South America’s beaten semi-finalists were neither of the teams you might have expected. Sam Kelly reports
At around 10.30pm on Monday July 12, the Uruguayan World Cup squad touched down at Carrasco International Airport just outside Montevideo to a country which, when it bade them farewell, could scarcely have imagined the circumstances in which they’d return. World Cup semi-finalists? Uruguay? It’s not meant to happen in the 21st century, surely?
Despite a respectable performance in South Africa some think the US could have achieved more. Ian Plenderleith explains why
When US coach Bob Bradley substituted Ricardo Clark 30 minutes into the team’s final World Cup game against Ghana, he whispered intensively into the player’s ear for several seconds before packing him off to the bench. As Clark’s sole contributions in his half hour had been to lose possession in the lead up to Ghana’s opening goal, and to receive a yellow card for an amateurish late tackle, there was much lively speculation about the words Bradley had directed towards the central midfielder.
Josh Widdicombe knows how unattractive, overpaid and self-important England are, but he’s still going to support them
It was in the 20 or so minutes between Germany’s fourth goal and the full-time whistle that I decided I had finally had it with supporting England. It was the same decision I made four years ago – when defeat on penalties to Portugal finally opened my mind to the fact that England had been rubbish for the whole World Cup – but this time I told myself I definitely meant it. Maybe.
Some are puzzled by England's poor performances while the Premier League grows ever richer and more powerful. But, as Tom Davies argues, these facts are very closely linked
All modern World Cups are accompanied by nostalgia for earlier tournaments, but for England the build-up to this one was more resonant than most, 20 years on from the last truly gripping campaign by the national side. How far we’ve failed to come.
Negative press stories allowed some World Cup visitors to justify staying in a sanitised environment. But those who did so missed out on the complete experience of South Africa in 2010. Jonathan Wilson reports
Maybe what I did was stupid – certainly the South African woman sitting next to me on the plane home thought so – but, frankly, the air of paranoia was driving me insane. In most cities in the world walking ten minutes out of a football stadium to a bar would be a normal thing to do; not in Johannesburg.
Al Needham attempted to fulfil a long-term ambition again this summer. He didn't manage it but doesn't really mind
Doing the Sixty-Four – watching every single game in a World Cup, as they happen – has been a tantalising yet impossible dream, but, like a solar eclipse, all the celestial forces appeared to click into alignment for me in 2010. I was old enough to live away from my parents (so no dad saying: “Get this bleddy rammell off, Taggart’s on” – West Germany v Uruguay, 1986) and mature enough not to go on dates when games were on (England v West Germany, 1990 – yeah, I know). The hosts were in a decent time zone – so no missing games due to Sunday morning lie-ins (South Africa v Paraguay, 2002) or conking out on the settee at stupid o’clock (most of USA 94).
South Africa 1 Mexico 1
“It’s in Africa where humanity began and it is to Africa humanity now returns,” says Peter Drury who you feel would be available for film trailer voiceover work when it’s quieter next summer. Mexico dominate and have a goal disallowed when the flapping Itumeleng Khune inadvertently plays Carlos Vela offside. ITV establish that it was the right decision: “Where’s that linesman from, that football hotbed Uzbekistan?” asks Gareth Southgate who had previously seemed like a nice man. "What a moment in the history of sport... A goal for all Africa,” says Drury after Siphiwe Tshabalala crashes in the opener. We cut to Tshbalala’s home township – “they’ve only just got electricity” – where the game is being watched on a big screen which Jim Beglin thinks is a sheet. Cuauhtémoc Blanco looks about as athletic as a crab but nonetheless has a role in Mexico’s goal, his badly mishit pass being crossed for Rafael Márquez to score thanks to a woeful lack of marking. The hosts nearly get an undeserved winner a minute from time when Katlego Mphela hits the post. Óscar Pérez is described as “a personality goalkeeper” as if that is a tactical term like an attacking midfielder. Drury says “Bafana Bafana” so often it’s like he’s doing a Red Nose event where he earns a pound for an irrigation scheme in the Sudan every time he manages to fit it in.
Taylor Parkes explains why watching the centrepiece of ITV's primetime World Cup programming was not an enjoyable experience
The separation of football and the intellect isn’t always a wholly bad thing, but too many people make a career of it. Put that thought to the guilty men – including almost everyone who works in television – and the chances are they’ll scoff. “It’s only a laugh – that’s what footy’s all about, isn’t it?” Well... no, that’s not what “footy” is all about, not exclusively.
Roger Titford analyses how the role of the crowd is changing, thanks to television's demands
My abiding memory of the 2002 World Cup is the rhythm, uniformity, noise and collective willpower of the South Korean crowd. In France 1998 the way England fans dominated some stadiums with flags and song was impressive but the South Koreans took it to another level – and reached the semi-finals. South Africa 2010 has been a very good tournament with lots of smiling faces. But it’s been two steps backwards in undermining the role of genuine, traditional support which is about being united and getting behind your team.
Round of 16 ~ June 26
South Korea 1 Uruguay 2
There are acres of empty seats for a match played in a downpour. Last week Peter Drury compared chilly conditions to a match at Notts County; we now discover Jon Champion’s benchmark for a rainy day at football: “Weather you’d expect at Port Vale.” Some Uruguayan fans are wearing Óscar Tabárez facemasks. Park Chu-Young has the first chance, his free-kick bouncing off the post with Fernando Muslera beaten. But the Uruguayans might have been three up at the break – Lee Jung-Soo gets away with a handball and Luis Suárez is wrongly flagged offside when clean through. Their one goal is a calamity for Korea, the prone Jung Sung-Ryong swiping ineptly at Diego Forlán’s cross as it flies right across the area to Suárez. Muslera is equally at fault for the equaliser, failing to connect with a defensive header that goes straight up in the air – “Look up the definition of no-man’s land, he’s there,” says Craig Burley – and it is finished off by the “Bolton Wanderers man”, Lee Chung-Young. Uruguay’s deserved winner is superbly curled in by Suárez, “the man they call El Pistolero”, after the Koreans fail to clear a corner. That 49-goal season for Ajax, the most repeated stat we’ve heard at the World Cup, gets another airing while Suárez appears to bounce off a photographer’s head en route to a group hug with the substitutes. Such celebrations are treated as a felony in English football but no one has been booked for them at the World Cup. Korea get a final chance but “Middlesbrough fans will not be surprised” as Lee Dong-Gook’s weak shot is held up on the muddy pitch and cleared.X