Minggu, 04 Juli 2010

2010 World Cup: The empire strikes back

It might be a hard hitting and old fashioned headline, but in my opinion it hits the nail on the head. After the group stage at the 2010 FIFA World Cup everyone was talking about the demise of European football that the football world was coming closer, the gulf in standards were getting less, European clubs over-dependence on foreign players was hurting the national teams; but now in the semifinals you suddenly have a different picture.

Three of the four semifinalists are from Europe - Germany, Spain and the Netherlands while Uruguay are the surprise semifinalists from South America and from there you would have rather expected Brazil or Argentina to make the last four. The hope of having the first ever African semifinalists wasn't fulfilled either. And this once more shows the beauty of football as things can change in a matter of days during a World Cup.

After the group stages were over people were asking what had happened to Europe and its football. Only six teams getting through from the 13 nations that started in the tournament. A historic low especially with defending champions Italy and last time finalists France not making the cut. Then there was the issue that all six European sides which made it into the pre-quarterfinals would have to face each other which meant only three sides in the quarterfinals would be from Europe amongst the final eight with South America having four of their five sides in the round of eight and Ghana being the lone African representative. Last time around in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany six of the eight quarterfinalists had been from Europe with Brazil and Argentina the exceptions. Then in the semifinals it was an all European affair with Italy facing Germany and France taking on Portugal.

But now with the semifinals coming up all remaining European sides are still part of the tournament and they beat South American opposition to make it into the final four. Only Uruguay can spoil the party and deny Europe creating history, then European teams have not lifted the World Cup trophy outside of their continent. If the tournament was held in North America or the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan/Korea, then either Brazil or Argentina were the champions. So we will see a premier at the first African World Cup for sure.

The question is, will Uruguay win their first World Cup in 60 years, can Germany regain the trophy after 20 years, or will Spain or the Netherlands win their first ever World Cup. We have an interesting week of football ahead of us and hopefully the higher standard of the knockout stages are maintained.

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