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Handballs, heartache and heroes...

With the World Cup finally nearing its completion, the time has come to look back on a memorable month of football.

The tournament has had highs, it has had lows, and it has had Raymond Domenech. It had Suarez's handball, Germany's flamboyance and Raymond Domenech. And it had thousands of other moments, both major and minor, that always make World Cups riveting spectacles.

So, from A to Z, Goal.com UK takes a look at a selection of the great and not-so-great of events this time round in South Africa:


A for Africa


This was meant to be the coming out party for the entire continent, as well as South Africa (that was also supposedly the case for the 1995 Rugby World Cup — but a country can have two coming out parties, right?). Whether that proves the case remains to be seen, but Ghana's sole progression to the knockout stages showed that the teams at least still have some way to go. But even if they did leave the party early, the South Africans have been widely acknowledged as fine hosts for a unique experience.

B for Blatter

It was always the politically-savvy Swiss's 'dream' to bring a World Cup to South Africa, just as it was presumably his 'dream' to hog the spotlight with a rather self-serving speech during the tournament's opening ceremony.

His general disdain for video technology has once again risen to the fore in the past month, but Blatter's cat-like ability to land on his feet suggests he will use it all to his advantage in the end.

C for Crime

Before the tournament, all the scare-mongering stories seemed to be about the constant danger of South Africa's streets. Walking alone, or indeed in a small group, at night (or even during the day) was warned as a grave mistake by many 'experts', but in the end much of it proved unfounded.

Overall, driving seemed to be the primary danger of South African life, but even they managed (with a few exceptions) to keep it under control for the tournament's duration. Fortunately much of the crime — like, say, Italy's performances — were confined to the pitches on matchday.

D for Domenech

One of the stars of the show — which will probably please the former France manager given his well-documented faith in astrology. But it was for all the wrong reasons that he and France stole headlines, as in-fighting tore the squad apart, players were picked and discarded at will and a playing strike was even seriously considered.

At least the former Olympique Lyonnais man proved what everyone suspected, that the famous US sitcom was inaccurate — everybody hates Raymond.

E for Earle

Who knew 'ambush marketing' was such a bugbear of FIFA's? Not Robbie Earle, that's for sure, but he certainly felt the full wrath of the game's governing body after he gave his full allocation of match tickets to a 'third party' — aka a group of scantily-clad ladies advertising a particular brand of Dutch beer.

ITV quickly ditched the former Jamaican international, leaving his career in the studio dead in the water and his reputation in tatters. Although the bigger scandal might be that pundits like Earle receive so many match tickets in the first place.

F for Forlan

For the benefit of the less astute at the back, Forlan finally and conclusively ended the long-retained assumption in some corners of the English media that, because he failed at Old Trafford with Manchester United, the long-haired one was really a bit rubbish.

But in South Africa he showed the form that has been on evidence for Villarreal and Atletico Madrid almost ever since leaving England, scoring crucial goals and turning provider when needed. Impressive.

G for Ghana

The team of the tournament for many, they captured the hearts and mind of a continent as they became Africa's sole representative as the rounds wore on. Cruelly bundled out of the competition in the quarter-finals at the hands of Uruguay (pardon the pun), they at least received an open letter of commiserations from former UN secretary general Kofi Annan. So, every cloud and all that...

H for Hand of the Devil

In years to come, will this be the most memorable individual moment of the 2010 World Cup? It seems possible, especially as it set off perhaps the most dramatic moment in the whole competition. Luis Suarez might have been sent off for his injury time, extra time handball off the line, but Gyan's subsequent penalty miss enabled Uruguay to somehow scrape through to the semi-finals on penalies.

Not only that, the Ajax man was remarkably unashamed after the game. "The hand of God now belongs to me," he remarked, adding (presumably for effect) "I made the save of the tournament". Can't argue with that.

I for Intruder

As in, the man who broke into England's dressing room to say what every Three Lions fan was thinking in the wake of the group stage bore draw with Algeria. Except, rather puzzlingly, he said it to the injured David Beckham, who didn't even play in the game.

Complaints were made to FIFA by the FA, and the perpetrator was even faced with criminal charges. Latter it was uncovered that the incident was orchestrated (in one way or another) by an English journalist, so no-one came out of the whole affair smelling particularly good.

J for Jabulani

It was the pre-tournament quandary: Who to believe? Adidas-sponsored players said the Adidas ball was a delight to play with, while Nike-sponsored players insisted it was nothing short of a disgrace. In the end, the Jabulani proved to be somewhere in the middle — games weren't ruined by its erratic ways but crazy goals were scored and a number of goalkeepers were at least mildly embarrassed.

Next time? Smart money suggests the German sports company play things a lot safer.

K for Ker-ching

Hosting the tournament was supposed to benefit the country and the continent, but it seems the game's governing body was the real financial winner. In TV rights, corporate partners, ticket sales and merchandise (private vendors were often closed down for the tournament, and food and drink was not allowed to be brought into stadiums), FIFA must have made a tidy sum on the whole tournament. Did you know that cash machines in the stadiums only took Visa cards? (Visa just happening to be a major World Cup sponsor, of course).

On the plus side, at least the enterprising South Africans who came up with the 'FICK FUFA' t-shirt slogans might have done some decent business.

L for Lucky

Every team needs a bit of luck, and in South Africa a lot of teams got it. Germany got it against England (although whether they really needed it anyway is another debate entirely), while Spain (among others) got it against Paraguay. Bu then they didn't get much in their opening defeat to Switzerland.

Uruguay and Mexico got it when they were drawn in a group with Raymond Domenech.

M for Maradona

Not content with running the show in 1986 as a player, El Diego was unquestionably the manager of the tournament in 2010. As enthusiastic (and borderline inappropriate) as he was on the touchline and among his players, he also pleasantly surprised many critics with his tactical preparation — at least until the devastating exit at the hands of the more pragmatic Germans.

Fortunately, we will always have the memories of his press conferences. He's dating Veronica, don't you know. She's only 31...


Man of distinction | Diego took the title of raving lunatic of the tournament


N for North Korea

They came, they saw, some of them cried. No one quite knew what to expect from the team from one of the less stable corners of the world, but in their opening game they surprised everyone; first with their passion, but ultimately with their ability and organisation as they held Brazil to a narrow 2-1 win.

Subsequent results weren't as good — and no one seems to know if the matches were even screened in Pyongyang — but Jong Tae Se's crying alone was an image that will stay with many for a long time to come.

O for Octopus Paul

As Winston Churchill might have been driven to remark, "Never has the seemingly ridiculous idea of so few gone on to be cheered so enthusiastically by so many". The people who decided Paul the Octopus — a British born, but now German-based sea creature — should be used to predict the winner of international matches perhaps deserved to be put in an asylum, but after predicting all six of Germany's results to date correctly their experiment now seems the most natural in the world.

Paul has been the true breakout star of the 2010 competition.


Four legs good, eight legs better | Paul proved himself the heir apparent to Mystic Meg

P for Press!

As in, what Fabio Capello was demanding of his side from the touchlines in pretty much every game. If you haven't seen it, have a look here. Did they listen? Did they heck.

Q for Questionable Decisions

No, no, not the BBC's move to allow Alan Shearer vast air-time solely to prove his bewildering lack of knowledge about world football, but decisions like Fabio Capello's choice to stick with 4-4-2, Kuzmanovic's decision to handball in Serbia's opening group game or indeed half of the tournament's referees' decisions on just about anything.

But, all things considered, France's decision to stick with Domenech before the competition might still be the worst.

Oh no, sorry, just remembered there was that outrageous decision where ENGLAND SCORED A CLEAR GOAL BUT IT STILL WASN'T GIVEN.

R for Rooney

Came into the tournament as the talisman that would lead England to glory, but left it (early) as one of the flops of the competition who may or may not be fully fit. The Manchester United man failed to find the net in any of England's four games and his post-Algeria match "Nice to see your own fans booing you" rant showed the immaturity that tainted his early career hasn't all gone either.

If Nike adverts are as reliable as our friend Paul the Octopus, Wayne's world will soon be in a caravan with an enviably bushy beard.

S for Sneijder

On the verge of pretty much as perfect a season as any player could imagine (and almost certainly as perfect as a Hollywood scriptwriter could get away with), the Dutchman has proven himself one of the game's best over the past few weeks. His five goals have put him on the verge of both the Golden Boot and the title itself, but can he go on to achieve what Johan Cruyff could not?

Either way, there could be a Ballon d'Or in it for the diminutive Inter playmaker come the year's end.

T for Tshabalala

For a while at least everything looked so rosy for the hosts, after the Kaizer Chiefs winger put Bafana Bafana ahead in their opening game against Mexico with a quite exceptional strike.

Unfortunately it only went downhill from there, but the member of the 'World Cup best name XI' put in another eye-catching performance in the side's last game against France to give everyone in the Rainbow nation something to be proud about.

U for Upsets


Switzerland beating Spain. Mexico demolishing France. Italy drawing with New Zealand. For a period this World Cup was as unpredictable as they come, with seemingly any team capable of beating another on a given day. But perhaps the biggest upset of all? That Diego Maradona didn't have anything crazy left up his sleeve after Argentina's 4-0 hammering at the hands of Germany.

V for Vuvuzela

Before the tournament, the vuvuzela was lagging far behind the conventional violin in 'the race to be the most well-known musical instrument that begins with v'. Now, however, it is a different matter, although it is also probably the most hated in the world (with or without the 'v').

African fans love it, as do a fair proportion neutrals, but many clubs and arenas all over Europe and the rest of the world have already pre-emptively banned the offending drone. Destined never to scale such heights again, the summer of 2010 was indeed the plastic horn's moment in the sun.

W for Wavin' Flag (or Waka Waka?)

The twin anthems of the competition; one started life as an anti-injustice rallying cry that was neutered into a sponsor-friendly football chant, while the other started life like all Shakira songs — completely bats**t crazy.

Hearing both in the future will bring back memories of this tournament for many — although some will be hoping that the Colombian singer's involvement this time round has not scuppered the possibility of a Shakira & Sami Khedira duet in four years time. The German midfielder's hips don't lie either.

X for Xabi Alonso's retaken penalty

After the most random episode in World Cup football the night before between Ghana and Uruguay, a day later and Paraguay and Spain gave it a good run for its money. First Oscar Cardozo saw his penalty saved by Iker Casillas, with a re-take not ordered despite clear encroachment by the Furia Roja. Then the Europeans went up the end and got a spot-kick of their own — which Xabi Alonso scored before it was called back after some slightly less blatant encroachment from both sides.

So Xabi Alonso took another one — this time saved by Villar, and this time with the persisting encroachment (and subsequent foul on Cesc Fabregas) completely ignored by the referee. Unfathomable.

Y for Yakubu


See also: Miss of the tournament. How the Everton man managed to poke wide from around five yards out might ultimately take a scientific investigation to fully explain. But what is for sure — it cost his Nigeria side the opportunity to progress to the knockout stages of the competition. So, y'know, no biggie.

Z for Zuma

As in the South African president, who has been quick to tell everyone and anyone what a resounding financial, cultural and socio-political success the tournament has been for his country. He also caused many paying fans to miss Wednesday's semi-final between Spain and Germany as he and his VIP guests co-opted many of Durban's airports, but that's just a perk of the job, right?

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