A is for Africa
A month ago the world and his mother said the first World Cup finals on African soil would be a disaster from start to finish. How wrong we were. The welcome of the people was just incredible, the infrastructure stood up to all the tests with the exception of the Durban semifinal, and they even managed to arrest Paris Hilton. Congratulations South Africa, it was a pleasure from start to finish. And I didn’t get mugged or robbed before flying home late on Monday night. I even survived the Soweto Toilet shots!
B is for Bafana Bafana
South Africa’s heroes made history as the first hosts to exit the World Cup stage at the group stages when they could have done so much better but for striker Mphela hitting the post against Mexico in the last minute of their opening game. They united a country -- and they beat France!
C is for Iker Casillas
His two saves from Arjen Robben in Sunday’s final probably won the World Cup for Spain. That Casillas was the first Spaniard ever to lift the famous trophy was a fitting reward for a player whose problems in the opening game defeat to Switzerland were all blamed on his TV presenter girlfriend. She got a kiss for her troubles after the final on Sunday.
D is for Divisions
Met some guys with great names over the five weeks in Johannesburg, including Forward the barman, Limited the gardener and my favourite of them all, Divisions the mini-bus driver. They’re all English translations of African names in case you’re wondering.
E is for England
From Robert Green’s howler to Frank Lampard’s goal that never was, they offered us plenty of entertainment throughout and ultimately proved that £6 milllion a year Capello is no better with the prima donnas than any previous manager
F is for F*** Thierry Henry
Bolivian fan Mauriscio Benavente gave me a great laugh on a Sandton street when he paraded his Ireland jersey with the number 10 and the “F*** Thierry Henry” motto on the back. Mauriscio spent a month in South Africa, far longer than those French phonys.
G is for Ghana
They ended up as the only African team in the knockout stages and they’d drive you mad if you were their coach, but there was a spirit and a free will about the Ghanaians that was a joy to behold until they were conned by the Uruguayans.
H is for Hand of God
Bad enough that Luis Suarez committed the most professional of fouls, and was punished, for that last minute handball against Ghana, but he then went and boasted about it and laid claim to the Hand of God moniker for a great save. Idiot
I is for Iniesta
Like Robben, he struggled with injuries early on but what a tournament he had once he got back into the team. Inventive, pacy and always willing, Iniesta has everything that you’d want to teach young kids and he scored the World Cup winner into the bargain. Wish he was Irish? You bet.
J is for Mick Jagger
The Rolling Stone is losing his touch. A German octopus got every tip right, but the great one went for the U.S., England, Brazil and Argentina in big matches and they all lost. Any chance he’s back Russia and Slovakia in our European Championship qualifiers?
K is for Miroslav Klose
A player made for the big tournaments. He could hardly get a game with Bayern Munich all season never mind score a goal, but ended up with more goals for Germany than he did for his club including a fantastic double to burst Argentina’s bubble.
L is for Lionel Messi
What’s the big deal about the fact that he didn’t actually score any goals at the World Cup? He hit the post twice for God’s sake, but his general play was a step above most other world class players at this tournament and you’d always pay to watch him.
M is for Thomas Muller
Just two years ago this was a young man going nowhere with the Bayern Munich reserves. Now he’s a young man who can go anywhere he wants -- from Barcelona to United -- after a stunning first World Cup with the Golden Boot for most goals and the Young Player of the Tournament awards safely in his luggage.
N is for New Balls please
There’s a big convention center in Sandton that was known as Jabulani Central for the duration of the tournament and that’s where the worst ball in World Cup history should have been left. It wasn’t fit for a car park kick around and further proof that FIFA’s World Cup is about nothing but money.
O is Oranje dresses
Remember those cute South African models and their little orange dresses when Holland played Denmark? Turned out to be a stunt for the Bavaria beer company, but we’re not complaining even if FIFA cried foul all the way to the courts. And last time I checked the girls were still waiting on their money.
P is for Paul the Psychic Octopus
Eight predictions, eight correct calls -- who would have thought that a fish tank in Germany and not a think tank would produce the most successful pundit of the World Cup ever, even if he is all arms and a really big head which sort of reminds me of a few less successful TV pundits I know?
Q is for Queen Sofia
Spain’s monarch took her national team players by surprise when she dropped into the dressingroom after the German win in the semifinal, so much so that Carlos Puyol was only wearing a small towel and a smile! Puyol is from Catalonia by the way, where they don’t really recognize the Spanish queen even with their clothes on, but their World Cup win may help to unite the Spaniards.
R is for Cristiano Ronaldo
It looks like he got a surrogate mom to have his baby in America during the World Cup, and Portugal could have followed his lead and asked for a surrogate Ronaldo to play in South Africa. The real one certainly didn’t turn up in South Africa -- just like Rooney and Kaka.
S is for Bastian Schweinsteiger
Concerns over the loss of their injured captain was all a load of Ballacks as far as the Germans were concerned as Schweinsteiger stepped up to the challenge with all the authority of a young leader who matured greatly as this young side took the bronze medal.
T is for Technology
Sepp Blatter apologised to England and Mexico for refereeing cock-ups at the World Cup finals but refused point blank to apologize to Ireland, saying we were only caught out in a preliminary game so that makes it all okay. More Ballacks. This World Cup proved once and for all that FIFA have to do something about technology at this level.
U is for Uruguay
Okay, so I don’t agree with what Suarez did against Ghana, but Uruguay deserve credit and not just for being the only South American team to get to the semis. They also gave us the brilliance of Golden Ball Player of the Tournament winner Diego Forlan, and his goals were quite something to behold.
V is for Vuvuzela
Ask anyone what they remember about this surprisingly successful World Cup and they tell you the Vuvuzela which droned on and on and on for the last month, just like me! There was an official World Cup mascot called Zakumi, but the Vuvu was the real symbol of this tournament.
W is for Wesley Sneijder
He was the player of the tournament up to the final, but then Holland decided to kick and hit everything that moved and Sneijder’s brilliance was sacrificed for a kicking game that eventually got its comeuppance and the World Cup got the winners it deserved in Spain.
X is for X Managers
Who’d have thought that a one cap wonder like Bert Van Marwijk would get to the final with Holland at a time when World Cup winner Dunga and Raymond Domenech were out of work and Diego Maradona about to join them on the dole.
Y is for YaYa Toure
The Ivory Coast were a waste of space at the World Cup, but it’s doubtful that the former Barcelona midfielder will care too much as he prepares to pick up some €200,000 a week after tax at Man City, proof that the Premier League is gone mad.
Z is for Zuma
Mr. President was like a Fianna Fail leader at the finals, always to be seen at a time when his control of the country was constantly being undermined and his future looks far from rosy. No doubt he’ll take all the credit for the event. Nelson Mandela stole his thunder, however, with his brief appearance at the closing ceremony before the final when the Soccer City stadium went mad with excitement.