2010 FIFA World Cup: The 10 Things That Happen at Every World Cup
It barely seems believable that the World Cup is just over a week away. Four years of preparation for the next four to five weeks.
One thing we all have in common is that none of us know what is going to happen between now and mid July.
At least, that's the general wisdom.
Here are 10 things that are definitely going to happen between now and then. You can check them off as we go if you like.
Players, Especially Goalkeepers, Will Complain about the Ball
This year's World Cup sees the introduction of the Adidas Jabulani, billed as the world's first perfectly round football.
This does, of course, beg the question of what shape all the previous balls were?
Regardless, this questionable innovation will have players pointing fingers within days. Indeed, Marcus Hahnemann has already had a moan, claiming that "it's a nightmare."
Getting his excuses in early, the USA goalkeeper continued by explaining that "if you get no spin on the ball, it's supposed to knuckle. If you get spin on it, it's supposed to bend. This ball you don't know what's going to happen with it."
This is of course nothing new. In 2006 Paul Robinson described the Temgeist ball as "like a water polo ball," which may be a little more illustrative if you're one of the few hundred people who have ever played Water Polo.
In 2002, Brazil won the World Cup, despite complaining in the build up that the ball was "too big and too light."
As far back as 1994 Tony Meola complained that the ball was "too light," and other tournaments are not immune, with Spain describing the Euro 2004 Roteiro as "a beach ball."
Of course, despite all the furor to come, you will be surprised to discover that all 32 teams at the World Cup will be using the same ball.
Someone Will Violently Assault Someone Else's Face
In 1994, the cultured and demure TV pundit and AC Milan coach Leonardo was one of Brazil's best players. After 43 minutes of their game against the USA, he became Tab Ramos's worst nightmare.
Ramos spent three and a half months in hospital after Leonardo connected with an elbow. Was it deliberate? Only Leonardo will ever know. But it was gruesome. Very, very gruesome.
The 1998 tournament was passing by without serious incident until the Argentina vs. Holland quarterfinal.
Literally moments before Dennis Bergkamp won the match with one of the greatest goals ever scored at the World Cup, Ariel Ortega had been sent off for headbutting Edwin van der Sar in the jaw.
Quite how he got that high, we don't quite know.
The 2002 World Cup saw another brutal attack, Turkey's Hakan Unsal blasting the ball from point blank range into the face of poor Rivaldo. Or so he would have you believe. Make up your own mind.
In the 2006 World Cup, it was Brian McBride's turn to be the unlucky American. He came off marginally better than Ramos having been elbowed in the head by Daniele De Rossi, and was able to play on.
He could only help the USA to a draw against the 10 men of Italy, partly because they themselves were eventually reduced to nine men, Mastroeni and Pope following.
So who's turn is it this year? Cristiano Ronaldo? Kaka? Or just some random Slovakian?
Some Minnows, Likely African, Will Beat Someone Good
It's amazing how many people claim that they predicted Senegal would beat France in the 2002 curtain raiser.
Even more alarming is how few and far between they were before the game began.
You won't find many honest people who will claim that they knew Cameroon would beat Argentina in 1990 before Nery Pumpido spilled a tame header into his own net.
Nigeria beat Spain in a pulsating 1998 match, with another Latino goalkeeper, this time Andoni Zubizarreta, conceding the decisive own goal.
In 2006, Ghana escaped a group of death by beating the much fancied Czech Republic 2-0.
In 1994 the Republic of Ireland salvaged their tournament by beating the eventual runners-up Italy.
And South Korea reaching the 2002 semifinals, even at home?
Could this be the year their Northern neighbours write a footnote of World Cup history?
England Will Go Out and It Won't Be Their Fault
It will be Chris Waddle.
Or Diego Pablo Simeone.
Or Darius Vassell.
Or that referee who disallowed a Sol Campbell header.
Or David Batty.
Or Cristiano Ronaldo winking at the referee.
Or the Hand of God.
Or Gareth Southgate.
Or Ronaldinho scoring a fluke accidental free kick.
But never because they were beaten fair and square.
Spain Will Flop, Regardless of How Good They Are
Spain do badly at World Cups.
No matter how good their team, they somehow find a way to throw things away.
Be it their inability to gel their attacking talent into a coherent unit, as with pretty much every Spain team Raul played in.
Or their goalkeepers liking of own goals, as in 1994.
Or their inability to beat vastly inferior opponents, as in 2002, before going down on penalties (a trick they also managed in Euro '96).
Indeed, the all conquering Spain side are so good that their inevitable failure to perform will be all the more crushing to their fans.
The Dutch Will Lose a Penalty Shoot-Out
Until Euro 2004, Holland were held under the ultimate penalty curse. In 1998, they went out to Brazil in the semifinals, Ronald de Boer and Phillipe Cocu missing the decisive kicks.
Although this is their only defeat on penalties in the World Cup, they have never won a World Cup shoot-out. And it gets worse.
Oh, does it get worse.
In Euro 1992 they also suffered semifinal heartbreak against eventual shock winners Denmark, Marco van Basten of all people being the unlucky man to miss as the Danes converted all five penalties.
Euro '96 saw another legend, Clarence Seedorf, fail to find the net, as Zidane, Djorkaeff, Lizarazu, Guerin, and Blanc all made no mistake.
And their 2004 win was all for nothing, as they were put out by a Maniche wonder-strike in the next round.
Their crowning glory, however, must surely be their display at the Amsterdam Arena in Euro 2000. Not only did they miss three of their four penalties in their shoot-out defeat to Italy, but they had also missed two penalties in open play.
Penalty heartbreak for a solid if unspectacular Dutch side? A strong possibility.
Someone Relatively Unheralded Will Challenge For or Win the Golden Boot
In 2002, Ronaldo won the Golden Boot. It is the only time in recent memory that one of the pre-tournament favourites has gone on to claim that particular title, and he was run close until the final by Miroslav Klose.
The underrated Klose was back in 2006 to take home the Golden Boot ahead of the likes of Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Hernan Crespo, and Ronaldo.
In 1998, the goals of Davor Suker, six to be precise, helped Croatia come from under the radar and into third place.
The 1994 World Cup was notable for the fact that the joint top scorer, Oleg Salenko, was eliminated in the group stage. Despite hammering in five against Cameroon (the only time this has ever been done at a World Cup) and scoring from the spot against Sweden, he only won a further six caps for this country.
Plus, the other top scorer to everyone's surprise wasn't Romario. It was Hristo Stoichkov of Bulgaria.
The 1994 World Cup was set alight by the Sicilian Toto Schillachi, whose six goals put him just one ahead of Czechoslovakia's Thomas Skuhravy.
However, if we go back further, we see more what we would expect. Top scorers included Lineker, Muller, Pele, Kempes, and Eusebio.
A Ludicrously Unrealistic Goal Will Be Scored
In 1986, moments after dragging his name through the dirt, Diego Maradona elevated it to the heavens by breezing past five or six English players, effortlessly skirting Shilton, and sliding the ball into the unguarded net.
In 1990, the much heralded Roberto Baggio played a one-two near half way and weaved his way towards goal, twisting and turning, before wrong footing the keeper and finding the near post.
In 1994, a mysterious Saudi Midfielder called Said Al Owayran ran the length of the field before clipping the ball over the bemused Belgian keeper.
1998 saw Michael Owen announce himself on the World stage by controlling a Beckham pass before terrorising Chamot and Ayala and beating Carlos Roa.
In 2002 Uruguay served up a wonder strike. The Danes thought they had cleared a corner, but it went just as far as a Uruguayan midfielder, who juggled the ball three times before teeing up left back Dario Rodriguez, who fired a scorching volley into the net.
And the 2006 World Cup was lit up by Maxi Rodriguez's extra-time winner against a brave Mexican side. A better volley, you are never likely to see.
The Referees Will Be Panned
It is a cliche to suggest that a foul "would have been red at the World Cup."
But the facts bare out the supposition—there really are more red cards at the World Cup than any other form of top football.
But sometimes even World Cup referees take things to the extreme.
The 2006 World Cup was blighted by two referees in particular. Mr. Ivanov of Russia went home notorious for dishing out 16 yellow cards and four reds in one fairly good spirited last 16 match between the Netherlands and Portugal.
Whilst the 16 yellows only matched Mr. Lopez Nieto's record from the 2002 World Cup, four reds was a new record.
Mr. Larrionda's performance in the match between the USA and Italy was also criticised. Whilst he was right to send off De Rossi for the aforementioned foul on McBride, his decisions to send off Mastroeni and Pope garnered far more negative press.
And let's not forget any referee who has ever disallowed an England goal, or sent off an England player.
Someone Will Cry
Football is a deeply emotional game, both to watch and participate in. It connects with people the world over on a level unmatched by any other sport.
It can make players cry with frustration, as when Gascoigne picked up his second yellow of the 1990 World Cup in the semifinal.
It can make players cry tears of joy, as the Brazilians did in 1994.
It can make players cry tears of anger, as with the Portuguese in 2002, when a Zidane golden goal penalty put them out.
And when the players cry, the fans cry along with them.
But that it can make people cry tears at all is testament to power of the beautiful game.
Never is that power any stronger than at the World Cup.