Sunday, July 02, 2006

FWC 2006: Best World Cup Ever?

The quarterfinals are over, and as one looks back at the matches gone by, there is a certain excitement one feels, and many neutrals have already classified this as the best tournament in history. A few days ago, it was still being disputed, for Brazil didn't seem to have any challenges, but now that theory has been turned on its head with a Zizou-inspired performance that saw the World Champions eliminated from the tournament.

Think about it. Goals galore. The tournament averages nearly 3 goals a game. And with the Teamgeist causing keepers problems, that has led to some truly spectacular goals. There have been so many goals in this tournament capable of entering the tournament's all time Top 10 for sensational strikes that I have lost count. And you know, there is a bit of magic in the air when Frings and Lahm are in that category. It doesn't hurt that 19 goals have been scored in the first 10 minutes and 35 in the last 10, not to forget an extra time stunner from Maxi Rodriguez.
Not to forget the team goals, brilliant displays of teamwork and precision that have lit up the cup. Who can forget Esteban Cambiasso's goal against Serbia and Montenegro? 24 Argentina passes involving 8 different players, ending with a fabulous backheel from Crespo to Cambiasso, and BANG! The ball was in the back of the net. The Brazilians went one better against Ghana, passing 24 times within their own half before launching a long ball, which a flying Ze Roberto latched onto and dispatched. Cynics like me will point out that it was a deliberate move from the Brazilians to go past their South American rivals.
Not that either team really profitted from their flair play. Both teams went out shockingly in the quarterfinals, Argentina in a penalty shootout against the tactically astute Germans, and the Brazilians finding themselves 'outBraziled' by Zidane. That left just 4 teams in the competition, all European. Something of a shock since all the bets were on an Argentina-Brazil final.
Of course, some will say that this tournament was a bit boring in that all the semifinalists are European. I disagree for this shows the rest of the world that technique and tactics are crucial, something which the normally tactical coaches of Argentina and Brazil, Pekerman and Parreira respectively, threw out of the window at the wrong moment. The Africans were disappointing in this tournament with only Ghana reaching the second round. They probably deserved nothing better in my opinion, as they displayed the usual African tendency to go solo rather than build up to goals. However, there are still pluses for these teams, such as Ghana's humbling of the World Number 2 Czechs, Ivory Coast's spirited performances, and Tunisia's gutsy displays. Asians were even more disppointing, with South Korea being the only team from the continent not to finish bottom of its group, and for that they can thank Togo, the worst team of the competition.
On the whole, it was the deserving teams that got through, albeit with some controversy.
There were a few brawls, and while they were a disgrace to the spirit of football, for entertainment value these matches brought a spark to the tournament, and displayed the players' passion for the game. On the whole, these matches did bring a special something to the tournament that we won't see for a long time.
The fans were brilliant too, and why wouldn't they be? Franz Beckenbauer and the Organizing Committee were absolutely brilliant in the way they set up areas specially for fans, making it a joy for all those in the country, even those who couldn't get tickets to watch matches.

Goals, cards, feuds, the odd shock and yet the proven superiority of class and technique, and a whole host of bright young faces that lit up the tournament such as Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney, Tranquillo Barnetta and Fernando Torres, coupled with the international rebirth of proven players such as Zidane, Ronaldo and Klose. Yes, this is truly, in my opinion, the best World Cup ever.

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