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A Retrospective Review of the 2010 World Cup

By Tom Pople

For many others and I, the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa was the first World Cup, and arguably the first major sporting event that can be remembered. I can recall exactly where I was when Siphiwe Tshabalala fired in the first goal of the tournament (sat in my dad’s living room in Bridgwater) and how excited I was that the world cup was underway. Back then I can imagine it was easy to get a football-mad eight-year-old engaged in the world cup. School was out for the summer, sticker books had been released for pocket money to be spent, FIFA had released a separate World Cup game mode and the sounds of Waka Waka and Wavin’ Flag were seemingly everywhere. I only have fond memories of this world cup and enjoyed it thoroughly, but in this article, I will look over the events of twelve years ago and discuss whether this World Cup was a genuine cracker, or if I need to take off my rose-tinted glasses.


"2010 World Cup opening ceremony" by Shine 2010 - 2010 World Cup good news is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

It is impossible to talk about this World Cup without mentioning one of the most polarising and controversial aspects ever seen in arguably any tournament; the ‘Jabulani’. The Jabulani, meaning “be happy” in Zulu, was a football developed by Adidas specifically for the tournament, that featured eight thermally bonded panels and a surface featuring an Adidas technology called “Grip ‘n’ Groove” that was supposed to help with aerodynamics, in theory. This football is like Marmite, at the time some players spoke strongly about their distaste for the ball, mainly goalkeepers, with the consensus being that the ball is extremely unpredictable. Some keepers, legend of the game Iker Casillas included, called the ball ‘horrible’, and Lionel Messi said that it was ‘complicated’. On the other hand, some players praised the ball, especially the ability to get away a clean strike or even add a knuckle to the ball. Either way, when looking back at compilations of the goals from 2010, the sheer movement on the ball is astounding, yet mesmerising seeing an object so predictable do something so unnatural. With that being said, the Jabulani did still provide some of the greatest goals the world cup has ever seen, my personal favourite being Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s strike against Uruguay in the semi-final.

The 2010 World Cup also had its fair share of memorable moments. The first thing that comes to my mind is Luis Suarez's handball against Ghana in the quarter-finals. Arguably one of the greatest World Cup games of all time, and one of the competition’s most infamous moments. 10 years on, in 2020, the Ghanaian players of that time said they could not forgive him for what he did, labelling him a cheat. The fact that Asamoah Gyan then went on to miss the resulting penalty, and that the ‘Black Stars’ were eliminated on penalties later in the game make the occasion even sourer. It will be interesting to see what happens when the teams meet again for the final round of group games on Friday 2nd December. As well as the Suarez debacle, there was also the Nigel de Jong Kung- Fu kick on Xabi Alonso in the final, that somehow didn’t result in a red card, and the Frank Lampard ghost goal incident vs Germany that ended up being the catalyst for goal-line technology, and finally the reigning champions Italy being knocked out in the group stages by first time World Cup participants Slovakia.

Of course, there were negatives about the tournament that cannot be overlooked. The utterly annoying, droning sound of the vuvuzela that started as a bit of a joke, but soon became a plague that ruined the atmosphere of nearly every match was one of the worst things to happen. As previously mentioned, the consensus amongst fans and players was that the Jabulani was just not a good football and took away from the performances during matches due to its inexplicable nature. And finally, the absolute shambles that was France. After a first-round exit from Euro 2008, tensions were still high between the press, players, and coaching staff, and before the tournament, it was announced that then-coach Raymond Domenech would leave his position after the competition. Tension reached boiling point during France's clash with Mexico, with Nicolas Anelka being sent home for abuse directed towards Domenech during the game. Furthermore, five players in total were sanctioned by the FFF after the team arrived home. Overall, a World Cup France will want to sweep under the rug and forget about.

To answer my original statement, yes. Yes, I believe that the world cup was as good as I remember. Of course, there will always be a special place for the 2010 World Cup for the memories it created and moments I still remember to this day, but objectively I believe it was a good tournament for football lovers and casuals alike with drama, goals, and plenty of action; not to mention some catchy theme songs to boot. The highlights are available to watch on YouTube now and I suggest you do so, you won’t be disappointed.

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