hype, he is arguable the greatest strikerSpain has ever had wear their colors.
- Rooney: Rooney came into this tournament with the hope of a nation on his shoulders. He was suppose to be the offensive force that would carry the Three Lions deep into this tournament. Oops. Zero goals from the ManU
strikerand a famous angry spew to a tv camera about the fans right to boo the team. Not sure if he was still suffering from some nagging injuries that slowed him down for his club, and to his credit he never used that as a crutch to his performance. But clearly he was a shell of Manchester United best this summer when he donned the three lion kit.
- Drogba: Another EPL
strikerthat was much fancied coming to South Africa. With only 1 goal scored the Ivory Coast strikerhad a poor World Cup and watched his nation leave after only 3 matches...after they were deemed as the nation carrying the hopes of Africa to go far into the tournament. Granted he suffered a broken arm in pre-tournament action, so kudos to him to tough it out. However he clearly did not live up to his lofty expectations nor those surrounding his nation.
- Ribery: I could include all the French players...but the Kaiser sticks out to me. Coming to the World Cup many tabbed the Bayern winger as most likely to shine and carry Les Bleus. Unfortunately the Kaiser seemed to carry the French right to ignominy. His future with France is in question based on his actions off the pitch. His play on the pitch was not a glorious run either...he disappeared too often during the games.
- Messi: Difficult to put the Argentine on this list, but without scoring a single goal it is difficult not to include Messi. Granted he was the center of much of the Argentine offense, but in the biggest match, against Germany, he was invisible. I would not rank him as "poor" as the others but still he did not live up to his lofty play for Barcelona.
- This was not a great tournament when it comes to outstanding matches, but the one that stuck out for me was the Brazil v Holland match. Once again the Samba Boys were heavily favorites heading into this tournament while the Dutch had a good qualifying run, but were not fancied to go too far in this tournament. This match started out with Brazil looking very dangerous getting an early goal from Robinho and could have added to their totals through Kaka, but were stymied. The second half was a complete change, with the Dutch pushing the Brazilian back line and defense. Bastos could not slow down Robben. Holland equalized on what seemed an innocuous ball from Sneijder. The got the 2nd goal on a great set piece from a corner. The excitement continued with Robben getting Melo sent off from a straight red card. The game ended with the Dutch wasting some late chances to add to their tally, but the swing in the game made for a great game. To me the most exciting game of the tournament, especially because it involved Brazil! Honorable mentions: USA v Slovenia and Italy v Slovakia.
Maradona 1986 second goal versus England award (aka best goals of the tournament):
The Van Bronckhorst goal against Uruguay was a laser blast that found its way to the upper 90...not bad for the old man of Oranje!
The Suarez goal against South Korea was a thing of beauty. Taking the ball from the left and cutting back to the center Suarez unleashed a curling right footed shot that found the far corner of the South Korean goal.
There was the cracker from Tevez against Mexico...similar to Maradona in 1986 he had a brace in this game - one goal was a fantastic goal and one was controversial. Of course the non-offside call was no where near as bad as the "hand of god" and the long range Tevez bomb was not the same as the amazing run Maradona demonstrated for his second goal versus England.
Finally the Maicon goal versus North Korea, not sure he meant to shoot or was really a miss hit cross...regardless it was a thing of beauty.
There were some other great goals - Muntari's ridiculous bomb against Uruguay in the 1/4 finals, Donovan's goal against Algeria, Tshabalala's opening goal for South Africa against Mexico, Ghana's Gyan scoring against the United States, Slovakia's Kopunek scoring on a cheeky throw in against Italy...and a handful of others.
The Spain prior to July 11 2010 award (aka disappointing nation of the World Cup)
- France...um again need I saw anything that I haven't already?
- Italy: The defending champions were nothing short of terrible. A draw versus New Zealand is all you need to remember. Trivia question, which nation at the 2010 World Cup left without a loss? New Zealand! The two finalists from 2006 finished last in each of their groups...sad.
- Serbia: They were many pundits' "dark horses" other than a famous victory versus the Germans they left South Africa with a whimper.
We now have to wait 4 years until we all see each other again in Brazil. Could Spain retain their title? Or will Brazil win their 6th title and first time since 1998 that the host has won the World Cup? What about Germany or Ghana? The two youngest nations in this year's tournament. Could Argentina make a serious run? What about the three lions?
Brazil will have to do some rebuilding, Kaka will be 32, Elano 33 and Robinho 30 of the younger members. The 5 time champions will have to look to the likes of Hulk and Pato to build around....and one thing we all know is the talent cupboard is never bare for Brazil. Spain has a young core - Iniesta 30, Cesc 27, Navas 28, Pedro 26, Torres 30, Pique 27, Ramos 28 at the next World Cup...scary. Even their keepers will be under 33 which is young for that position. They could be the
4 years ahead of the next World Cup, I will put Brazil as the favorites. They have not reached past the 1/4 finals since 2002!! Playing on home turf will be huge motivation for the Samba Boys. As the host they are guaranteed an easy group and with the backing of their fans and some home cooking they will been seen as odds on favorites to win the title. How is that for a "bold" prediction 4 years ahead of the event!